Fear of flying

I don’t have a fear of flying. I have a fear of failure.

My fear of failure is so great that I couldn’t bear to put the word ‘failure’ in the title. Telling, no?

I genuinely believe that this fear impacts a lot of aspects of my life. Both in my past and in the present.

I am envious of those who have that fear, but try to fly anyway. Madly flapping their arms and running as fast as they can towards some cliff-edge, wishing and working for it.

I know: Big bad Domme scared of failure. How… undomly :P.

I grew up as a smart child. My sister is a year older, also smart.

She was a swot and I was the lazy ne’er-do-well. It somehow became important to me to do better than her at school *despite* the perception (and truth) that she was ‘the good one’ (the rule follower, the studier, the ‘good girl’). But somehow (how, young me?) it was equally as important that I not work for it, because I didn’t want to be seen to be a swotty-swot-swot like her. It just… made no sense.

My final graduating high school score was 5% higher than hers had been the year before. I had not worked for it. Proof, you see, that I was smarter (pro-tip: I really wasn’t).

I realise now, looking back, that my issue around the vitally important aspect that I was not allowed to *work at it* was born out of the fear of trying and failing. Had I failed, I could have said ‘yes, but I never really tried, so it doesn’t count’ (I’d have only been able to say this to myself, of course, because I had told nobody about my secret quest).

My parents once offered me money for my school grades: The higher the marks, the more money I would get. I refused it, even though I always got good marks. It offended me in some way that I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t want the pressure of it, but underneath I was afraid to fail. To be judged so blatantly that there was a dollar value on my success or failure was kind of terrifying to me. I didn’t recognise that then, but it feels right to me in hindsight.

I fell into tertiary education and careers that did well for me, with no particular ambition. I always thought that not really being interested in anything in particular was part of the ‘no ambition’ issue (no doubt it was), but I also think that if I had found something I was passionate about, my fear of failure would have been a big big problem. As it was, I floated along, mostly taking the path of least resistance.

And to be clear, I wasn’t lazy or half-hearted. I threw myself into these jobs I didn’t care about full-tilt, I was good at them, I excelled, I advanced, because I was driven by that fear pretty much the entire time. But ‘least-resistance’ means I never really identified or ‘went for’ things I really wanted, I was pretty much always within my comfort-zone, was perhaps afraid even to really work at having more.

So I’m not 100% sure now if I never found something I really wanted to ‘do’ because I didn’t want to confront that fear of failure, or if I genuinely just never found it. A bit of both, maybe.

I explain all this to say it’s not new, this fear. It is a thing that has always been, denied, and hidden, but there in different ways pretty much as long as I can remember.

Where I am now, this here, my blog, my books, advocating for real-life F/m, helping newbies with problems, answering questions, offering my experience and expertise, moderating the F/m community on FL: All of it is something I feel strongly about, something I want to ‘do’.

And in this, every time I release a new book, I’m terrified of failure. This is true even though I’ve put out seven of them now. This is true even though the majority of any failure would largely be invisible (bad reviews and Amazon rankings are visible, but actual sales (or lack of them) are not).

Every time I put out a podcast, I’m terrified of failure, just in case I’ve put something out into the world that’s terrible, useless, or (worse) harmful in some way.

If I haven’t posted here on my blog in a while, I still feel that trepidation at hitting ‘publish’ (and you better bet I’m going to feel it when I hit publish on this post, because vulnerability probably hits right at the heart of that fear).

I’m in a place in my life now where I have to make a choice about ‘what now’, and one of the options is to monetise my experience and expertise in femdom relationships, and every choice of ‘how to do that’ fills me with fear:

  • more books (the obvious one),
  • Patreon-only content,
  • audio porn,
  • personal F/m counselling,
  • F/m relationship courses, webinars,
  • D/s-based goal coaching,
  • one-on-one Q&A sessions,
  • accepting advertising,
  • creating swag

I’ve contemplated all of those, some more than others. I love the idea of doing something that utilises my skills and expertise and that I can be excited about. I hate (and fear) the idea of marketing and selling, even if I think I have something of value to offer: It makes me feel sleazy and pushy (I recognise that this is a serious problem with any and all elements of this plan).

