I think most human beings are afraid of something. Be it a little white mouse that makes a person seek refuge on top of the nearest chair, a spider on the wall that arouses hysterics, fear of flying, fear of change, fear of being robbed in dark streets at night, fear of not finding a job…or fear of failure. I am not afraid of mice or spiders or critters in general. Neither am I too paranoid walking around at night, its one of my favourite past times! I love flying, am not yet worried about entering the job-world and change is something that I find exciting rather than scary. But the other day I realised that I do fear failure and that I don’t handle failing very well.
The questions that came to my mind along with this realisation were:
What is failure? And why do I fear it?
I think the definition of failure can be quite personal. It depends on your expectations and the goals you set for yourself. Maybe they are too high? Do you demand perfection?
I could say I failed to get up early because I overslept. Man, just wasted the entire morning!
I could say I failed because my cake didn’t turn out like I wanted. Oh dear!
I could say I failed because I arrived late. Again. Sorry…
But are those really failures? Is it that big a deal?
I could say I failed because my studies haven’t been going well. I didn’t pass all my courses and that made me feel pretty frustrated and upset with myself and everything.
Ok. That might be a failure. But its in the past. Just like kids that learn how to walk fall down a million times and get up again – I’ve got to get up again! Imagine a kid that fell down twice and decided to just stick to crawling! It would never learn how to walk!
So second question – why is that fear even there?
I think the fear of failure is often rooted in a fear of disappointing others. Being afraid of not meeting up to whatever standard. But the truth that I have found is – that those people that really matter, love you no matter what!!! You can’t earn their affection and therefore you can’t lose it either! No matter how much you “mess up”, they’re still there for you and love you. WOW! Pretty cool, huh? I love what the Bible says about love and fear in 1 John 4,18
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
God is love. His love is unconditional – NEVER changes!
And family or friends who love you don’t base that love on IQ or job success! They just LOVE YOU! You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. And talking with fellow students I even realised that its quite common to go through difficult times at University – even to doubt your studies or to feel inadequate. Fear is not a topic we like to talk about – but being honest with friends is worth it because it helps you realise that you are not alone in that fear and they can encourage and support you!
I know its tough to find the motivation to get up again after falling like the thousandths time! But if you really want to walk – you really gotta get up! Don’t worry if it takes you a while. Go slow. And just rest in the fact that YOU ARE LOVED. Loved by your family, your friends, loved by God and me!
So here’s some practical advice for others with University fears like me:
1) Name your fears and don’t deny or ignore them. What exactly are you afraid of? Failing the exam? What’s the worst that could happen?
2) Make a plan. Small goals. Ask for help/advice from others. Don’t try to force yourself through it alone! I find it also helps me to conquer other “little fears”, to celebrate small victories. For me that meant overcoming my fear of diving into a lake off a little bridge the other day =)
3) Give yourself a new chance every day. No matter what happened yesterday. Start afresh.
4) Think positive. May sound cheesy but it helps A LOT. Negative thoughts don’t help and just make you feel gloomy and stay gloomy. What can you be thankful for? Look for something to make you smile…something to brighten up your day =)
5) Take a break. For me that usually means going outside! I need the fresh air and exercise – go for a run or go jump in a lake to enjoy a nice swim. Often with studying our minds get tired and we might feel exhausted but our bodies, our muscles haven’t had to do anything! Its good to have a healthy balance between mental and bodily exercise and I find it refreshes my mind too. Besides exercise other distractions like meeting up with friends, watching a movie, coffee/tea breaks are also good. Don’t try to only focus on your studies and ban all other activities – a little break can do a lot to increase your motivation!
6) And then for me the most important point – to go to God with my fear and worries. If you don’t believe in God this may sound strange or like some kind of psychological trick – but I believe God is REAL and wants to help me with my problems and can carry me through any situation like a loving Father. I talk to him like I would to a friend and tell him what’s on my heart. I read the Bible and find strength and encouragement – like right now I was reading the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and love the simple advice to be found there! I also take time to just praise God and thank him for who he is and what he has done in my life. I focus on Jesus Christ and remember his incredible love for me and that reassures me and helps put my troubles in perspective! God is SO much greater than whatever I am going through and I can trust in HIM in everything.