At times, I’m gripped by this crippling fear of failure.
I have always refrained myself from talking about failures. There hasn’t been any ‘what if‘ or ‘plan B‘ in my conversations ever. It’s about winning all the times because that’s what you are supposed to show, right? No one will talk to a failure. No one will ask and there won’t be anyone to seek advice, not even your close ones. You are basically a social outcast. But deep down I’ve known how I have always been running away from this fear. It’s by spending this energy on masquerading my failure instead of working on my preparedness that I basically prepared for its inevitability. Who was I kidding with this happy facade around myself? I’m vulnerable.
I can recall specific moments from my life when I have felt this. It’s always those liminal spaces, the valley between two peaks, the pit before the leap, when efforts failed to materialize and I was running out of options (remember? there weren’t many, to begin with). Confidence dwindled, self-reliance took a massive hit. Under uncertainty, every prospect seemed blurry. Things have certainly gone better afterward but this fear somehow finds its way again. I call it ‘crippling’ because it forces to ooze out every drop of my pride.
So, why am I writing this? Well, now that I have this big pile of rejections sitting by my side, I can finally come out and talk about my perfect imperfection in open. I have failed so many times that I have lost the count by now. I once started maintaining a folder in my laptop for rejections of the tangible kind (sadly, your personal goals & ‘game of hearts‘ doesn’t end up with such notice). It had screenshots, each containing a polite apology on the lines –
We appreciate your interest in this position but we found a more suitable candidate for the job. We will consider your application if any new opening comes up.
This is a system generated mail. Please do not reply to this message.
Few failures in life are necessary. They teach us invaluable lessons which we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They show us a weakness in our methodology/preparation/approach, giving us opportunities to self-reflect, mend and improve. But failing too many times shatters you to the core. It’s even worse when you don’t get feedback on your mistakes. I feel there is actually a threshold age after which you are supposed to figure out everything on your own.
I have been at both the extremes. There have been days when I was at the zenith of confidence while some days I found myself doubting my capabilities. Was there any meaning to my endeavor? I questioned. I have come to realize that the line in between is much thinner than I used to think. All it takes is one core component to go wrong which you were betting too much on. It’s a delicate balance driven by circumstances. My ingenuity suddenly starts to feel like a grand play of ‘imposter syndrome‘.
Anxiety never really leaves us, even more so nowadays when we are surrounded by continuous waves of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) inducing information. We grow restless. Restless makes its way for stress, anxiety, and depression. Often, while scrolling my twitter feed (or internet surfing in general), I come across memes like this –
As much I would chuckle over its silliness, I would marvel at its astuteness as well. I don’t support making fun of mental health like this but I certainly had those days when I just didn’t want to wake up and face the day. Lying on my bed with my face buried in the pillow, shielding myself from the outside world through my quilt, I could feel the time passing by. Day turned its phases but each inch of my body would shriek ‘not today‘. Does deliberate sleeping solve the problem? I don’t know.
I don’t mean to give any pessimistic vibe. Optimism is my biggest tool. Hope has been my most effective weapon to fight adversity. I have sorely passed through difficult times having faith even though luck hasn’t been a laudable companion so far. Also, it’s by failing and rising up numerous times that I have managed to reach subsequent pedestals in life. But hope isn’t a tangible thing, is it? Can hope be attributed to certain things? How do we realize hope? What gives us strength at nonchalant times?
It’s quite subjective to each individual. Though I’m no expert (as you must have come to know), there are certain things which have given me solace in difficult times and I wish to write them here. Maybe it would help someone else or maybe one day in my happy times, I would come back to this post and know what state was I once in and how I made it through.
Less screen time – If there is one indicating factor which can quantify our modern lifestyle, it would be the ubiquitous presence of screen around us. As much as I embrace tech, I always had this love-hate relationship with screens. The Internet can be an overwhelming place and when the situation is to contemplate over big questions concerning myself, I better maintain a distance. I have had intermittent periods of complete boycott, quite too frequently in recent time. Here’s my friend’s excellent post on the same topic – One Week of Algo-free Lifestyle.
Stop Overthinking – Have you ever noticed how voices in your head get stronger when you let it to? “Would you please stop thinking for a second?” – I say to myself. Often this thinking majorly constitutes of comparison than actual strategizing. The more we grow, the more expectations we hold on our back. The cut-throat competition apparently put us in the league of geniuses where failing is never seen as an option. But are we really running the race for the sake of it or the end goal is the one we should focus on?