BUT I’m paralysed by fear. Seriously, my Patreon account has been set up and ready to click ‘publish’ on for months, but the prospect of trying and failing at it fills me with fear, and I hate it.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” I say to myself.

The worst is feeling publicly humiliated by failure, so it’s not just the failure, it’s the shame of failure that ticks away back there. And I think that’s the crux. It’s wrapped up in pride and ego and vanity, it makes the shame of failure loom large, perhaps larger than the failure itself.

In the scheme of things, so what? You try something, it doesn’t work. Who cares, right?

Nobody cares. I know this. Of course I know. And I hate that I feel it still.

“Fear is the mind-killer”
–Frank Herbert

You can get t-shirts with that on them. Inspirational posters and all that.

Maybe I’ll just go order myself a whole roomful of that shit. That will help, right?

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22 Comments

  1. Love this. So, we get your thoughts every day this month??? Damn- we are lucky blogets. Thank you.

    I can’t speak to if or how you should overcome fear, but I can say the results are fantastic.

    1. Thank you: I’ll take ‘fantastic results’ any day.

      And yes, every day, so the insides of my head are going to be regurgitated en masse. Probably not going to be pretty…

      Ferns

  2. Have you heard of Brene Brown? She is a researcher and author specializing in shame. Her books are fabulous and helped me work through a lot of my own shame issues. It’s why I now speak openly about being sexually abused as a teenager and why I’ve had the courage to do a lot of stuff that I never talk about as NDG, none of which was remotely fathomable to me 10 years ago. I suppose her stuff is considered self-help, but they aren’t preachy or full of woo woo. I’ve been reading her since her first book. She’s now popular with Oprah, which would normally make me disregard her, but since I’ve been following her for so long, I’ve made an exception. :)

    That fear of failure and the shame of it is tough. Wish you peace and comfort while you work through it.

    1. I do know Brene Brown, yes. I LOVED her talk about vulnerability (and shame). I wrote a post referencing it here: Vulnerability as courage.

      It’s great that her books have helped you so much: I have not read any, so I’ll definitely look into that, thanks for the tip.

      I hope your courage continues to shine.

      Ferns

      1. Wow, what a fantastic post. I relate, in so many ways… I’d sign up for your Patreon account at double whatever you hope it is worth (notice I said hope and not think), because you are that insightful, that interesting, that wonderful.

        Here is to getting in the arena (following up on Berne Brown reference).

        PS. Major crush on you from afar…. (insert Fern sigh).

  3. Oh Ferns. I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about regarding not trying being the antedote to fear of failing. I did that all through my teens and 20s and then I hit a wall just shy of 30 and admitted I wanted a thing and went out and did it. It was terrifying, but worth it. That’s not to say I am cured of my avoidance of really and truly trying. My weight is a perfect example, but that’s neither here nor there.

    I love all your ideas of monetizing and if you can figure out Patreon then maybe you could help me, though who has time for that? It seems like a full time gig! But you have the depth of character and content to fill it twofold, I’m sure. Same goes for the coaching and the How To’s. You are the OG Fairy Dommemother, after all.

    My [unsolicited] advice would be to do the thing that is most within your reach and then let us all help you through any panic attacks :). I don’t think anyone is a bigger fan of you than me and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that about themselves. The thing about doing the scary shit is that it feels really lonely, but you’re not really alone. We’re all right here rooting for you. xx Hy.

    PS: What the hell is a “swot”??
    PPS: You should consider hoofing it to London one day for Eroticon.

    1. Good for 30-year-old you!! That’s awesome :)).

      And thank you for the supportive words and advice, I appreciate it so much.

      A ‘swot’ is very English slang: It means someone who knuckles down and studies a lot, often used as a low-level put-down.

      When I make all my money off all my great ideas, I’ll definitely hoof it over to Eroticon! :).

