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Fear of failing

- I learned what it could be like when you place too much of your self-esteem on achievements

We've all had bad luck and failed at something we tried. Whether it's a test that went worse than expected, a penalty kick that missed the goal, or a conversation that should have gone differently.

We've all been there. Difficult situations arise, which sucks, but fortunately, they usually pass.

Sometimes you are far from "the best version of you"

Nevertheless, the fear of failure – or worse, being a failure – is something that can affect many. Then we're talking about more than stepping on a small metal block occasionally, but about a feeling that you can't do it. A sense of shame, one might say.

For example, a feeling that you are not where you wish you would be in life. That you feel like you are a shadow of what you should have been. You are far from "the best version of yourself" that you are sometimes told you should be.

You are simply not living up to your expectations of yourself or the expectations you think those around you have of you.

I based my self-esteem too much on achievements


I myself had a small encounter with this a few years ago. I wrote my master's thesis, but for one reason or another - or probably several - I hadn't managed to finish by the end of the year. It didn't deliver it when I was supposed to.

To me, this felt like a huge defeat. I can't say it was a total crisis, but it affected me more than I had imagined it would. I didn't like to talk about it and hoped people I met wouldn't ask me how it had gone. Not only had I failed an assignment, but it also affected my self-esteem.

Someone I met once said that there are often two things on which we build our sense of self. The first is our relationships, meaning our family, which friends we have, and our social status.

The second is our performance, i.e. how well we succeed in what we do, whether it is sport, school, work, or other things. We quickly think that these are the criteria that those around us set to determine whether we are successful or unsuccessful, and often we can think this way ourselves too.

I didn't realize it then, but in retrospect, I realized that I had based my self-esteem too much on achievements, including doing well at school. So when I went on a mental block, it hit me harder than one might think.


"If I'm not the best, I'm not good enough"

It's good to set goals, and it's important to try to do your best, but there can be a problem if this is what you build your value on.

Because the scary thing about building one's self-esteem on achievements and relationships is that they can be quite fragile. Situations can arise that cause things to fall apart, and then apparently small things can affect you to a rather large extent.

There are a couple of things I'd like to say about this. The first is that we have easily set the list quite high for ourselves. Often we can make much higher demands on ourselves than on others.

In the TV series "Jeg mot meg" on NRK, someone said: "If I'm not the best, I'm not good enough." This is a demand that I believe he would not make of those around him but which he made of himself. But many of us tend to make prohibitive demands on ourselves, leaving little room for error.

An unimaginably great love

If you have followed us for a while, you have probably noticed that we quite often answer "Jesus" to questions we raise. I will do that in this context as well, and that is the other thing I want to bring up. Because I think Jesus has something important to say to us about the fear of failure.

There is one thing I want you to know about Jesus, which is that he loves exactly you with an unconditional love that cannot be lost. And if you or anyone else tells you that your worth diminishes when you fail, they are liars. You are loved with completely unconditional love, and you matter.

Jesus – the one with all power in heaven and on earth – wants to have a relationship with you. And there's nothing you can do to make him love you more, and there's nothing you can do to make him love you less.

We can let Jesus determine our value. Because even if we fail repeatedly, we can always come to Jesus, who does not stop loving us regardless of what we do or have done. We don't have to hide who we are; he already knows us. And He says that we are not failures - no matter if we fail at everything we try.

It can be difficult to suddenly change such a way of thinking, but by spending time with Jesus in the Bible, in prayer, and in Christian fellowship, we can see more of who he is, what he has done for us, and how great value he says we possess. And let this help shape us.

The text is taken with permission from Itro.no

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