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Is that word scary to you, or exciting? Do you run from a challenge or jump in headfirst? Maybe the idea of a challenge subtly draws you in…but leaves you feeling a little apprehensive as well?
Or perhaps “challenge” feels downright scary, like falling off a cliff? If your feelings run more toward the negative, you probably aren’t so much afraid of the challenge itself – but of the possibility of failing the challenge.
How do you overcome your fear of failure in order to take on a challenge?
What does the word challenge mean to you?
Personally, I like the Cambridge Dictionary definition:
“something needing great mental
or physical effort in order to be
done successfully, or the situation
of facing this kind of effort.”
Facing a Challenge and My Personal Fear of Failure
Recently, I learned of an event in the blogging world known as Blogtober, wherein bloggers voluntarily commit to writing and publishing 31 posts during the month of October, a new one each and every day.
I struggle to write one post a week.
I am a perfectionist, and I worry about my topic, my wording, my grammar, my spelling, my photos, my links, and so on and so forth on and on and on. To me, a good post is more than a pretty picture and a handful of words, and it takes me a good amount of time to pull it together.
Writing 3 posts in 3 days would be tough. Any more than that is certain failure.
So of course, there is no way I would partake in a challenge that would have me producing 31 posts in the same time frame I would normally create five.
Except that I am.
My gut told me “You can do this.”
“Be willing to trust your instincts, especially if you cannot find answers elsewhere.”Brian Koslov
The Pros and Cons of Taking On a Challenge I Might Fail
I began evaluating the pros and cons of diving into a challenge that seemed impossible, but I somehow felt drawn to do.
Pro: Apparently you can gain a lot of readers and email list subscribers and get more visibility for your blog by constantly posting.
Con: While growth is always an objective, I love the readers and subscribers I currently have. I don’t want to serve them poorly written posts that I’ve rushed to publish in the name of completing a challenge.
Pro: I do like the fact that creating 31 posts in as many days will push my productivity levels far beyond anything I’ve done in recent years.
Con: I have a “real world” life that I don’t want to give up for a month.
Pro: Participating in Blogtober would let me finish my first year of blogging with a good number of posts, canceling out the fact that I took all of last May and June to focus on other things.
Con: It would be So. Much. Work. And what if I didn’t see big changes in readership, income, or recognition – what if my little blog just stayed a little blog? How would I handle that?
The Struggle to Overcome My Fear of Failure
I evaluated. Tossing and turning and tumbling ideas up and around. I researched other bloggers who have done the Blogtober Challenge in the past to see what they experienced. And I even polled my blogger friends to see if anyone else was doing “Blogtober”. (Most of them are not – there are a couple who are on the fence, and most think I’m crazy to even think about it).
And I decided I definitely was not going to bother. It would be too much work. Why would I do that to myself?
But like a toddler who really wants a cookie, this challenge has tugged at my shirttail. It wouldn’t be silenced. It wouldn’t go away.
For a bunch of good reasons, I was not going to knot myself up in the insanity of Blogtober.
Except that I am.
Yeah, I’m gonna give it a go.
This is hard. This is important. You can do this.
Back in the days when I worked in a school, one of the teachers had a poster above the whiteboard in her room. It read:
This is hard.
This is important.
You can do this.
I think about that poster a lot.
Just because something is hard – does that mean that you shouldn’t do it? That it’s not worth trying? That it’s not important?
No. Hard is just…hard.
Where was my reluctance to try really coming from?
I was afraid I might fail.
31 posts in 31 days is a LOT of work. Writing, editing, adding images, documenting, publishing, creating Pinterest pins and Instagram stories and Facebook posts…there is a lot of work that goes into each and every post.
As I said above, I’ve struggled so far to post once a week. The pressure of posting every day really scares me.
My Fear of Failure is Legitimate
I might fail.
Growing up, I was always “the good girl”, the people pleaser, the straight-A student, the helper…failing was just not an option. I often wouldn’t take part in activities if I didn’t already know how to do them – I wanted to start out competent at everything because not being good at something was just not okay.
Failing was bad, wrong, unconscionable – to fail was to be a bad person.
Or so I believed.
I think a lot of girls, particularly in the baby boomer generation, were raised to believe we shouldn’t try anything that we might not succeed at. We should be safe, we should be comfortable, we shouldn’t try too hard. It was our job to provide support to others (the boys) so that they could go out and try new things and conquer their fear of failure. And we could be there to take cheer them on when they did.
I think I missed out on a lot of great opportunities because I played it safe.
I had learned to fear failure too much.
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”Eloise Ristad
It’s taken me years to understand that failure is…just failure.
Actually, failure is where you learn the most important lessons in life. It’s where you grow the most as a person. It’s as much an inevitable part of the human experience as success is, and far more common.
Most importantly, failure is something you can experience, but it’s never something you are. And certainly not something to be feared.
What a tremendous perspective shift.
Before I thought: I can’t try, because I might fail, and then I will be a failure.
Now I think: I can try anything, and regardless of the outcome, it’s worth the experience.
Overcome Fear of Failure: Do The Hard Thing Anyway
And that is why, as intimidated by this Blogtober challenge as I really, truly am – I’m going to do it anyway.
Because I might fail.
But then, I’ll have learned a lot about myself, my productivity levels, my motivations, my commitment.
More importantly, I might succeed.
I might crush this challenge.
It’s altogether possible that I will create 31 amazing new posts for my readers, giving them great content, helpful advice, and worthwhile information that they can apply to their own lives. And that’s my real goal.
I’m going to crush this challenge.
It’s ok if it’s hard. It’s okay if it’s intimidating and overwhelming. And it’s ok if I don’t know how to do something.
Do the hard thing anyway.
What’s the worst thing that can happen?
What’s the best that can happen?
Read More About Confidence:
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Fear of Failure
So I ask you now – when’s the last time YOU did something hard? Was it important? Did you do it or did you fail? Either way – was it worth it?
Would you do it again?
(Updated to add: My Blogtober experience was a success! I published twenty nine articles in thirty one days – proof that we can all take on challenges despite our fears, and crush them!)