Defeating Fear of Failure by Blogging, Dancing, and Juggling
Five years ago, my son decided to learn to juggle. He was often discouraged and frustrated when he didn’t master a new technique. Through it all, I was there to be a sounding board and to give him the encouragement he needed to push through the difficult times. I wanted him to learn that the road to success is paved with many small failures along the way.
Fear of failure is something I’ve struggled with since childhood. I avoided trying new things or joining many groups during my middle and high school years because I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed. However, in the past few years, I made a pledge to myself to throw caution to the wind and to start trying some new things, including areas in which I deliberately thought I would not be successful.
One of my biggest challenges was starting a blog. It was difficult at first and I was afraid that no one would respond to it. But I kept plugging away and grew more confident in my ability to write in a way that would connect with people. Occasionally I see my son sitting down at the computer reading the blog and laughing here and there. Even though he knows my blog is not one of the best ones out there, he is impressed that I have the guts to keep publishing it.
I further challenged myself by taking a Belly Dancing Class. Am I the best dancer in the class? Far from it!! In fact, the instructor placed me in the second to last row during our recital in April. My son knows I’m a little insecure about my dancing, yet after the last show, he exclaimed, “The best part was that I could say, ‘hey, that’s my mom up there!'” Which, of course, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
In an act of solidarity with my son, I also took up juggling. When I decided to learn to juggle, my son was consistently juggling 7 balls, 6 rings and 5 clubs. Obviously, I had a lot of catching up to do. He noticed that I was struggling with a basic three ball juggling pattern, and suggested I learn to bounce juggle, which he felt I would find easier. He was right. Now we are the self-proclaimed bounce juggling State Record Holders (simply because we do not know of many other bounce jugglers in the state).
From blogging, to belly dancing, to bounce juggling, I’ve been able to get a taste of failure, mixed in with the occasional sweetness of success. Because I was willing to make a fool of myself, my son is more willing to try new things. And that’s a lesson that will stick with him for a lifetime.
Carma writes the blog Carma Sez. She has now taken up Curling.
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Baseball Has Been Very, Very Good to Me
After my attempts to talk him out of it failed, I begrudgingly signed him up. I planned to passively sit on the sideline and watch the season pass by. But my plan unfurled during the first practice.
Before I could take my spot on the bleachers, the league’s commissioner recruited me to be an assistant coach. Although I really wanted to decline the position, I didn’t want to disappoint my son. I reluctantly accepted, and trotted on to the field to assist with the drills.
We paired up the kids and had them practice throwing and catching. I noticed that N was throwing the ball wildly and missing every ball that came his way.
“Pay attention, N,” I yelled across the field. He nodded gently and continued his drill.
I tried to focus on the other kids, but my son’s lack of skill kept me distracted. He continued to throw and catch poorly.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I marched over to N and squeezed his shoulder.
“What is wrong with you son?” I asked firmly. “Why can’t you focus and throw the call straight?”
He looked at me with fear in his eyes.
“I’ll do better,” he said.
Later that night at bedtime, N stood before me with the most forlorn look on his face.
“Daddy,” he said.
“Yes, son,” I replied.
“Why were you so mean to me today at practice?” he asked. Warm tears trickled down his face and soon he was sobbing uncontrollably.
My heart broke as I watched my son cry. I pulled him close to me and apologized profusely for causing his so much anguish. Instead of encouraging him, I crushed his spirit. I had not provided a safe place for him to fail.
I wiped the tears from his face and tucked him in bed. I told him about my failures on the baseball field when I was a kid.
“I only wanted you to be a better player than I was,” I said. “But I put too much pressure on you. Just go out and have fun and daddy will be proud of you.”
He smiled and gave me another hug.
Although I patched things up with him, I still had a lesson to learn.
At the first game, the head coach asked me to pitch. I hadn’t pitched a baseball since I was 9-years old, but I figured pitching to a group of 6 and 7 year olds would be no big deal.
As I took my first pitch, I quickly realized that pitching isn’t as easy as it looks. I sucked. Some of the pitches were several feet short of the plate; others were about a mile outside; and I may have hit one or two kids.
Over the next few weeks, my pitching seemed to get worse and I started to dread the games. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and my poor performance on the mound started to affect my confidence. I hoped for rainouts, alien abductions, or zombie attacks – anything that would prevent me from having to embarrass myself.
My pitching was so bad that some of the parents started heckling me from the stands. Right then, I knew exactly how N felt when I used harsh words with him and I remembered the words to spoke to him: “Just go out and have fun.”
Coincidentally, N was the next batter after the heckling incident. I took a deep breath and carefully threw the ball across the plate. N swung and missed.
“That’s okay, son,” I said. “You can do it.”
I tossed another ball through the air and N connected with it. I smiled as he ran to first base.
That play allowed us to focus on the moment and freed us both from the fear of failure.
Join the conversation: How do you help your kids deal with their fear of failure?