The Fear of Starting Something New

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I love to do, and I think I want to become a graphic designer. But to get there, I need to learn. And that means failing—a lot.

Some people love trying out new things. They don’t mind failing or looking foolish in front of others.

These people are liars and cheats. Do not trust them.

The rest of us—the sane ones—shudder at the thought of tackling a new skill. My mind flashes back to middle school P.E.: flinching aside whenever a ball came near me, trying and failing to determine where I was meant to be on the field (much to the chagrin of my teammates), watching my friends race off as I grimly resigned myself to a 16-minute mile (20 minutes if I walked slow.)

I’ve never liked new things—or things I’m bad at. I’m always gripped by the acute fear of public humiliation—of stumbling before a crowd, my failure obvious to all.

As an adult, it’s easier than ever to avoid new things. There are no tests, no homework, no projects. For most people, you show up to your job, do your work, and hightail it home. If you wanted, you could stay stuck in the same humdrum rut of a routine for years.

I know this because I’ve been tempted to do it myself.

I crave comfort and familiarity; I revel in sameness. If I don’t watch myself, I’ll sink into a stale, windless state of being. Caught in the doldrums with nothing to fill my sails.

That’s what I try to tell myself, at least. My fear of newness is sometimes so strong, my fear of failure so great, that I’d rather opt out than even try at all.

J.K. Rowling said it best (as she is wont to do): “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

I live firmly in that “fail by default” camp. I’m trying to get out.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *