I Battled My Fear Of Failure And That Was The Greatest Freedom Of All!

I was always an over-achiever. When I quit my corporate career to follow my calling, I was gripped by the fear of failure. What would people say, I worried.  

I was always an over-achiever. When I quit my corporate career to follow my calling, I was gripped by the fear of failure. What would people say, I worried.  

Along with many other freedoms that we seek from people and the system around us, we also live under the strong influence of our internal fears. Fear of being judged for the choices we make; fear of being called out; of being labelled for our actions; fear of failing to perform as per the expectations of others and more…

Thanks to the construct of our society and years of conditioning, we as women grow up responding to these fears. We carry them lifelong within ourselves as that baggage on our shoulders. But how about living a life free from the fear of failure? Won’t that be #MyFreedomMyWay?

Free yourself from the fear of what others will think…

Last week, I was taking a peer interaction session with a group of underprivileged girls. The interaction was to instil courage in this group who have just passed out of grade 12. To raise their confidence and also expand their horizons with an awareness about the possibilities.

I had invited a few trailblazers from similar communities to share their journeys. “What is one piece of advice that you would like to give to those who are yet to tread the path you did a few years back?” I asked. “Free yourself from the fear of what others will think about your career choice.”

This simple yet powerful statement from a lady called Rehana took me back to the year which was 2016. I was at the crossroads of an important decision in life.

I had found my calling, but…

Post the second-time motherhood, I had taken a sabbatical from my very hectic corporate life. It had been three years and I had started feeling the urge of looking beyond my role as a mother.  There were options and opportunities that I could go back to and there was that guilt (part of every motherhood journey) that discouraged me to tend to those options.

At the same time, something inside me was constantly telling me to do something more meaningful than going back. The pervasive inequities in education and opportunities had always made me uncomfortable.

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It had become all the more pronounced now as I was here providing everything to my children while there were so many out there who were devoid of it due to various reasons. This had troubled me in the past too and now working for social welfare was coming to me as a calling. But I had my fears.

I was paralyzed by the fear of failure!

The biggest was of being judged for pursuing this path. The path was not something that had been pursued by anyone around. It was not a path that  paid you the best or offered perks, not always provided with the best of work environments, and could get overwhelming due to the challenges on the ground. I didn’t know what kind of journey was ahead and if I would be “successful” in the usual definitions of my world, my people. I was terrified of failure!

Having always excelled throughout my school and college years, I had somehow been used to this external validation of my performance on the benchmarks of other’s expectations of me.

Perhaps, it was a result of what many people around made me feel through constant comparisons with  batchmates, nieces and nephews, friends and family. My fear was about failing on the expectations of those who always looked up to me as the best of the lot.

I did what I felt was right and took the plunge!

There was support from the family but outside of the circle, there was doubt and several questions on the decision. Many of the friends and family offered their unsolicited suggestions and advice to discourage me to tread on a less-followed path.

Well, I did what I felt was right. I didn’t go back to what I had been doing but took a plunge in the social sector. It was a fresh start for me in several ways but as I look back, has been quite gratifying as a journey for me.

I wonder how I could think and act beyond my fears. And the answer is within me; it lies within all of us.

How can we make this freedom possible for ourselves?

Most of us constantly are faced with times when we feel challenged; we are confused; when our internal fears act as monsters to cloud the clear thinking about the right choice. In such times what acts as guidance for me is asking if the decision is aligning to my inner values. I then act based on the answer.

Our inner values are our core. Our values are what make us who we are and defines what we stand for in life. These are the values that guide us and get manifested in our actions. That is the path to freedom, in my opinion.

As for me, compassion, equality and dignity are those values. Most of the times, when I get overwhelmed thinking about shifting systems and making new choices, going back to these inner values helps.

And then it becomes a question of giving myself permission to reconnect with those values and oneness for actions which gives courage for new possibilities to emerge.

So, how about resolving today to drop that baggage that has eternally been with you to actualize this freedom from internal fears?

I leave you with these lines from Erin Hanson –

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

 And you ask “What if I fall?”

Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?

(Image source: Still from Shakuntala Devi)

In traditional Indian society, women are often only “allowed” to study or work outside of home. Their freedom is “given” to them by someone else – a parent, a husband, a brother, a son – usually the men of the home. Even outside the domestic arena, women are “given” freedom to do certain things in society, they are “permitted” to be out in public only under certain conditions. At the workplace, women are expected to “behave”, “look”, and conduct themselves in ways that are not demanded of their male counterparts.

For Independence Day 2021, we’re publishing your personal stories in which you have “taken” your freedom from under such restrictions, without waiting for anyone to “allow” them. Stories of standing up to oppression, whether in the home, or outside it. #MyFreedomMyWay


About the Author

Anjali G Sharma

Present - India Lead - Education, Charter for Compassion, Co-Author - Escape Velocity, Writer & Social Activist. Past - DU, Harvard, Telecoms-India and abroad read more...

58 Posts | 234,023 Views

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