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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Holds Us Back; Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

A fellow artist told the story of her friend who at 19 years of age won an art competition. The judges and her mentors raved about her work and suggested that she continue in this field. They encouraged her to push herself a little further and delve into the possibilities of a career as an illustrator.

Sadly, from that day forward, the young woman never picked up a brush again. If she were going to fail, she preferred to fail sooner than later and on her own terms. Now at the age of 62, she wonders what she may have missed? She’s now considering taking some art classes just to find out.

Skudenshavn, Norway

Was she really afraid of failure or was it success that had her on the run? Sometimes the work and effort to succeed is the real issue that people grapple with. Perhaps her fear of success was greater than her fear of failure? Perhaps she doubted her own ability to succeed or to produce consistently?

We all experience these feelings every time we put brush to canvas. At my first art show, my worst fear was that I might make a fool of myself. That my inexperience and lack of knowledge would shine through to the experts, and make me out a fool. After berating myself for negative thinking, I uttered a brief prayer. Afterward I thought: “Try it! You might be surprised. What have you got to lose?” I sold a painting to two Norwegian tourists within the first 30 minutes of that show, and I’ve never looked back.

Sandve, Norway

The worst thing an artist, a writer, or any professional can do is hammer or belittle him or her self. The world will criticize our efforts enough without us adding to the chatter. We must listen to the beating drum of our own dreams and aspirations. We must take the role of “cheerleader” and “coach” not brow beater and skeptic.

We must never fear success. Failing is a small price to pay for knowing we have at least tried. The real tragedy is always wondering what we could have been; could have achieved if only we hadn’t quit or given up.