The line in the book stopped me cold, “you tell yourself no before someone even says it to you.” Yes, I once did. My ex-husband, Jon, once told me “you tell yourself you can’t before you even try.” I thought he was wrong but at that time in my life he was right. I set myself up so I would not be disappointed when I failed, because I assumed I might. I said I couldn’t do something to keep me from even trying so I would not fail. Fear of failure sometimes drove me to work twice as hard as everyone else and sometimes it drove me to not even attempt something.
Having read most of this book and really liking the character, I realized I was a lot like her in some ways, at some points in my life. She was driven toward what she knew she could do and was afraid to try things she had never tried before. When this line was said to her, the comparison hit me. She too was afraid of failure, and either drove herself to work twice as hard as everyone else so as to not fail, or did not attempt anything new in fear of it. Recently I had an experience where I was overwhelmed by something very new to me, and I began wondering if I should just give it up, that maybe it wasn’t for me. This was the first time in a while that the fear of failing was front and center for me.
The difference this time was startling though. Instead of keeping quiet and melting in the fringe of the class reminding myself that I couldn’t do this, I spoke up. I shared how overwhelmed I was and how I wasn’t sure I could actually do this. The other students felt the same way and chimed in. I was not alone in my fears which helped to ease them. The instructor then spoke about where we were in our journey and she did so with such compassion. She really helped us all feel better about what we were learning and how we would do in the long run. I did not quit. I am working hard at the parts that scared me, and I in the mindset of learning and growth.
That is now my difference. I either win (succeed, do well, do what I thought I would do all along) or I grow (learn). I do not fail. I may learn that something is not for me. I may learn that I need to practice something more. I may learn what worked and what didn’t and change my approach. I learn a lesson and I grow.
Learning something new, trying something new is messy. It is not easy and it is not neat. Going into it with the attitude of “I can’t do this” only makes it messier and harder. Going in with the attitude of “this is going to fun, hard, but fun and I will grow and learn,” makes it an experience not a destination. It isn’t about getting it perfect, it is about learning something new and creating. Creating is iterative, fluid, it builds on each moment, each trial.
Everything is about growth and an opportunity to learn. The learning could even be that we don’t like this new thing and we won’t do it again. That is a learning, but we set out to do it showcasing our best, not already admitting defeat.
Success or grow, that is the mindset needed to expand in this experience we call life.