Fear. It can be silly or very real. It can be shared by others or just unique to us. It can motivate us, and it can hold us back. Everyone has their range of fears, from the darkness to being buried alive to being alone. Our fears shape the decisions we make and our lives overall. I know my biggest fear definitely has. It’s going to sound standard and frankly basic, but my biggest fear is inadequacy — not being good enough, failure, rejection.

Inadequacy is a broad term that is more of a theme than a specific fear. Ever since I was young, I remember it ruling my decisions and emotions. In primary school, on the night before a new school year would start, I would be so stressed out to the point of tears. I was always worried that maybe I didn’t learn enough in first grade to do well in second grade. Yes, I realize how ridiculous that is, but it truly scared me. To combat this, I always buried myself in my studies and participated in everything. I loved music, so I was happy being in choir and theater, but I also joined clubs and sports I knew I didn’t enjoy, such as chess club and volleyball. As I got older, I became more comfortable with the concept of “not doing things I hate,” but I still overinvolved myself for the sake of seeming, well, perfect. I was still in choir and theater, and I also did cheer, dance team, pep club, and even ping pong club — though I sucked at ping pong. I realize that many high school students do this to prepare for college applications, but to me this was proof of self-worth. I had to feel as if I was good at every single thing I was involved in (besides ping pong club, which I just quit). For example, my dance team got a new coach for my senior year. This coach was much harder than the last one, and that made me nervous. I felt like I wouldn’t be good enough for the team that year, even though I knew she would not cut me. Because I was so afraid of failure, I didn’t show up to the last day of tryouts. I would have rather chosen not to do it than not have been good enough to do it.

This “anti-failure” state of mind was especially strong regarding academics. To this day, I struggle accepting the idea that I cannot always get perfect grades. Everyone has heard the saying, “one grade doesn’t define you,” but that is exactly how I feel. A not perfect (or not nearly perfect) grade is a statement that I am not good enough. I could explain why I feel this way for another few pages if I wanted to, but that isn’t the point. The point is that there are others who feel the same way I do. Being afraid of inadequacy has pushed me to become successful, but it has also stopped me from being happy and doing things I enjoy. I may not be the best person to give advice on this subject, but I’m definitely better off now than I was years ago.

You are your worst critic, and that can’t be changed easily by listening to some obscure self-love and confidence podcast. What helped me the most was surrounding myself with loving and supporting friends. Without my closest friends, I have no idea where I would be. They pushed me to do things that scared me because they saw the potential I did not see in myself. Over time, I finally began to believe the things they said to me and gained that faith in myself. This goes hand in hand with the concept of faking it till you make it. When you constantly hear validation from others and tell it to yourself, you believe it. This process takes time, but that is OK. Growth is does not have to be linear, there are ups and downs, but one day you will realize that the good days outnumber the bad, and you carry yourself with a confidence that’s real. You only do things you’re passionate about and do well in school because you want to learn, not because you want to be perfect.

We all have our phobias, but it’s the real-life everyday fears that are truly haunting. It is easier said than done, but do not let the fear of failure or not being good enough stop you from living life. Take that step toward doing and feeling better, and reach out to friends for help. Know that you are good enough and have faith.

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