Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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Screwing Up is not the Worst Thing that could Happen Here

It’s not stupid to have a stated goal of starting several ventures that will fail, or asking three stupid questions a week, or posting a blog post that the world disagrees with. If you don’t have goals like this, how exactly are you going to luck into being remarkable? — Seth Godin

I’m going to buck the system here and publicly admit that I fear failing. (Even though my intellect likes to butt in at this point and say “It’s only a failure if you let it stop you,” or some platitude like that.)

I fear screwing up. I fear looking bad, and losing the respect of people I love and admire. Ok? I’ve said it. I dare you to put up your hand and say, “Me, too.”

I fear those screwups, the ways in which I haven’t lived up to expectations, because I’m afraid that I won’t like myself anymore, and if I can’t like myself, why would anyone else? On one hand, I have quite a high opinion of myself, but…if I never accomplished anything else for the rest of my life, if I tried and failed again and again… would I still hold my head up high? Would I keep my sense of humor? Or, as I fear, would I become a nasty, embittered loser?

While I’m pretty sure I won’t like myself if I fail, I know I won’t like myself if I let myself operate out of a place of fear. So I do a pretty good job of shoving my way past it. I like to perform for strangers, for example, because I could give a shit what a faceless crowd thinks of me. But the flip side is now also true. I don’t care if they love me, either, because shit, what do they know, anyway? At least my defense mechanisms are consistent, right?

But I notice, as I start to make more friends here on the interwebs, that I’m scared all the time. Usually it’s half and half with exhilaration, but still… I don’t know you guys. Why do I care what you think?

And yet, where I could be a faceless, meaningless simulacrum of some idealized version of myself, I find myself compelled to relentlessly, exactingly honest.

To be frank, that’s really weird for me, because I have an actor’s tendency to see every social interaction as a role to play, and play up! I was talking to Karen today, and she was saying how it seemed that even though everyone says “Don’t fear failure,” they don’t seem to even believe it themselves.

I think that’s true, in that everyone’s ego is fully invested in not looking like a fool. But even when I feel the fear, I remind myself: Screwing up is not the worst thing that could happen here.