Fear & Failure

I’ve been listening to (devouring) Justin Su’a’s podcasts over the holiday week and it might just be my new favorite thing. Apart from listening to hundreds of his archived episodes, this past week he’s been discussing the Growth Mindset vs. the Fixed Mindset.

You know when something finds you at exactly the right moment? Yeah. This.

Let me give a little foundation for this post. Every year for the past three years I’ve made my New Year’s resolution around one word. First year it was saying “No.” I made the resolution to say no to relationships and activities that were not helpful to me. A lot of boundaries were set that year, it was a lonely year, but it ended up being the year I finally got help for many of my past struggles.

Then it was saying “Yes.” Learning to say yes to things that scared me and being open to possibilities beyond my current skill set. That year was a wild ride. I checked off so many bucket list items and I began my training in Armored Combat.

This last year was the year of “Hustle.” I made lots of commitments to delve deeper into many areas of my life. This year has had its own challenges, but I can say with confidence that it’s been one of my most rewarding years to date.

As I reflect and think about where I’ve come in the last few years, and where I want to go, especially this coming year, I had an inkling of what my New Year’s “word” was going to be. And I’m really struggling with the fear surrounding it.

I’m not great at listening to criticism. I never have been. As it turns out, my internal dialogue can be more critical than anything else I’ve heard. The last few months I’ve been pushing my training hard. I was on such a high from ItoC, I learned so much, and then when I went to apply everything I’d learned… I didn’t do as well as I’d envisioned. I had set the bar so high for myself that no amount of things I’d done well could right my wrongs in the list.

Every time I watched footage of my fights, I cringed and had to fight back tears. The success of my teammates made my own successes (in my mind) look like a pathetic attempt at fighting. Logically I know this is not the case. Logically I know I’ve improved a lot this past year. Logically I know that I will improve even more in the next few months. Logically I trust the process. But I still felt like a failure.

The last two weeks have had me asking some tough questions of myself. With the help of listening to podcasts and reading books on failure and setbacks, I think I’ve nailed it down: Fear. I’m afraid.

The thing about competing that I never fully grasped, is that you have to wrestle with the notion that your best might not be good enough. I’ve never really participated in anything where my best was measured against others. As a writer, my best is my best and if someone doesn’t like it, I can just move past it and try again. No harm, no foul.

Now though, I’m having to give 110% all the time and then when I fall, and someone always has to fall in this sport, I need to have the fortitude to get back up and give 110% again. And again. And again.

In one of his podcasts, Justin Su’a talks about how when someone balks at constructive feedback, it indicates that person is afraid that the problem cannot be corrected. They’re afraid that they will never be able to fix the problem.

Ah. I see now. The last two weeks, my internal reel has been telling me things like, “You’re not a natural fighter,” “You may work twice as hard, but you’ll never be as good as these other women,” “You’ll never outwork your lack of skill.” It goes on and on, but it’s been wearing me down, and it’s been doing so because I’ve  allowed those messages to continue for two weeks too long. Fuck that.

Now that I’ve identified my fear, my failings, and the areas that need my attention – what’s next? Here comes the resolution part, this next year isn’t going to be one word, it’s going to be a phrase. A tough phrase. And it starts now.

Seek Feedback.

This year, my goal is to learn to love feedback. However, it isn’t blindly going around asking everyone to critique my life and actions. No, this is going to be a full body, mind, and soul experiment. I will stop saying “I know,” when I receive feedback. I’ll close my mouth and listen more. I’ll thank people for wanting to help me improve. I’ll allow myself to feel all the emotions I need to, then I’ll create a plan of attack.

I will suffocate my fears by moving forward. Even when I fall. Even when it hurts. I will starve my negative internal monologue until those ugly thoughts no longer rent space in my head.

I will be vulnerable enough to be wrong.

Am I frightened? Fuck yes. I didn’t even want to write this post for fear of looking weak, but fuck that. One of my main goals has always been to be vulnerable and transparent enough for others to feel like they can be themselves around me. This is me walking the talk and sharing things that might make me look weak to some, but to others, it might be the hand in the dark to reach for on this journey. To know we’re not alone in our fear and failures. To prove that our fears do not define our growth.

I can’t help but feel I’m on the cusp of growth spurt. It won’t be easy, (it never is), but I’ll be better for it. I can relate to Bilbo alone in the tunnel:

“It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterward were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Here’s to the battles we fight alone in the tunnels. Head down, hustle hard.




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