Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Why on earth would anyone start off a new year thinking about fear? After all,

new year=hope for all things good,

But wait.
  1. Fear is not all bad.
  2. Fear, the bad portion, is such a huge preventor of good things that we need to face it first.
Why isn't fear all bad? It prevents us from doing things that can have dire consequences. Fear of not having enough money for retirement prevents me from splurging on Milan or Paris vacations or outfitting the house with marble floors and copper trims. Fear of ending up with a broken body prevents me from bungee-jumping. Fear of bad health prevents me from eating croissants and chocolate pear tarts everyday.

You can always say that it's the desire (positive) for a secure future / health / wellness and not fear (negative) that is the reason. Perhaps. But I have a sneaky suspicion that we don't like to think of fear as a main emotion because it seems to primal. We prefer to think that we're civilized, thinking beings, not Neanderthals. But fear, whatever we think of it, is part of the equation, a significant part.

But let's get to the part that I think we can all agree on: that fear stops us from achieving our best.

Top on the list: fear of failure. Every time I sit down to write, I fear I'll come up with nothing but drivel, that it'll be derivative and shallow, that my writing is nothing but an ongoing exercise in navel-gazing. I may as well stop now and fold some laundry. At least something useful will be achieved.

Writers aren't the only ones who face this nagging, stubborn terrier-dog-with-its-teeth-on-a-shoe fear, of course. Anyone who does any work at all faces it, from the professors and carpenters to the first grader who tries a new sport. Some feel it much more acutely than others, and it seems to me the ones who care, the ones who are passionate are the ones who feel it the most.

Many writers I know care about their work. They have a deep desire to pursue their art and craft. They believe in it deeply. And they are the ones who must face their fear of failure daily.

Yet we write. We refuse to let go of the shoe. We're bigger than the terrier. We prevail.

Do we do this because it is fundamentally human to persevere? Or is it our passion that pushes us through? Are there ways to overcome fear once and for all? Or do we start every day at the same place in our position facing our fears? When we succumb, are we weakened for our next bout of tussle?

I don't know that answers exist. But I'd really like to know what form your fear of failure takes and how you've dealt with it.

Tomorrow, I'll explore the idea that all fears have one basis. Maybe.


Nandini said...

Interesting topic ... fear vs confidence. I think the key is balance ... they're both good in moderation and bad in excess.

Happy New Year, Yat-Yee!

Yat-Yee said...

Hi Nandini: so true. And Happy New Year to you too!