Before I start, I’d like to clarify that there IS a difference between a fear of failure and a fear of disappointment. Fearing that you may not be able to achieve what you thought you could is not the same as knowing you have the potential to do something great but for the perfect opportunity to be in someone else’s hands. Fear of disappointment is your greatest obstacle to achieving your goals in life because it stops you from investing as much and, by extension, stops you from trying as hard.
There’s a happy door and a sad door – but you won’t open either door if you don’t push!
My disappointment story
When I was a kid, I was super into my musical theatre. I was such a nerd, I joined a local amateur dramatics society and, when I was 10, the opportunity came up to audition for the part of The Artful Dodger in Oliver. It was a pretty big production for a first amateur show, around 1000 paying audience members and there were about 50 other kids lined up to audition.
When I signed up, I told my parents that I was going to get the part. My dad sat me down and explained to me that there were lots of other children going for the same role and not to get my hopes up as he didn’t want me to be disappointed. I looked at him in frustration and said “didn’t you have dreams when you were young and everyone told you they were impossible?”
Years later, he told me he was stunned by that moment: “Right you are, baby,” he said, “go out and get the part.” And I did. And for the next couple of years I got every part I auditioned for because I wasn’t afraid to WANT the part so badly that I’d work my butt off to get it.
Then came my dream role (and looking back, this seems exceptionally loserly but at the time it was a big deal) the lead part in a much bigger professional production of Annie. It wasn’t with my usual theatre group, these kids were hardcore stage school stock – suddenly I wasn’t a big fish in a small pond. Still I went in aiming to wow them as usual. It was a gruelling, long day of acting, dancing and singing auditions and, to make matters worse, halfway through the day they culled half of the auditioning kids like some warped reality TV show designed to make little children weep.
I made it through the brutal cuts unscathed, the role of Annie was so close I could almost taste it. I had one final solo left to audition with. I opened my mouth to hit that big note in Tomorrow and my voice cracked. I fudged it. One bad note.
At the end of the day they called the names of the girls who got the parts. After that long, exhausting experience I didn’t even make the chorus. To this day I still remember the name of the girl who got the part of Annie. I went home and sobbed for the rest of the day. For the first time, I really understood what my dad had meant about disappointment. I had approached the audition with exactly the attitude it took to succeed – that the part was already mine. I had set myself up for a major fall.
Allow yourself to believe that the sky’s the limit!
As kids, we have the right idea
So I lost my confidence. I stopped auditioning for things but, more universally, I also stopped trying my best, because trying my best meant believing I was in with an absolute shot – trying my best meant going for it with everything I had. When you invest that much and don’t get the results you want, disappointment is inevitable. I never wanted to feel like that again.
I thought I learned a valuable lesson that day, that if you try too hard you’ll end up hurt but, Darling Lovelies, I was wrong.
As a child I was fearless and I was shamelessly confident. I actually TOTALLY had the right idea. If you want to be the best, win that role, get that dream job, convince those amazing clients, then you need to BELIEVE that it’s within your reach and you need to invest much, much more than everyone else. Sure, you might be disappointed, but I guarantee that if you don’t try harder than everyone else, you won’t get anywhere at all.
So don’t be afraid to confront disappointment – if you’re disappointed it means you damn well tried your best, and if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough, maybe you just hit one of life’s bad notes.
And when it does work out, you’ll know you deserve all the success and great things coming your way because you worked harder than everyone else and, most importantly, put your heart into getting what you want.