      Ferns

  4. Thank you for sharing what deeply scares you – I know that is a feat in itself. As you said, you know and yet you still have that fear of failure. I have it too, in the areas that mean the most to me and when I start to wrap that long, thick, rough thought-rope around me, tightening it with every type of failure or mistake or personally embarrassing judgement i can imagine…, I make myself choke and everything I imagined almost becomes true. But after the eighty millionth time of choking myself, I wondered WHY I was so sure that failure would mean my last breath?! Breaking the death grip of fear of failing to what I want is where I started. Also by knowing there will be many steps, not just one or two. My point? Is it the mere IDEA of failure that stands in front of my goal like an ugly giant bouncer? The idea of failure never talks to me – I give it words. I am the one who has it looming over me. I’m believing that it will block me. I have to sidestep it in silence. After all, it’s there in front of me because it makes me “right” about holding onto the fear and it gives me a reason to NOT do a thing. So, to ONE of my bouncers, I took a small step. A little one but a thought out step towards where I want to go. I doubt myself, I think that I’m posing and acting but I still follow through with another step. I’m not close to being where I want but I am no longer directly under that bouncer. I’ll have failures along the way but that’s when you change direction and go a different way. I have to change my outlook on failing to get beyond the fear. New steps have diminished the fear in tiny ways but I’m still at the starting line.
    I’m relentless, vicious and razor sharp with self examination which only perpetuates my fear(s). I feed them and keep them fat and alive in that mindset so… I counter-balance that ugliness with pure allowance and kindness towards myself by indulging myself in any way I want. Short, sweet and Simple but satisfying ways that won’t be detrimental in any way. I find ways to spoil that inner self who is empowered because she always has been. NOT tolerating people who are not “good” people is a definite rule to follow. It’s like being your own Mother Bear – unapologetically- fearlessly. I related to your words because I feel them too and it’s a universally human thought to fear failure. I believe that we learn negative perceptions and so, in turn, we can learn our way out with different approaches. My GREATER fear is NEVER trying to do what I want to do. I’ve always believed that there is a way to get what I want, I just have to think about it to find it and take some type of action in the direction of what I want. These are my thoughts and some tools I’ve tried. I can’t sustain them 100% and I drop down, slamming myself at times but when I make progress, It feels awesome.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience.

      “I have to change my outlook on failing to get beyond the fear. New steps have diminished the fear in tiny ways but I’m still at the starting line.”

      Good for you, and YES to changing your outlook on failing.

      I think most people who achieve anything big have courted failure as ways to move forward, sometimes over and over again, and they learn when they fail, they use it as a lesson. I *know* that, but fear isn’t really rational and knowing doesn’t quite settle where it should for me.

      You must be so proud of yourself for finding ways to get around and over it, as you should be :). I hope that progress continues for you.

      Ferns

  5. I love this, especially the Frank Herbert quote – it’s one of my favourites.

    ““What’s the worst that can happen?” I say to myself.”

    *rolls up sleeves and accepts the challenge*

    Oh wait, wasn’t that a challenge? I really try not to say that to myself now because I feel like I’m an international grandmaster in anxiety chess and can plot 7 moves ahead of me of how things might go wrong if this happens and then that, and all the different permutations. I could draw tree diagrams in my head of all the different outcomes and how they could lead to disaster. Try and plot positive outcomes and I’m an infant playing and losing at checkers and will sit looking at the board and not being able to work out one step.

    One thing that helps me at times is messing around with the words. Words are stupidly important to me and which word I use really does affect my emotional response to it. Also, it helps me step back from feeling in the middle of it and be more detached.

    Failure is such a loaded word. If I compile code, or patch my server with the latest goodies, it works or it doesn’t (ok ok, so it doesn’t work happens a lot). It’s successful or non-successful. I maybe weird but, that feels different to me if I don’t call it failure. Non-success isn’t a oh no I’m awful, it’s a part of the process and part of learning how to do something or if I need to go in another direction. Finding out “no” doesn’t feel as bad somehow?

    Sometimes, sneakily, I take a peek at failure my fear of it and try to put in rational words what I’d tell someone else counted as a failure in a given scenario (if it wasn’t me, in my head). I have to creep up on that so my head doesn’t work out what I’m doing and give me its long store of terrible answers. Generally, if it doesn’t notice what I’m doing, it comes back with is you can embarrass yourself, you can talk utter drivel, you can go do something and no one likes you, you can lose money, etc, etc, but the only thing that’s really failure when I get down to it is not living upto my standards and hurting someone/causing harm when it was down to being in a bad mood/careless/not considering the effect it might have. Even accidentally hurting someone isn’t a failure because, well, life.

