The Fear of Losing

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When the thing holding you back is fear, train yourself to ignore it.

When I was in elementary school, I really wanted to run for class president. Like, I really really wanted to run for class president. Ever since I was a kid I had this pathological need for people to look up to me; to listen to the things that I said, to read the things that I wrote. Class president was the perfect office for me— and I wanted it, so, so bad.

When it came time to turn in applications for elections, my application was not in the box. I hadn’t filled one out. I hadn’t even picked one up. I was afraid. Afraid of losing.

Now I realize that the only thing holding me back from running for office was my fear of losing the election. I was worried that the other candidates were more popular than me; that they would get more applause after the speech, that in the end they would walk away victorious while I would be forced to bear the shame of loss.

I was so young! And already I had this huge fear of losing.

Why is our culture so afraid to lose? At what age do children develop a hatred of losing? My neighbors’ son cried whenever his soccer team lost a game. He was only eight— why did he care so much? Why do we fear losing so much, even as children?

We don’t like being shamed. We don’t like coming back as the loser of an election or a sports game only to hear consoling words from our family and friends. Those words of comfort hurt us more than soothe us. Losing rattles our confidence; destroys our self-esteem. And we don’t like feeling bad about ourselves. Similarly, us writers sometimes keep our work locked in the shelves, afraid that no one will like them; that no one will appreciate the hours and years we’ve poured into them.

Now I realize I was wrong to have been a coward. I could have been class president. I could have. If you don’t do something because you’re afraid of failure…all you’ll ever end up with is “could-haves.” Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to rework the gears in my brain to sidestep fear. I’ve cliff-dived off a 50-foot rock. I’ve waded into a stream with crabs. I’ve made connections with people I would normally have not dared to approach.

And I’ve surmounted my biggest fear: I went ahead and self- published my book online. Because once you realize all the opportunities you’ve missed because of your own silly fear, you’ll never want to miss another one. I encourage you all to recall everything in life you’ve passed on because you were too afraid…and now to change that “fear factor” within your own brains, and re-train yourselves to accept challenges with bravery.

At the end of your life, would you want to look back and remember a sea of missed opportunities? In five or six years, nobody will remember that one time you lost an election…or came in third in the local karaoke contest. Don’t be scared to run for office, or sing, or act, or publish your book and your poems…you don’t know all the readers who may come to adore you. The only person you’re cheating is yourself. Just do it. Take a shot. Risk it all. Because if you do, and you win…people will remember that. People will remember you, and praise your bravery.

Life is too short for second-guessing. Go after the things you want, no matter how outlandish your dreams may be. Fear of failure should not be in your mind. If nobody feared failure, I’m sure that American Idol would have three or four times as many auditions.

Don’t wait for opportunities to grab you— seize them, and don’t be afraid of the consequences should you fail. Life is full of failure, but the biggest failures are missed attempts.

-G.D.

Photo credit: Kyra Ashtin

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18 Comments

Filed under Books, publishing, Writing

18 responses to “The Fear of Losing

  1. Great post. I too believe that fear will only hold you back. On the other side of all that fear is freedom.

  2. jstewart

    This is an amazing post. I was able to relate with it. Which I’m sure a lot of people can. And I couldn’t agree more. Usually the only thing keeping us from reaching our dreams. Is fear. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed this read.

    Also thank you for follwing my blog. My so called poetry has it’s ups and downs. But I’m always happy,to get new followers. I’m definitely following yours.

  3. bgbowers

    Wonderful, insightful post. Fear is crippling, it holds us back, stops us from moving forward, stops us from changing and growing. We should confront our fears on a daily basis as it makes us stronger, and we gain momentum, and before we know it we’re achieving the impossible. Thanks for sharing and thanks for visiting my blog. Very pleased to meet you ☀

  4. lectorconstans

    I saw your comment on “Terribly Write”. “Writer’s Blog” is a great title!!!

    “I was so young! And already I had this huge fear of losing.”

    Isn’t that when the fear of losing is greatest? How many millions of us never did ask the cute girl out, for fear of her saying “no”?

    The dark, opposite side of fear of losing is the obsession with winning. There’s a fine line between striving to win and the having to win – often at any cost.

    In the case of asking the cute girl out, if we don’t ask, the result is the same as if we do and she says no. The problem is that on the “no” side is the burden of rejection. One way of looking at it is that the sooner we get used to rejection, the sooner we can get on with life.

    Ray Bradbury said he sent out almost 50 stories before the first one was accepted. We’re all lucky he didn’t give up.

    (He also said that if you want to be a writer, write. Write a story a week. At the end of a year, you’ve got 52 stories – and at least one of them has got to be good.)

    But it does look as if you have the hang of it.

  5. Great post. The worst thing in life is to be filled with regret. It is better to jump into the unknown and learn from whatever happens. It will only make us better people. Great post and keep up the amazing motivation.

  6. Thanks for liking my post on my blog. I love this post!

  7. Amazing post which i am sure a lot of people can relate to,
    never give up reach for the stars.
    awesome blog

  8. Wise advice given in your thoughts. We can’t fear defeat. We will regret not trying.

  9. very moving, many thoughts here that are shared by many 🙂

  10. Really good post. I think I definitely suffer from a fear of failure.

  11. Excellent piece! I think as writers, this is a very natural fear, a constant fear of losing, rejection. I think however, that if we take these loses and rejections as opportunities to grow we won’t be as prone to fearing them in the future. Very nicely done.

  12. Great post – Brave is where I am at! But also been afraid

  13. Love this! I know this feeling so well and it has held me back from so many things thru my life. When my Mom died unexpectedly a few weeks ago, aside from all those emotions I’m still trying to deal with, I realized something important. I can’t wait anymore. I have no more excuses. The only person I ever cared about opinion-wise as far as subject matter etc was my Mom. Now the floodgates will open.
    Like you, I plan on self-publishing (unless I win the literary lottery) and I will not stop writing ever again. Good luck! It’s wonderful to have a place like this to come to.

  14. I publish a lot of poetry on the net and have about a 90% acceptance rate. But ever time I submit something I have this dought even though I am a regular at most of the sites. Go figure! But I will never stop submitting.

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  16. I can definitely relate as a a child I hated losing so much that I would force everyone to play a game over and over until I had not just won but played flawlessly. Eventually that perfectionism became fear and I stopped trying to avoid the obsessive torment of my perfectionism. I have found it difficult to publish my poems but it has helped pushing myself to write and post daily no matter how awful I feel about myself that day. I challenge myself with exercise now too and since I am horrifically uncoordinated and was never chosen in sports not even last just flat out denied to play that is a big deal. I haven’t managed to spread that attitude of “just do it” to every aspect of life but I am trying. Great advice! Beautifully expressed I bet you would have written some amazing speeches!

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