What if I die trying and a failure?

It sounds so self-involved to admit it: this is the question that I’ve struggled with the most since early childhood up until now. Ambition is a beautiful part of the human spirit. Combined with my performance-driven mindset (“type”), my Asian immigrant upbringing, and my insufferable tendency to take myself too seriously, I have always had the anxiety of this unresolved question in the back of my head.

So 2 weeks ago, I decided to ask my friends this question. It hadn’t occurred to me before to do so – silly me.

Preamble:
High school was the peak of meltdowns. In university, the anxiety felt worse, but I wouldn’t have as many meltdowns; I simply combated by working harder and more aggressively. As a result of this, I’ve proudly of become the woman of my childhood dreams, but it hasn’t come without social consequences – deliberating isolating myself, lashing out at loved ones, and letting stress & anxiety get in the way of showing up gracefully in life. I wasn’t planning to compile a blogpost when I pinged my friends about this, but I found the below advices extremely helpful and had to share. I’ve since felt my anxiety improve significantly and wrote about it: Dear Anxiety, I wish *we* had surrendered sooner

First, here’s a response from a mentor about a separate topic I had consulted her about – facing your fears.

Rechie Valdez (@rechie.veldez): Strategy professional by day, side-hustling entrepreneur & baker by night. Her company, Filipino Fusion Desserts, sells baked goodness sold in T&T, a Canadian nationwide grocery chain.  

“We all have fears of many different things. We can either run from it or face it head on. If we face it, then that’s a choice to chose the experience of going along with unknowns. You couldn’t have expectations if you’re truly trusting the process – yourself and the experience. Don’t set up any expectations and be open to whatever comes your way. Leave any preconceived notions behind. Be free in the process. You will then let life surprise you 😊.”

Onto the replies I got from asking “I’m wondering what your thoughts are about one’s fear of never reaching their life dreams. I feel like I need to achieve or else I’ll regret not achieving a life goal.”

Lauren LaForge ( @laurenlaforge, laurenlaforge.com ) : My Business Coach
“Hi! I think the achievement part is related to an innate sense of survival. Look at the Egyptians and their pyramids and statues and jewelry! That was 3,500 years ago! Fear of never reaching your life dreams is most likely that same instinct of ‘I’m keeping you safe by not letting you fail’. It can be the same emotion before cliff jumping or jumping across a river (can you tell I don’t like jumping!😂). It’s that same ‘wait, you could get hurt. Don’t do it’. That’s where faith has to come in and we get to coach ourselves into growing. Faith that we have done something scary before and the unimaginable wonderful result that came from it. We have to remind ourselves that trying to reach our life dreams is the only way we can insure we will/might reach it. If we don’t even try, never reaching it is already guaranteed.”

She later sent me photos from a visit to a museum with an Egyptian history exhibit: “These are literally jewelry, sandals, the last one is a ‘summer bed’ with more breathability! Made 3500 years ago and found in the tombs of the pharaohs! Talk about the drive to create!! Do you see the size of this statue?!?! They created papyrus paper for goodness sake! And mummification!! Mind boggling!!”

Moe Ali: Founder at Product Faculty ( productfaculty.com )

“That’s a really good question. This is going to be challenging to explain over text but I’m going to give it a try.”

In response, I welcomed his voice note. Moe is a brilliant writer but I was so happy when he recorded his answer and offered to discuss this further. 

Rebecca Rinaldi ( @rebecca.rinaldi , www.rebeccarinaldi.com ) : Writer & Intentional Living Coach
She asked for clarification: “Hmm I think that really depends what we are talking about here. Life dreams as in every single thing they’ve ever wanted? Or life dreams as in one, overarching goal?”. I replied, “one”.

“I think there can be an element of fear, in regards to goals, that can propel us forward. It can be a huge motivator for us staying the course. But say you work for ten years at something, and the ultimate overarching thing you want doesn’t happen the way you envisioned it. What would there be to regret exactly? You woke up every day and pursued something you loved, and were passionate about. You had the guts to choose the road less traveled. You gave a shit – every day. Even if the end result doesn’t end up how you want, I fail to see anything to regret.”

Rohin Tangri: A dear high school friend from the International Baccalaureate Program we survived, who is currently in medical school 
“I think that’s a really human thing to feel 😊. In the same way that I don’t think there is one soulmate out there for us, I don’t think there is one ultimate dream life or accomplishment for any of us either. I think we’re all trying to live an existence where we maximize our ‘happiness points’. And there’s a lot of ways to do that – some ways that haven’t even been realized clearly in our heads yet.”

Rechie Valdez (@rechie.veldez): Strategy professional by day, side-hustling entrepreneur & baker by night. Her company, Filipino Fusion Desserts, sells baked goodness sold in T&T, a Canadian nationwide grocery chain.
“So here’s irony — my dream is to enjoy life and make the most of it before I die. I have this thing where I actually feel like I don’t have tomorrow. Every morning when I wake up, I am overjoyed with excitement because I’m alive. I know not everyone does that, but I’m sharing because of the question you asked me. So, as long as I live my life productively, meaning the best that I can possibly live it, happiness, mistakes, and all of it, then I have achieved my goal. I’m all for setting goals. Goals enable us humans to aspire to something greater. It is supposed to motivate us towards something.”

I follow up: “That’s something I want so deeply yet I wake up with dread. I’m frustrated that lately I’ve been anxious yet I’m here beyond my wildest dreams. What is stopping me for that amazing excitement? I’ve always been this way as a kid and its been more intense as an adult”

“You know what it could be – take a moment and think about what in your life you are unsatisfied with (underline unsatisfied). This is key to understanding that.”

I ended up journaling on this and did indeed find this to be the case, which led to me writing the post linked above. In the future, I’ll share how I’ve gained self-acceptance and dealt with Negative Automatic Thoughts.

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