“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” -Elbert Hubbard
The other day I read that most of our fears can be boiled down to a fear of inadequacy, and, consequently, rejection. I know this is true for me.
When I feel a sense of panic about the potential to fail, it’s really more about being seen as a failure. When I make mistakes without witnesses, assuming the mistakes don’t cause me immense discomfort, I generally rebound fairly quickly. It’s almost like a tree falling the wrong way in the woods–if no one sees it, did it even happen at all?
I suspect this is true for most of us. A stumble that no one saw isn’t nearly as mortifying as a stumble with an audience.
When you factor in assumptions about other people’s judgment, suddenly a mistake seems like more than a poor decision; it seems like an admission of weakness. It seems less about our choice in a moment and more about our character on the whole.
But there’s something ironic about fearing judgment for being fallible, since this is something we all have in common. If we can just embrace our vulnerability and accept that our mistakes don’t define us, they can lead to a greater sense of meaning and connection.
Most of the purpose-driven people I’ve met feel motivated by the need to help people with struggles they’ve already faced. Because we err and hurt, we can feel for other people and do our part to help ease their pain. And because we know we’re fallible, we learn to be humble, which helps us appreciate and forgive.
There’s no denying that there are some mistakes that we wouldn’t make if we could re-live those moments. But the reality is that’s never an option. All we can ever do is make the smartest, bravest choice based on what we know in this moment.
The bravest choice is to do what we really want to do, regardless of who might see and form opinions. It might not always feel comfortable to risk being seen as inadequate, but the alternative is to risk feeling partially alive.
Photo by Wonderlane
About Lori Deschene
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal, and Tiny Buddha's Inner Strength Journal and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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