As a freshman in the university, I played with the idea that one can actually be jack of all trade and master of all. Before you judge me, just take...
I learned that I can choose to see failure as the end of the world and as a proof of just how inadequate I am. Or, I can see failing as an incredible learning experience that it often is.
Fear still lurks somewhere in me. This is not the ideal starting words for an article on breaking up with fear, but knowing I am expected to provide a personal exposé I figured its better I strip off the covering and pour out my heart.
Of all forms of fear – death, heartbreak, heights, poison, defeat et al – it is the fear of failing that has held me closest to her bosom. As I walked through the various storms that have defined my life, I always wondered if I will meet with her right at the next turn in the road waiting to pounce on an expectant prey.
I was not always afraid of failing. As a child I was rather exceptional in the most important parameters that measure exceptionality in children. But then, weren’t we all as such? In a bid to ensure his lovely first son continues to blaze the trail into stardom, my father made it clear in no uncertain terms that failing was the absolutely worst thing to happen to a person in life. As far as he understood at the time, failing proved that the fruit didn’t come from his tree.
Then I failed – woefully – in my second term of Senior Secondary One.
When this happened, I did what I still cannot believe I had the capacity to do at that time; I hid my results from my dad. I fabricated lies to defend why I did not bring my result home and went as far as prevailing on my sister, who was two years ahead of me, but in the same school, to not turn-in her average result. This was the beginning of a slide down a spiral of fear-failing-lies cycle. For the next 10 years of my life I struggled every single day with the fear that I will fail eventually in anything I do.
Then I stumbled on a concept. I do not know exactly how I stumbled on it but I suddenly became aware of myself, my emotions and passions that I started learning from myself. I was the scientist with the lab coat experimenting on a lab rat called Yusuf Leinge. I began to notice that my fear of failing was linked to a few traumatic experiences I had as a child; like when I ran away from a debate competition that I was seeded to be the best in in Primary Five. There was also the time I was publicly shamed by my teacher in front of my whole class because I was the smallest in the pack. These experiences made me afraid of failing other things later in life.
I also noticed that I was extremely reluctant to leave my comfort zone and try new things. As long as things worked (not necessarily thrived) I was OK. I was a friend to averages. Then came self-sabotage. I procrastinated, was excessively anxious and rarely followed through with my goals and commitments.
I became swarmed by low (bottom-of-the-dry-pit-low) self-esteem. I’ll never be good enough to make the examination, and I’m not smart enough to get on that team, were my common thoughts. Lastly, I became a perfectionist. Perfectionism is NOT good for a person overwhelmed by fear because it leads to inaction.
Thank goodness though that with my self-experimentations came the knowledge that it is impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure. I learned that when I dare to live a failure-free life I inevitably have dared to amount to nothing.
Lastly, I learned something absolutely wonderful about failure. The way I see it is more important than the way it actually is. I learned that I can choose to see failure as the end of the world and as a proof of just how inadequate I am. Or, I can see failing as an incredible learning experience that it often is. From then onwards, I chose to look for the lesson in my failings.
Then I grew. Extremely grew and still grow. Failing can no longer stop me because I do not let it and although I know she still lurks somewhere in me, I am the dreamer who broke up with her… Now I am living my dream. Let’s live our dreams together!
Yusuf A. Leigne is a Life Long Learner. The Chief Executive at Leinge Consults and Founder of TeachNigeria & Whiteboard. At home, He is the Husband of a Queen and Father of Two Angels.
Connect with him on Facebook @yleinge.