‘The Fear Of Failure’ is not our fault

“If you Do not eat this food, the beast would come and catch you.”

“If you climb this window, the insect would come and bite you.”

As a child, you would have heard things similar to above. When a human is born, we introduce many rules into his or her mind. Adults thought children could only be controlled through fear and as we grow up, we continue to threaten our children with the word ‘Fear’. Yes, Fear is not a ferocious or an aggressive word, but a word which could lead people to slow death in their life and business.

Be it religion or school — One word used widely to teach morals is ‘Fear’. Everyone believes that the ‘Fear’ teaches you how to behave in a society, what to believe and what not to believe, what is fair and what is unfair, what is adequate and what is inadequate, what is reasonable and what is unreasonable, what is ugly and what is beautiful, what is right and what is wrong.

We are growing up in the world where morals were taught on the basis of ‘Fear’ — Making you afraid of many things, making you afraid of future results, making you afraid of hurting somebody, making you afraid of people judgement, making you afraid of future worries which may not happen, making you afraid of losing something than looking forward to gain, making you afraid of divinity, making you afraid of future punishments after death or in the next world -the list goes on. Every direction, you may not hear or see the word “Fear”, but you could feel the word ‘Fear’. The word ‘Fear’ is the reason why many of us were afraid of risk taking, the reason why we were hesitant or poor in decision making.

In schools, we were taught to respect teacher…mmm….in most cases we start fearing the teacher, principal, homework, schoolwork. We were taught to be afraid of marks — We fear the results. If we made mistakes, teachers, parents scolded-we were afraid of mistakes. If in 4 subjects you had got above 85& and in one subject ‘D’ you had got 55%, everyone talked about the subject ‘D’ and scolded us including teachers and parents — we were taught to fear for our failures and not to feel happy about the bright spots in our progress report. From our birth, we were taught to garner attention — as a toddler, we learn to grab the attention of other people — In schools, we were taught to grab attention of teachers, peers to be competitive — Slowly, we were competing for attention rather than for the knowledge — The need for attention becomes strong and becomes a fear of not gaining attention.

If somebody says that he or she do not punish the children, but reward them-Attention is also a reward — Calling ‘Good Boy’ ‘Good Girl’ is a reward — Not getting rewards impart a sort of fear. Though rewards feel good, they made us do work which others wanted us to do and not work which we wanted to do. Rewards pushed us to work hard to please others than pleasing us, rewards made us work for somebody and slowly we became good actors wearing a false mask, hiding the real feelings from our inner self — We were a glorified domesticated pets for our society and in turn, we are domesticating our children.

‘Fear’ is driving the world — Every successful person grows of somebody’s fear. The more you fear, you are making somebody else grow. The more you break your fear, the more you grow, and you may not stop anybody else from growing because that guy would have grown on somebody else’s fear.

Fear is the reason why you work hard daily to prove yourself to somebody and wasting your time. If there is no fear, you would utilise your time to gain knowledge or skill to get better of yourself.

Fear is the reason why you are surrounded only with people who shore up your self-esteem and not people who would criticise or disagree with your views. Diversified views will only challenge you and stretch you to explore more. Otherwise, you would be doing things which are tried, tested and well versed with.

From childhood, we were praised for the talents — “We are talented” got ingrained in our brains — We were praised and we began to long for the same, and we started fearing for the adverse results. I was praised for completing my exams in one hour — A great talent — Finally, I ended up with a goal to finish exams within one hour — I started choosing chapters where the problems would be easier to finish in short time and could get me sufficient marks — I was fairly successful in finishing my exams within one hour — But I lost my learning objectives.

Talent masks us from exploring and trying new things — Being talented means doing work with less effort — If you want to explore, try new things, you need to put more effort to learn, try -but if you put hard work, you were afraid that people would judge you as “Less Talented”- Why take risks? Let’s be within the boundary where we are comfortable with, where our skills are fine — Slowly, you appear elegantly lazy and You were happy being called ‘Lazy’. Finally, after some years you could see that guys who studied with you, whom the teachers rated being poor in studies, rated untalented had made great strides in their professional and personal career and you would understand that ‘Talent’ is an overrated word — Hard work and deliberate practice are needed.

The truth — “Talent” is a curse, and you would live, work in fear to justify the ‘Talent’ label rather than enjoying the work or studies. We were afraid to explore since it needed extra effort and that would negate the association with the ‘Talent’ word. If we were praised for our efforts rather than talent, we would have tried hard to increase our efforts. Being talented means no mistakes, less effort, no rejections, no setbacks, no stretching yourself, no choices and you need to constantly prove yourself. Success for a talented guy is to validate himself — The fear of remaining talented.

The fear made you feel guilty sometimes, the fear made you feel horrible, the fear made you feel worthless, the fear made you think that you are a failure, the fear made you feel the blame, the fear made you feel shame. Fear made us feel that we are the reason for the problem, and not to see any problem as a situation problem — we became the judge, we became the witness, we became the prosecuting lawyer, we became the weak defence counsel for ourselves and finally, we are the culprit and our own judge passes judgement. And unfortunately the punishment applies not once, but multiple times throughout the life. One of my teachers had said that I am a poor observer and I carried that thought for a very long time. It did not strike me that the teacher who judged me might be wrong. Punishments in real life are to change people, to lead them to a new life but our self-judgements are meant to keep us in the same state.

Unless we stop judging ourselves, unless we stop looking as a people problem and start looking it as a situational problem, unless we stop looking at failures and start observing bright successful spots, unless we remove the biases incorporated in our minds, we will continue to live under fear of failure.

Written by

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at mmshah8@gmail.com. or https://www.shahmohammed.com

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