“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”– Paulo Coelho
I have forever had this idea of myself that I don’t finish what I start. I have had this belief that I get really excited about things at the start of something but then I just sort of fizzle out.
I carry this self defeating belief with me every where I go. I just tuck it in my pocket and bring it along. It manifests itself as this little voice in my head whenever I think about setting a somewhat lofty goal for myself. It tells me that it isn’t even worth it to try to achieve this or that…you know you won’t complete it…you are always getting in your own way…it is too hard…you don’t have the time…you don’t have the brains…you don’t have the stamina.
I heard that voice again this week when I decided I wanted to try something called The Master Cleanse. It is a detox and cleanse that lasts for 10 days. It is really challenging but I wanted to do it for the health benefits. As soon as I made the decision to start it this past Monday the little voice started…”this is crazy”… “you are going to be halfway into this and quit and then how will we feel about ourselves.” Or my favorite for the mere sake of it’s simplicity, “you are going to fail.”
The thing is, when I look back on my life and see all the things I have actually accomplished, I have to call bull$&!% on that little voice. I completed nursing school, got my RN license, obtained my Master’s in Nursing, scrubbed open heart surgeries and heart transplants, completed a half marathon, helped open a level 1 trauma center for a prestigious hospital system and so much more. Thinking of those things, in retrospect, kind of makes that little voice sound pretty silly and a bit of a liar. If you had told me 25 years ago that I would have done any of that I would have laughed my head off. I would have said with all sincerity, “Nope, not me. I am a total screw up.”
So why does the little voice exist? Perhaps it is trying to keep me safe? Keep me small? When we fail at something, anything, it does not feel good. We go through a myriad of feelings, none of them renewing…disappointment, embarrassment and shame are just a few. If we let these negative feelings build up and take up residence in our mind, we will likely stop trying, stop creating, stop taking chances. This leads us to live small but “safe” lives forever wondering what might have been if we had only … fill in the blank.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for taking breaks and stepping back to take a breather from the roller coaster. It is vitally important for us to give ourselves the space to process, reassess and re-prioritize our lives at times. I am currently in that space, as so many of us are, due to COVID-19. But at some point we have to get back up, walk over to the pool and dip our toe in … or if you are anything like me you take a running cannonball leap back into the deep end. Some of my greatest and most unimaginable successes have come from diving right into something. Of course some of my greatest failures have happened by doing this as well. The thing is I have learned to work hard, never letting the failures define who I am.
I see my fear of failure as a great motivator as opposed to something that holds me back. I will give you an example. When I was a brand new nurse in the operating room I had to go through pretty intense training in each of the service line specialties: Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, General, Vascular, GYN/GU, Eyes, Plastics and Thoracic surgery. It was 6 months before I would drive home from work not crying about some mistake I had made that day. It was brutal and I felt like an idiot constantly. I seriously thought daily, “what have I gotten myself into and why the hell would I do that to myself. There is NO WAY I am going to be any good at this!”
Orthopedics was the worst for me, the procedures kind of grossed me out with all the bone cutting and cementing (I know I am a nurse but I am being honest with you, ugh). It was a very difficult service and I hated almost every moment of my training in that service. The nurse coordinator for Ortho was fairly aware of my feelings and was likely not impressed with me AT ALL. When it got to the end of my training in all the service lines and my nurse educator and manager wanted to know what team I wanted to join, I surprised everyone (most of all myself) by choosing the Ortho team as my home. Wait, what?! I hated Ortho! Why?? I chose it because it scared me the most and I don’t like to be afraid. I wanted to conquer my fear and be the best Ortho nurse on the team.
I ended up loving my team, my nurse coordinator and the doctors. Even now when I walk into an orthopedic procedure it feels a bit like coming home. I could have chosen a service that was easier for me, where I felt successful and at ease, but then I would have missed out on so much learning and growing. That may be one of the first times I actively chose to not listen to the voice in my head saying I couldn’t. And the result was such overwhelming growth, accomplishment and joy.
That was a long time ago now. I have been a nurse for 20+ years and have had many of those moments in my career and in my life. I still have that little voice with me though. Now, whenever I hear this little voice come through I smile and say to it, “you are so cute! I love you…but we are going to do this anyway.” When all the thoughts of quitting half way through something get thrown at me I remember all the things I have accomplished in my life thus far and smile. I am only as small as I choose to be. I have attempted many things in my life and have not always succeeded, but I have accomplished so much I believed myself incapable of.
If you find yourself hearing that little voice telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t take a chance in your life, maybe look back at some of the things you have already accomplished and get your strength and courage from that. Step into your own power and create a life that you are proud of and that you wholly deserve. That little voice is little for a reason.
I hope you enjoyed my post! Please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you!!
Sending you all light and love!
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”– Shel Silversein