Fear story

I’ve always been afraid of screwing up. I guess that’s a pretty generalised fear and we all have that, to some extent.

I fear screwing up an initial good first impression, other people’s lives, an exam, my future, and more. The more I gain a decent footing in whatever I’m worried about making a total mess out of, the fear only grows. Everything I do feels akin to building a card castle, and I’m scared that one incorrect placement can cause it to collapse.

As a result, I may avoid things that I’m actually pretty interested in. What if I suck at it and make a fool out of myself? Or may appear unusually inhibited and silent, because I’m afraid of asking the wrong questions. Or make sure my grievances and wants and dreams stay in my head. In a way, my fear of screwing up has caused the most number of screw ups.

In my third year of undergrad, I was especially daunted by a multitude of fears. It was my last year. I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I had a post in the Student’s Council which involved coordinating with teachers and students and absolutely didn’t want to piss anyone off. I worried and worried about every single event or initiative I had to take, especially ones where helping one person out would mean displeasing the other. For a placater like me, it was like this web of chaos. It lead to so much internal conflict, and tears, and anxiety.

How did I overcome it? It’s funny how the fear of failing, and falling, and in general, “screwing up” disappeared the minute I actually screwed up. It was the day after an event that went horribly wrong. Fingers were pointed, and mostly at me. I knew that while the situation had been unavoidable, I did have a role to play in it.

That conversation with the “disappointed” teacher, where I got a big lecture, the conversation of my nightmares, was finally a reality. And… while I was living that dreaded moment, my mind was finally, shockingly clear. It was one of the few times in my life when I felt truly calm.

I was there, in that moment. I had let someone down, essentially “screwed up”, but I was still whole.

My heart was beating fast, but it was still beating.

My mind was still working. I was alive and kicking. The ground that I was walking on was still solid. Nothing exploded.

I screwed up, and yet I was totally okay. Even the disappointed teacher was only talking about what I should learn from it, rather than playing the blame game. And boy did I learn from it; way more than I’d ever learned during the times I’d run away from a situation or taken the easy way out so that it was guaranteed that I wouldn’t screw up.

I learned that screwing up is inevitable; and as long as you learn from it, rather than feel let down because of it, you can only rise from and above it. There are far more important things in life to focus your energies on anyway: like being true to yourself and doing the best you can, rather than avoiding danger and avoiding chaos. 

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