    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m still going to post this drivel all over your blog and try not to get all arrrgh should I just delete all this.

    Anyway, thankyou for your openness and being so real. You are awesome, not because of anything you do or don’t do but because of the heart you have. Whatever you do you’ll get lots of support from us – not because it matters if you succeed, but because you are much loved.

    1. Thank you so much for not deleting: I love hearing how it works for others and appreciate you sharing it.

      I can well imagine that if you have some kind of anxiety, the fear would be much louder, and I totally get that you have to tread carefully with your brain or it will know what you’re doing *laugh*. Geez brains are weird, right?

      You may be right about the language, maybe a brain trick to stop using that word. I just did some more study and they went for ‘competent’ and ‘not yet competent’ grading which made me laugh. No pass/fail in it.

      Thanks also for your kind words of support, that means a lot to me <3.

      Ferns

  6. Very fascinating reading in that I can see myself so clearly in that description. You give me hope that you with all your success still struggle. I have the fear of failure to tge poibt I see I am a failure. I would live a way to overcome it and actually finish some writting project I have started. It is better to dream and not try theb try and fail and have to surrender a dream, but slowly I am realizing not trying is failing–failing by omission not commission. Thank you for showibg success does bot cure the fear and it should not cripple my desires, I should just go for it. Thank you, nuch to ponder.

    1. I agree that not trying is guaranteed failure. I also see the appeal of the dream.

      Not trying is like some Schrodinger’s failure :P.

      Success does not cure fear, no. I think repeated success at a particular thing may cure the fear of *doing that thing* but I also think our brains are often irrational in deciding what triggers fear and what doesn’t.

      So in short: YES! You should absolutely go for it :)). I wish you much luck with it.

      Ferns

  7. Please get your ass on Patreon! We need to have a way to appreciate you and Patreon rocks! I am a beginner and it is humbling to be new but it is so easy to post and use their systems, go ahead jump in!!

    Ready, Fire, Aim!

    Mistress Snow
    FirtyNeverDirty.com

  8. Not sure if this will help but it cropped up in my news feed this week and seems apropos;

    Do You Keep a Failure Résumé? Here’s Why You Should Start. https://nyti.ms/2UFaTI7

    If you don’t take risks, you don’t grow. Isn’t that what BDSM is all about?

    1. Thank you for that. It sounds terrifying and wholly depressing, but I can see the reasoning behind it.

      I think I have a pretty common combination of ‘fear of failure’ + ‘perfectionist’ and it’s not good. I’ve read a lot about fear (overcome it!) and failure (a learning opportunity!) and perfectionism (‘enemy of the good!’), but for me dwelling on failures cannot be positive because given half the chance, I will STILL beat myself up about that time I failed at that thing in 1995 and it was terrible and embarrassing and shameful. It’s hard to handle that in any way other than ‘brain, STFU about that, you’re not helping’.

      I DO like the idea of ‘look at how hard I’ve worked and what I’ve overcome’, but honestly dredging up a litany of failures that I’ve (mostly) managed to stop obsessing about does not sound healthy for me.

      I’m reading the rabbit hole of linked pieces though, and I appreciate the thought :).

      Ferns

  9. Thankyou for writing this.
    Also I literally subscribe at Patreon for audio porn but that’s probably not what you meant.
    But more from you would be wonderful, whatever it is. Can we get official merchandise if we subscribe at a certain level? I like the idea of officially belonging to your tree house club.

    1. Heh… Yes, I suspect my version of audio-porn, *even the erotica version*, is very different from what you meant.

      “Official Merchandise” at a certain level is a wonderful idea :).

      WWFD wrist bands & t-shirts, coffee cups with a lipstick kiss, my boot on ALL THE THINGS (this works both for merch and for general life) :P.

      Ferns

  10. A book that changed my life with regard to failure is Mindset by Carol Dweck. I identify strongly with you fear of failure and this book helped me transform failure into process. It is nothing short of alchemy. I own a small business and have learned to view mistakes as opportunities to learn. I am always asking my kids to recognize what they learn from mistakes. A smart resourceful person like you can learn to do the same.

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