The fear of failure

“Please welcome our international conference speaker, Bronwyn!” she said, and held out the microphone.

I sat there bug-eyed, waiting for another Bronwyn to stand up. No one moved. The awkwardness lay thick in the air. I stood up warily, wanting to make a thousand excuses for the introduction. Yes, I was the speaker. Yes, I had spoken at a women’s conference once before. And yes, that conference was in South Africa. But it was just one conference. And it was in my home country!

20130610-132856.jpgTechnically, the introduction was correct, but I wasn’t ready to wear the label. It begs the question though: how many conferences do you have to speak at before you are a ‘conference speaker’? Technically, I am writing a blog, but am I a blogger? I am trying my hand at writing, but does that make me a writer? I recently got a bicycle and trained to join my sisters for a bike race, but does that make me a cyclist? Describing myself as any one of those makes me feel decidedly squirrelly.

Why is it that we are loath to wear the labels? I think the chief reason for shying away from being called a cyclist, speaker or blogger is the fear that wearing the label will require me to be wildly successful.

But I am afraid of failure. Afraid that my writing will be bad, that no one will read my blog, that I am too slow and too irregular to be classified as any kind of athlete. I’m afraid people will judge my skills and find me lacking. Afraid that they (whoever they are) will think I’m bragging.

However, I have children, and that makes me a mother. Not a perfect mama, not an expert, but a mother nonetheless. I clearly remember being discharged from the hospital after our first child was born and thinking “Are they really just going to let us leave with this kid? We know nothing about parenting. Doesn’t the state make you take a test before they entrust an infant into your care?” But they let us leave with our vulnerable little bundle. The quality of my parenting notwithstanding, I am a mom.

I have put my faith in Jesus Christ, and by definition that makes me a Christian. Not a perfect Christian, not an expert, but a Christian nonetheless. Perhaps this is a label that suffers especially from performance anxiety. I mean, just how good to you have to be to call yourself a Christian? Dare I put a fish on my car if I have been known to exceed the speed limit? What about when I am selfish? Or greedy? Or just plain mean? The threat of being called one of those ‘hypocrites’ when my behavior betrays my label looms large. But the quality of my faith-walk notwithstanding, I am a Christian.

We’ve heard it said “if something is worth doing, do it well.” Surely there is truth in that. If it is worth it for me to write, I want to write as best I can. If it is worth it to follow Jesus, then I want to do that as well as I am able.

However, I should not let the fear of not doing well keep me from doing things that are still, fundamentally, worth doing. Surely it is also true to say “if something is worth doing, do it badly… simply because it was worth doing in the first place”.

So this is me. With varying degrees of proficiency and failure, I am a cyclist. A sinner. A pianist. A mother. A goofball. A wife. A blogger. A conference speaker. A servant. A friend. A cook. A traveler. These things are worth doing, even if I do them badly.

The cap fits, so I’m wearing it. Wear yours too.

How can a blog be born when it is old?

Well hello there, World Wide Web. This is my new blog.

New, you ask? Aren’t there posts here from seven years ago? To paraphrase Jesus’ midnight conversation partner Nicodemus: “how can a blog be born when it is already old?”

Here’s how. I’ve been writing online for a few years: an assortment of newsletters, photo albums, links to things I’ve enjoyed, travelogues, and among them all – some articles and bible musings and social commentary. My mom and friends like the former, but those who want to read the latter don’t need to wade through 500 photos of my kids being cute to find it.

So I’m breaking them up. Public conversation here. Private conversation elsewhere. And I’ve started by moving a few of my older pieces onto this blog and backdating them for honesty’s sake. Please feel free to click around, read and comment. I look forward to hearing from you!