All four letters in “fear” are in “failure.”
It’s human to fear, and it’s human to fail, but neither fear nor failure are in the word, “loser”. And yet, that is what’s at the root of our fear of failure. We don’t want the humiliation of telling people who matter to us that we’ve made a mistake. We’re afraid of being laughed at, of being looked upon with mock sympathy or genuine pity.
So, we stay put.
Or, if we dare wade into the waters of adventure, and get stung by a jellyfish for our trouble, we wish we’d never tried. We feel compelled to defend and justify: “no one told me there’d be jellyfish. Someone should have said. It’s not my fault.”
Deep down, we don’t really believe those excuses. We just hate having to tell those who stayed behind about the pain we felt when our dream of something bigger and better ‘failed.’
Here’s what we’re too fraught to see: Those who’d shame us for our desire to swim are those who’ll be forever stuck on shore. They’ve given in to that fear.
Who are they? A pseudo friend, possibly, one who likes to feel more powerful than we, as they sit on that lounge chair, not moving, yet seemingly so at ease, “See? Told you not to do it.”
Maybe our parents, trapped by tradition and the cynicism of age, terrified that we might experience the same disappointment they did when they were young, “We can’t support this. You’re headed for disaster.”
Perhaps it’s a lover who clings to us, “Don’t leave. Stay here with me. You know I can’t swim.”
If we manage to break free, that first wound in the water feels like a betrayal, a treachery those we left behind rejoice in. And as we limp back, burned and raw, the faces they make, the sounds of their commiseration and relief, stings more than that jellyfish.
How many of them, before we came along, had dared to jump too, then retreated at once after that early hurt? We’ll never know. We’ll never know how they truly feel, sweltering on that beach, parched for life, suffering the taste of sand in their sandwiches.
But as we pace along the waterfront, agonizing over whether we should try again, out on that sea we’ll see those who are swimming, swimming, swimming. Some are so far ahead they never look back.
Yet, there will be others who’ll turn and shout encouragement, “Come on in! The water’s exhilarating! Just watch out for jellyfish next time.”
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