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The Fear of Failure

Before my fitness days, I was living the Broadway dream full time.  I was a dancer from a young age and eventually, in junior high I started doing musical theatre.  In high school, I knew it was my destiny to go to school for theatre and have a career on Broadway. When it came time for college applications I found my desk piled high with brochures from a bunch of colleges all over the country touting their programs as the best of the best.

I knew in my heart of hearts that NYU was the college for me.  To go to school in New York City would be the ultimate experience.  To live and study musical theatre just a subway ride away from the Great White Way was enticing and I wanted to be part of that scene.  I could feel the pulse of the city from 250 miles away in my little bedroom in New Hampshire and I could not wait another second for that to be my everyday reality.  NYU was it.  NYU was the dream.

Submission time approached and the application fees, essays and letters of recommendation had all been sufficiently and timely filled out.  All except one.  There sat my NYU application untouched, collecting dust on my desk.  I had so openly expressed my love for the school to my family and friends.  Everyone knew it was what I wanted.  But as the admission deadline approached I found myself crippled with fear.  My mind was filled with questions:

“What if I don’t get in?”

“What if I’m not good enough for the program?”

“What if I get waitlisted?”

I was so wrapped up in my fear of being rejected.  But I wasn’t so much afraid of being rejected by the admissions office at NYU.  No. My fear took shape in the reactions of my family, friends and everyone else who knew me.  I thought my family would be disappointed. My friends would judge me for not being accepted. Everyone else who felt mediocre about me or maybe didn’t even like me very much would finally have something tangible to criticize me for.

My 17-year-old self wanted to appear perfect. I could do that on my own terms but when someone else was deciding that when someone else was deciding if I was a valuable, worthwhile student/employee/lover/trainer… that was out of my hands.  That I had no control over.  So I didn’t apply.  I didn’t go to NYU.

I didn’t understand at the time that the failing, the falling down is what I needed to do in order to get back up and do it again.  I thought, well, if no one ever sees me fail, if everyone thinks I’m constantly winning at everything I do, then I’ll look perfect, then I’ll FEEL perfect.  But who was I benefitting by doing this? Not myself and certainly not anyone else. Now, sitting here at 30 years old writing this blog all I can think of is:

Isn’t failing a chance to grow? And isn’t the concept of being perfect such complete and utter bullshit?

Over the last 10 years I’ve struggled with lots of failing, lots of falling down (literally and figuratively) and I’ll admit it took me until recently to realize that being bulletproof isn’t benefiting myself or anyone else.  Being vulnerable, showing the not so pretty parts of me, admitting that I don’t know everything; that takes much more courage than staying in the safety net of perfect.  And putting yourself out there; taking risks and yes, possibly failing makes the thing you’re failing at seem not so scary anymore.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that failing leaves you open to taking more risks in the future.  Failing makes you brave enough to take chances.

Part of me wishes I could go back in time and do things differently.  Maybe I would have been accepted into NYU and my story would have unfolded differently.  I’ll never know. But if it had gone that way, I highly doubt I would be sitting here typing these words to you today.

From here on out I’m committed to having the courage to be vulnerable and accept that being vulnerable means I might fail. If I feel like I’m failing, I’m going to sit with that feeling. I’m going to take comfort in the fact that at least I’m taking action and putting myself out there instead of playing it safe.  And I’m going to remember that trying something and failing takes much more courage than not trying at all.

Be brave friends,

Lindsey

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