The post below was written for a friend - the final version is at www.bridgethunt.com and was published on Sunday 11th February 2018.
After a recent series of discussions on the topic of fear, I raised what I perceived to be my own fear of failure, in a conversation, last week. Almost instantaneously, my words were reversed and tossed back to me in the sentence, 'I put it to you, Jo Beale, that you are less afraid of failure, than you are of your own success'. Internally, it felt like a bit of a shocker, but, ultimately, I couldn't disagree.
Am I afraid to fail? No, not in the least. I wholeheartedly leap into things, knowing they might not work out. I'm all, or I'm nothing. I have passion, drive, explosive and furious commitment, even when I have no guarantee of success, payback, or reward. Not only am I not afraid to fail, I not afraid to admit to failing. It may sadden me, but I am not ashamed to have tried, to have learned, or to have changed my mind. I am not afraid to admit I made mistakes, or that - on very rare occasions, obviously - I was wrong.
The situations where I feel most awkward are the ones involving congratulation or reward. The effort I put into encouraging women to accept compliments and praise is, in truth, utter hypocrisy, as I often endeavour not to squirm at a turn of the spotlight. Certainly, I crave the honour, the applause, the victory, the thanks - but as I hold them in my hands, I quickly become horrified at the brightness illuminating me.
I have run, fast, from every whisper of achievement; I have sabotaged, or failed to capitalise on, every moment of success in my life, certainly when it has come to any kind of innate talent and creativity.
I used to act; I loved to be on stage, preferably as the lead. One day, at the age of 16, I forgot a line in an audition, and I never attended another again. Except, I hadn't forgotten it. I paused, and then, I stopped. In that moment, I had chosen head-down, book-driven academia over the thrill and the drama of performance, and, into my studies I threw myself, abandoning the stage for a lifetime.
I studied filmmaking, an overwhelming love of mine; a passion so deep I could breathe it twenty four hours a day and never become tired of it. I would write and edit and produce and direct, and consider every tiny project to be some kind of Scorcesian masterpiece. I made films for coursework, films for myself, and films for competition. I worked with more of my soul than is imaginable. I was shortlisted, and subsequently runner up, for a BBC Drama Award. There ended my filmmaking career.
I love to write, and, hopefully, you can tell (!). Yet, I'm sporadic and inconsistent with it. I once had a poem published, and immediately after, I began to shy away from poetry. I once came second in a short story competition, never wrote another one again. Plays, songs, screenplays, novels. Articles, essays, research, criticism, opinion pieces and editorials. I completed a Master's degree in journalism. I applied for precisely zero jobs in the field of journalism or the media.I've started four blogs. This one has been the most work, the longest-running, and the most popular and successful. This, time and again, I have to come back to; I have nowhere left to turn. I will not abandon this thing that I love again - and this time, I will keep going. I fucking love writing, I love words, and I love page-based expression. So, why would I actively avoid pursuing something I love so dearly?
It boils down to this: self worth is the cornerstone of ambition. If you do not consider yourself to be worthy of success, you will avoid it. You will become afraid of it. You will run from it, and at times, you may even sabotage yourself. This will keep happening until the day you recognise your own skills and talents for what they are worth, that moment when you are ready to face up to the fact that you sparkle in ways you might not have even realised. Accepting your fear of success means accepting you deserve to be successful. And, my word, you definitely do.