Reading – This is the umpteenth mention of ‘reading’ on this blog but I still feel it hasn’t been stressed enough for the profound impact it had on me. Somehow, in the obscure literature of my recent finding, I have discovered solutions to my lingering questions as if it were my deliberated search for an answer in the very same piece. Read because you can. Read because you never know. Brainpickings & Zen Pencils are two of my favorite go-to destinations.
Crafts & Novelty – You need not always look at everything you do from the prospect of a profession, no matter how good you are at it. Pursue it because you love it, not because you want something from it. Remember those childhood doodling habits you have cherished over the years? Maybe you like to sing, swim, make music, craft stories, solve puzzles, cook delicacies, take photographs, stitching/knitting – it could be anything, as long as you enjoy it. Cultivate a hobby & find novelty in it. They have tremendous potential, far beyond our realization. These are the things that enliven us. Remember, when things get dim, those little lights illuminate our way. Find something which when you see or listen to, you can say – ‘this gives me joy‘.
Music – I think most of the people either understand very little and don’t understand the realm of art at all. They try to contain the uncontainable because they haven’t experienced it the way you have. Making them understand is futile because you can’t put wording to it. It’s abstract. This has been the case with me. Also, ‘Music’ here is really a placeholder for anything that has a mysterious power of healing for you. For me, it has been music, especially that of Illenium. For my friend and brother, it’s gaming where they find their mental piece in. My fascination with music is not inconspicuous on this blog but again, the amount & variety of music that exists in this world simply blows my mind.
Travel – Things that we imagine may seem alien at times but they are not pulled out of thin air. All our crazy ideas must draw inspiration from realization – subtle or profound. Curiosity is built on the foundation of experience and grows through our inherent nature of exploration. Travel brings both these elements together. Being in the same place for a prolonged period can gradually fill up the contours of our open mind.
This has really taken a toll on me. Though I have been to a few places in the past year, it has either been for work or similar purposes. I desperately miss those trips with my friends where we lived in the moment soaking the scenery that lied in front. There were no exams, no assignments, no internships, no jobs, no question of ‘what’s next?‘ – none of the worrying elements and we just existed for the sake of it. In desolate moments, it’s important to take a step back and ponder over the bigger picture.
Communicate – Better part of my life has been spent in isolation. I don’t usually admit it (because no one asked) but I’m not afraid to write about it here. Different phases can be attributed to different reasons but this continuous period of being alone instilled a fear of loneliness in me which somehow I’m still forced to dwell in.
Sharing subsides the pain. It will all go away if I could just talk. It always has. Feedbacks are critical. Getting a fresh look over your approach may give you a chance of analyzing it from an unexpected perspective. Or even just narrating your problem to someone can make you realize a different aspect of it. Keeping it within us only let the feeling grow. It starts feeding on our conscience. It erodes us of the positive energy like a dark ball of discontentment growing bigger, it’s weight bogging us down. If I wish of anything outside my personal domain, it’s meaningful companionship.
Writing is communicating too.
Working Harder – This tops all the other points written above. While they certainly help to rejuvenate, nothing but our own effort would propel us further. Accept that you screwed up but not all is gone. Put that feeling aside and get back at work. Here’s what I have realized – It’s easy to be mediocre at something if you overcome the inertia of just pursuing it, but it takes an incredible amount of effort in order to be really good at something. Every profession is noble. They all have their elements of risk and complexity and there is no one-day wonder.
While my previous achievements may seem like I landed on the moon, only I know that I actually shot for the star and failed. No problem. I’ll come back, work on it and try once again. I’ll Keep trying until I reach there. Only I can realize my goal and no one else. For now, it must remain in me to stay afloat and not succumb to this hostility. I must fight for my dreams. These are just minor setbacks I ought to overcome so when I finally reach there, it wouldn’t be called a fluke. I will be a deserving winner.
Edit – It’s amazing how just a click can land you somewhere so relevant. So my usual Internet surfing brought me to my Pocket feed where I found this really personal article – Earning My Smile.
I think everyone should have the privilege to read it. This article (actually a memoir) perfectly embodies the essence I wrote this post with. To be honest, it actually made me tear up. There are a lot of other things that bring dust to my eyes (ah! another secret I had upheld) but more on it later.
Note – It has been really hard for me to come forward and write about something I never talked about. I’m a private person who keeps things to myself. My introvertism would rather let it haunt me inside than to proclaim it in open, especially when it’s an insecurity I hide.
Also, I write ‘failing’ not ‘failure’ because failing is a process while failure is a consequence and I wanted to talk about it as the former. It’s been quite a while that I wrote a post this long, so hopefully, it would be of some use like few other blogs have been for me in difficult times. I’m forever grateful to them. Peace ✌