The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday September 20th

Column: Overcoming the fear of failure

<p>A couple walks across Polk Place outside of Hussman School of Journalism on Sept. 26, 2020.&nbsp;</p>
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A couple walks across Polk Place outside of Hussman School of Journalism on Sept. 26, 2020. 

Hello, it’s me — your friendly neighborhood transfer student.

Earlier this semester, I wrote about my experience entering UNC as a junior and the imposter syndrome that accompanied it. The truth is, I’m not entirely sure that the feeling of occasionally doubting yourself ever goes away. It’s something that we simply have to learn to live with. 

This sense of not being enough fuels my fear of going after my goals. I felt it when I applied to write for The Daily Tar Heel last fall, and I felt it again when I recently applied to switch majors this semester – from English to journalism. 

When I get really anxious, I tend to wait until the last moment to do something. This time around, my head flooded with everything that could go wrong. I thought about how I haven’t been able to make connections during two semesters of remote learning. It just didn’t seem like the right time, and I ended up convincing myself that the outcome wouldn’t affect me. 

But truthfully, I knew it was what I needed to do, as it was something that felt right. With a helpful push from friends and family, I applied to the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

My fear of failure stems from me being terrified of letting myself and others down. More often than not, I get afraid to stick my neck out and try something new.

There is an analogy in "The Bell Jar" where Esther Greenwood envisions a fig tree. Each fig represented a different path in life. Esther saw herself in each choice, and she was afraid of picking just one for fear of losing the rest. So – one by one – the figs fell off the tree while she was waiting to choose.

I’m afraid to choose a path out of fear that I will fail, and then miss out on something else that I would have succeeded at. What I’ve learned through my collegiate experience is that you have to take that leap. 

I’ve gone from leaving a full-time career as a hairstylist to transferring into UNC because I knew I wanted to use my writing to make a difference. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly how it would all play out, but I knew I had to try. 

A few weeks ago, I got accepted into the journalism program. The fear of failure almost stopped me from even trying. If I hadn’t applied, I would have never known, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity that I now have. 

I’m naturally pessimistic, but I’ve had to learn to turn my “what if I fail?" question into “what if I succeed?” 

You have to create a vision for where you want to go and be intentional. You deserve to take up space and work toward your goals. Even if you think nothing will come of it, apply for that job, send in the application for that major transfer and ask for that promotion. 

You may face rejection, but you took the steps to put yourself out there. You automatically set yourself up for failure if you never try.

When it comes down to it, you’re just figuring life out like the rest of us. It seems easier to avoid facing failure by not picking that fig, but you have to reach out and grab it before you miss your chance. 


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