A week ago, I enrolled in a 7 week online course with a well-known speaker and coach from the United States. The name of the course is Your Power Voice and aspires to teach coaches how to use their experiences and voices to help others. Storytelling is a big part of his teaching and as a writer I love learning new ways to tell stories and how to create stories around a given subject. One of the stories he wanted us to tell was a story of failure and I cringed inside immediately because fear of failure has held me back a lot in these last years. One of my biggest fears is a fear of speaking in front of an audience and as this is part of his course this fear has been slumbering inside my body since the day I enrolled onto the course. I went inside and found the story of a personal failure that founded my fear and that is now ready to be told and released.
For years I've believed that I was an appalling speaker. The thought of getting in front of a group of people literally made me want to die. Funny thing is that I didn’t always have this fear, as a team leader working at a bank I was used to speaking in front of groups and exerting leadership in team meetings and training. I took ownership of this belief after an incident that happened while I was on a coaching course some years ago. On that course I had to do a presentation on one of the subjects that were given to me by the teachers, I had done the research and made the presentation at home to present in class at a later date.
When the day of the presentation came I wasn’t having a good day, I was in an abusive relationship at the time and after another incident that morning I felt highly self-conscious and down and nowhere near ready to do a presentation. Determined not to make excuses for myself and show up to do what was expected of me I made myself walk to the front of the class and proceeded to do the presentation as best as I could. As you might have guessed it was awful, I read from my paper like a robot, forgot where I was when I attempted to engage with my audience and when I found myself unable to go any further I fell silent and for the longest time no one moved or spoke. Finally the teacher asked me what happened in an irritated and impatient voice. I apologised and made some excuse and he dismissed me like a was a disobedient child and a huge disappointment.
The horror of that moment haunted me for years and made me believe that I was an appalling speaker. It took me years to realise that this was an isolated event and that I'm perfectly capable of speaking in front of a group of people and that failure happens to everyone. I had to realise and accept that failure is a part of life and that I will definitely fail a few more times in my life.
Truth is if you truly are a failure you would not have been able to learn to walk. You would have believed you were incapable of walking the first time you'd fallen down. Perfection will only come with practise so we have to give ourselves permission to fail, without taking ownership of the belief that this makes us a failure. Practise makes perfect and perfection is never achieved in our first try, so fail we must.
Fear of failure tends to exponentially grow the more attached we are to the desired outcome, if we are playing a weekly soccer match we know that there will be other games, but when we are playing a championship match we tense up because we realise that this is a onetime event. The key is to accept the possibility of failure, once we can make peace with the potential loss we are free to strive towards success, we literally have nothing to lose from that place. Especially when we can believe that there will always be other chances for success and everything that we encounter is a lesson and growth towards reaching that inevitable success however and whenever it presents itself.