We Are Not Afraid to Fail, We Are Afraid to Feel

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.

Credit: Kat J on Unsplash

We are not afraid to fail, we are afraid to feel. This is the epiphany I had today, and I feel so strongly about it that I want to share this with the world.

How did that happen? Let me provide a bit of context.

For a few weeks now, I have been closely monitoring my emotional state. Emotional wellness for me means, a proper night sleep, a regular meditation practice and physical exercise 3-4 times a week.

I also “check in” with myself a few times a day. I make a conscious effort not to “pile on” my moments of anxiety. When anxiety arises, I just try to examine the situation like an outside observer. It takes a bit of practice, and I definitely lose a few battles here and there against my racing mind.

The thing is, I have experienced anxiety most of my life.

I only acknowledged this reality well into adulthood. I mistakenly took this anxious state as my natural way of being, until a very scary panic attack. In parallel, I have always been perfectionist, sometimes to a unhealthy degree. I have never thought of putting these two elements together.

Yet, when I did, I had two groundbreaking epiphanies.

First, that my perfectionism and my anxiety were closely intertwined. A quick google search will convince you of the strong correlation between the two.

Second, that in reality, we are not really afraid to fail, but we are afraid to feel.

The fear of failure is not really the issue. The issue is the fear of the cascade of feelings that may come with it.

What are those feelings?

They are different for everyone. The most common are the ones of unworthiness, shame, and loneliness.

The feeling of being a fraud; of not being enough; of being “less-than“ what our peers and family think of us.

We are afraid to experience all the emotions that are attached to the failure, not the failure itself.

The anticipation of a potential failure can often provide a great deal of anxiety as well.

It is like our subconscious mind was pre-disposing us to feel the anxiety of failure before it actually happens. Maybe as a defense mechanism? Maybe as a way to prepare us to receive a strong emotion, so we are not caught off guard when it actually happens?

In any case, we have all experienced some levels of this. Imagining scenarios, often the worst ones, before the event actually happens.

The ones that subscribe to the Law of Attraction will also argue that we don’t attract what we want but we attract how we feel, which means that the event we attract in life match our vibrational frequency. Yet, the irony is that we “feel” in anticipation, of an event all the time and we often create anxiety inside ourselves because we are afraid of the strength of a negative emotion.

This is the reason why, full “presence” and awareness of our feelings is key to a healthy emotional wellbeing. Emotion is all there is, and our capacity to manage our emotional state is ultimately one of the strongest indicator of happiness.

If we develop our capacities to feel deeply when an emotion arises and witness it as an observer, it allows us two things:

  1. It allows us to honor each emotion without fighting them: it ultimately allows them to unfold at their own pace.
  2. It allows us to dissociate ourselves from our emotions, instead of confusing them with our entire sense of self.

We are not afraid to fail, we are afraid to feel.

This statement is particularly true for men.

Many of us from a young age have been socialized into emotional repression. Many of us have not been taught to process strong emotions as they arise.

Instead, we have been taught: to fight them, to doubt them, to escape them.

Many of us have numbed ourselves to forget how we feel, with substance abuse, work or other addictive activities: anything that keeps us out of our hearts and out of our gut feelings.

Our pressure to perform at all time makes us particularly vulnerable to fear of all of the feelings that come with failing.

We are greatly unprepared when it comes to manage our emotions and therefore we don’t know what to do with them. Yet, despite the heartbreaking reality that we have been denied emotional expression, we must make the conscious effort to honor the full spectrum of how we feel and to process our emotions in healthy ways. This is especially important now that the masculinity paradigm is shifting along with the expectations from men.

We must take care of our emotional state and learn how to deal with uncertainty in healthy ways.

Before I end this piece, I want to share a few tips that helped me handle my emotional state.

  • Have some kind of daily meditation practice: it does not have to long. It’s about quality.
  • Re-learn to breathe properly, and take a few high quality breath during the day.
  • Honor your emotions. Do not try to fight them. Give them space and observe them.
  • Exercise: you can shake a bad feeling by sweating it. Literally.
  • Therapy: there’s no shame about that. Invest your emotional state: it is priceless.
  • Journal: I am doing this right now and it is very cathartic.
  • Check-in with yourself regularly: take pauses, go for walks as soon as it feels necessary.
  • Sleep. I recently came across this incredible Ted Talk: it will blow your mind.

Here is also a list of free life-changing habits you can start today.

In conclusion, I want to share a few words of wisdom from the late Jim Morisson. I hope they will resonate with you.

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.” Jim Morisson


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