Why Fear Failure?

Are you afraid to fail?


I see on the campus of the university I attend every day young people who are seeking to accomplish great things with their lives. They attend classes and dream of one day using their talents and knowledge to change the world. The questions I get sometimes from them is very telling. Because I am not silent about how long it has taken me to get back into college and how old I am, they ask me about failure. They want to know how not being able to graduate while young, has affected my life.

Instead of answering them this time, I’m going to answer you.

When I look back over all the years I struggled during my therapy, and see all the opportunities I have missed because of being ill, I can see all the ways I failed. However, those failures were fuel for the fire that drove me forward and got me to where I am.

What is important about failures is to remember that everyone has them. It is the best way for humans to learn.

Think about it.

When you began your school adventure at age 5, did you know that two and two equals four? Of course not. You and I have made numerous mistakes during those years that taught us many things including the rules of living in society.

There are hundreds of cases in history of people who failed miserably yet we revere them as superior today.

Below you will find only a few examples


Oprah Winfrey—She was fired from a television news cast because she was, “unfit for television.” She went on to open her own talk show and then to owning her own station.

She is now a billionaire and highly respected around the world.


Jim Carrey—When Mr. Carrey began his career as a comedian he failed. On his first stand-up performance in Toronto he was booed off the stage. Now only this, but when he auditioned for Saturday Night Live for the 1980-81 season he didn’t get the part!

Now he is well-known for his hilarious movies.


J.K. Rowling—Miss Rowling was newly divorced with a small child living on the U.K.’s equivalent to welfare when she wrote Harry Potter. When she sent in her manuscript she was refused twelve times!

She later published her book, and the rest is history! She is now the richest woman in the U.K. other than the Queen!


Stephen King—Mr. King’s book Carrie was rejected fifty times! That’s right 50! He even through the manuscript in the trash, but it was retrieved by his wife.

He now has published 50 books, ironically as many as were rejected.


Abraham Lincoln— President Lincoln had a series of failures and losses in his life. When he was 23-yrs old he lost his job while at the same time he lost his bid to become a state legislature. Three years later he lost the love of his life Ann Rutledge. Three years after that, he lost his bid to become Speaking in the Illinois House of Representatives. Twelve years later he was unable to reach his goal of becoming Commissioner of General Land Office in Washington, D.C. Whew, there’s more! Ten years later he lost his bid to become a U.S. Senator!

Of course, we all know history. He became President of the United States and saw the nation through the Civil War. He is renowned all over the world for his perseverance and his fight for the freedom of the slaves of the south.


There is just one more person you absolutely MUST hear about!


Albert Einstein—Dr. Einstein did not speak until he was four years old. At the age of 16 he failed to pass the examination to enter the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School. He went on and graduated from a university, but he struggled and almost dropped out! Before his father died he made it known to Dr. Einstein that he considered him a major failure. After he graduated, he couldn’t find a job in academia. Finally, he settled for a job as a lowly patent clerk!

Dr. Albert Einstein, man whom the world considered a failure, went on to formulate the theory of relativity and doing groundbreaking physics and mathematics. He changed the human understanding of how the universe works, and went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Lastly, me.

Shirley J. Davis. I was brutally harmed in childhood, and developed dissociative identity disorder and major depression. At the age of 16 I was told by a High School counselor that I would never be anything, so I shouldn’t try. I stumbled through life not knowing where to turn, what to do, or where to go with my life. I had to endure 28 years of intensive psychotherapy, and over 40 hospitalizations, including one stint that lasted seven years. I had tried for 37 years to complete my Associate in Arts degree at our local college, but had continually failed ending with a 1.27 GPA.  I lived in utter chaos.

Today I am in a four- year university almost to my Bachelor’s Degree after finally crossing the stage at graduation at that same junior college. My grade point average, not counting this semester is now a 3.67! I may not be rich and famous, but I’m enjoying my life like never before and working hard to fulfill my dreams. I always wanted to earn a PhD, and I always wanted to write for a living. I am well on my way of achieving both.

Most important of all, I am feeling well. The chaos has ended. I still have alters but we work together now. I now own and write an internationally known blog site and freelance write for other mental health blogs. I also speak wherever I can, teaching providers and the public about the realities of DID.

I am not bragging. I am saying failure is something everyone goes through. Don’t be afraid of failure. A few years ago I lost ten months of my life to a dissociative episode after I had thought it would never happen again to me. My self-esteem took a huge hit and I saw it as a failure.

I went to see my therapist Paula McNitt, and she broke my self-defeatism. She made the following statement that still resonates in my mind today.

“What happened Shirley? Did you fall off your pedestal? Did you forget you are just like the rest of us, capable and vulnerable to failure? How long will you beat yourself up for such a human occurrence? Get up, brush yourself off, and see what you have learned from that experience.”

I did what she said and found strength in what I had perceived as a huge failure.

The Take Home Message

It’s okay to fail. It really is, and failure is nothing to fear. After you have gone through the initial shock of your failures, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and see what you have learned.

I mean, what’s the alternative? Feeling dejected and living forever as a victim? I think accepting failure as a part of normal life is a much better choice. What about you?

“At the end of the day, you are solely responsible for your success and your failure. And the sooner you realize that, you accept that, and integrate that into your work ethic, you will start being successful. As long as you blame others for the reason you aren’t where you want to be, you will always be a failure.” Erin Cummings


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