Finding Joy IN Failing

Hello again! I’m back, it’s been a while I know…….I had such great intentions of keeping this blog ball rolling…… I thought once I had finally got brave and actually posted something that the hard part was over. #nottrue

I had great intentions of consistently posting my journey of finding joy….. weekly, fortnightly……… with accompanying picture collages and hashtags!


So, why then 6 weeks between posts? Short answer……because I am a big, huge, giant scaredy cat ….. I have a quite large and irrational FEAR OF FAILING!!  (“Finally, I hear some of you say! “We have known this about you for years……your perfectionist, people pleasing, striving and trying kinda gives it away……you are totes scared to fail” (don’t think I can pull off totes but am gonna leave it there anyway!)

Realising I have this specific fear is not a complete surprise to me, fear has been a daily companion of mine for many years, most of the time I have been able to function as a ‘kinda’ regular person with my constant fear companion having some impact on my daily choices, decisions  and actions but not taking over and  bossing me around………  There have been times though over the years my fear companion has totally overwhelmed me, and the result has been crippling, and paralysing ………… When reflecting on when my fear companion has gotten extra loud and bossy over the years, it has often been the FEAR OF FAILURE companion that has really messed with me! Failure fear is an  irrational fear of failing in my work, fear of failing in my relationships, fear of failing to meet the expectations that I place on myself, fear of failing to achieve my exercise goals, fear of failing to stick to my  weekly menu plan, fear of failing to remember someone’s birthday, fear of failing to be the bestest  aunty ever to Miss Lucy, fear of failing to sleep…. as you can see the failure fear list is quite long!

No surprises that now living in a culture where I am utterly and totally incompetent and failing frequently my FEAR OF FAILURE companion is being VERY loud, VERY clingy and VERY bossy! I am being bombarded by this FEAR  OF FAILURE constantly. Not only that,  I feel like I am surrounded by spectators watching my failures all the time- my failures are then often highlighted and commented on by the spectators around me. I  am regularly being given constructive feedback on how I failed and it also seems that frequent reminiscing of how funny some of my past failures have been is a popular topic of conversation with my Cambodian friends, neighbours, security guards, shop keepers, language tutor……. it seems that my failures are hilariously funny for them, and I am a constant source of amusement (being laughed at by people is becoming the norm for me)

The frequent failures facing me daily has made me realise I have two options regarding my FAILURE FEAR!

1) I could face my FAILURE FEAR…..get over it and embrace the whole overseas adventure……failures and all!


2) I could keep my FAILURE FEAR and become immobilised, paralysed and literally housebound to try and avoid it………….. “why would you be housebound, I hear some of you say, that’s maybe a little dramatic and over the top” While I will admit I can sometimes be a little dramatic I am not exaggerating about  being housebound because I literally can’t get out of my house without failing! I frequently have trouble locking the padlock at the front gate when I am leaving and my neighbour has to assist me!

Mostly as I didn’t want to be a prisoner in my own home in Phnom Penh I decided to go with option one……Now I needed to figure out how to face and fight this FEAR OF FAILURE…… Where would I go for wisdom, insight and strategy to face this? As has often happened in the past a child with additional needs has been the source of wisdom, insight and clarity for my personal growth and development!  (sidenote:  everyone has something to teach us if we are willing to learn from unlikely teachers).

I was recently referred an 8 year old boy with Autism. The referral was to help him understand that it is okay to make mistakes……. he hates failing, and doesn’t like to get things wrong, he gets very anxious and upset! (sound like anyone you know!) Pretty ironic huh!  So, I did some research on strategies that are out there for helping the young man (and myself) leave the fear of failure friend and mistakes monster behind for good! I came across the term “growth mindset” that his school have embedded  into the curriculum and culture of the school, it sounds good but what does it actually mean?

A growth mindset is the opposite of fixed mindset..The fixed mindset believes trouble is devastating. If you believe, “You’re either naturally great or will never be great,” then when you have any trouble, your mind thinks, “See? You’ll never be great at this. Give up now.” The growth mindset believes trouble is just important feedback in the learning process. In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure. In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a TO-DO list of things to improve. In a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to keep up your confidence. In a growth mindset, you keep up your confidence by always pushing into the unfamiliar, to make sure you’re always learning. In a fixed mindset, failures define you. In a growth mindset, failures are temporary setbacks. In a fixed mindset, it’s all about the outcome. If you fail, you think all effort was wasted. In a growth mindset, it’s all about the process, so the outcome hardly matters.” (I take no credit for these great insights these are taken as an excerpt from Derek Sivers blog and from Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset”, and Josh Waitzkin’s book, “The Art of Learning”


Lightbulb moment…… my fear of failure companion is a fixed mindset, and by changing my fixed mindset to a growth mindset I can say goodbye and be free from my constant clingy fear of failure companion! Hooray! Woo Hoo! Yay!!  But wait there is still more…….. more than freedom from fear a growth mindset means I CAN ACTUALLY EMBRACE FAILURE, and wait for it……..FIND JOY IN FAILING! What?! Such a bizarre thinking shift, my failures are not to be feared, instead they are an opportunity for me to gain Fresh Awareness, Insight, Learning, Understanding, Refining of my Experiences! They are helping me to grow to be a better version of me…….So, bring on the frequent failures ……… I will face them with faith not fear knowing that my failures are growing and refining me to be the person that God is shaping me to be, to do the work that He has called me to do! Joy!