I have been spending a lot (and I mean...a LOT) of time recently grappling with the idea of failure, and what exactly that means to me. What does failure look like? How do we learn about it? And why are we so f*cking AFRAID of it?
I don't think I realized how absolutely terrified I am of failing until I started my small business. Sure, there had been times in my life when I failed at something and was upset (I mean, I grew up a competitive dancer for god's sake—I am NO stranger to rejection). But it's almost like my entire definition of failure shifted when I decided to start my own business. To me, failure was no longer just about who I am in comparison to those around me—it became about who I am, fundamentally, as a human being. Like, if I failed, it wasn't because there was someone doing it better than me, but because something within me is broken. Like there's a piece of machinery inside of me that SHOULD be there, but just...isn't.
The entire concept of failure just started to feel like something much more innate and personal when it came to something I had created all on my own from nothing. I think a lot of that comes from my own imposter syndrome, and the fear that I am not the "type" of person who can run a successful business. I don't understand taxes and finances; I have despised every customer service role I've ever been in; I know next to nothing about business strategy and logistics. Like...how do I even have the AUDACITY to call myself a "small business owner" when I have no clue what I'm doing?
If I fail now, it's not because of external factors—there's no shortage of room for more small businesses, there is no one out there actively trying to prevent me from succeeding. If I fail, it will be because I'm not smart enough, or savvy enough, or strategic enough, or dedicated enough to make it. It will mean my abilities don't align with my goals, and I'm just not suited to have the kind of life that I want. Or at least, that's what I keep telling myself.
But are the stakes of failing now actually higher? Maybe. I mean, if I put all my eggs in one basket and the basket drops, all the time and money I've put into this business would've been for nothing. I'll have to start over. But...what if the basket doesn't drop?
When talking about fear, we don't usually consider what could go right. We think of all the what if's except for one: what if everything works out? And I think that's intentional. I think a lot of us—women, young people, queer people—are intentionally discouraged from thinking that we can actually achieve the things we want, because it threatens those in power. If we can chase what we want and actually succeed, those in power know that they're vulnerable to our power. So they keep us afraid. They ensure we are so afraid of failure that we completely forget anything else exists. And that fear is what keeps me and others like me teetering on the edge, not quite ready to take the leap of going all in on pursuing our passions.
But while you may drop your basket and crack one egg—or all of them—it's equally as likely that you will arrive at your destination, look in your basket, and find that all your eggs are there, perfectly in tact. Despite everything we've been led to believe, and everything I've been convincing myself of recently, we are not destined to trip and fall.
So, how do you know when it is time to take the leap and trust your journey? I can't say for sure, but I think eventually, you just know. Eventually, the fear of failure doesn't matter. All that matters is betting on yourself, tuning out the voices telling you that you can't do it, and giving yourself the chance to try. Because really, there's no greater failure than surrendering your power—your gifts, your strengths, your knowledge, everything you are—to fear. How will we ever know what we are capable of if we don't even allow ourselves the chance to try?