Summary: guest post by Dr. Isabella Raquel of Balanced Medics! Thank you for sharing so vulnerably <3 If you are interested in contributing guest posts to this blog or swapping, please contact me HERE.
I have this fear of failure. So deep rooted that it’s like an organ inside of me. Living in my gut, black and pulsating. The thought of losing leads it to churn and emit an acid that eats me up from the inside and burns. Failure to me is like death. As if I’m jumping from a plane and the parachute doesn’t open as I hurtle towards the ground.
Yet maybe this death is a good thing. Death to the old me. Death to my old life of needing to succeed and achieve. Death to that part of me that looks to others for self-validation. To that part of me that desperately wants someone else to tell me, “You are enough. You are good. I love you.”
Maybe this death is a beautiful thing. Where this body with that dark organ of failure that only produces shame and guilt is flattened. And then in that mess on the floor a new me emerges, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, only able to start my new life after destroying the old.
So yes, failure is like death to me. I have this deep-rooted fear of it. A whole-body avulsion to it. But maybe it’s time to welcome it and rush towards it. To seek failure and embrace it so that I can end this old life of expectations and achievement, and step into this new one of freedom and self-compassion.
I once wrote about how my fear of failing stopped me from quitting medicine. How it was an atrophied muscle that needed strengthening. That I’d never failed or quit anything before in my life, and I didn’t plan to start now. But what was the worst that could happen?
Back then I wrote that another one of my fears of continuing medicine was having another mental breakdown Yet, despite the knowledge that I could emotionally breakdown again, I continued to work. What would it take? I secretly hoped for a new opportunity to magically fall into my lap and save me from this career that was eating me up from the inside. A “legitimate excuse” to throw in the towel and leave. That way I could “tell the world and myself that I am not a failure or quitter; I am just transitioning into another successful career”.
I continued this path for another two years after the fact. Pushing, striving, achieving, meeting expectations. I was taught from a young age to finish what I started, even colouring in was a lesson in discipline. Berated for turning pages too fast without colouring in every part, I dutifully sat there and coloured from start to finish. I wasn’t raised to be a quitter.
Then what I feared came true, but worse than I could imagine. I had another emotional breakdown, but this time it wasn’t like the last. This time it was even darker, the darkest my mind has ever gone. I began to plan how to end my life. I had it all figured out. I’d go to the bridge near my house and jump. That was my out, that was my way of leaving medicine with a “legitimate excuse”. My mind scared me in a whole new way. I would rather end my own life than be seen as a failure?
My fear of failure was stronger than the love I had for myself. This harsh truth left me with overwhelming sadness. How little care I held for me, how little self-compassion. What would I have said to that little girl who sat there for hours colouring in to avoid being reprimanded? What would I say to the teenage version of me that went into medicine bright-eyed and wanting to help people? After almost a decade of trying to make medicine work, of trying to be that person that loved med and thrived in this career, I was planning to end my life to avoid the shame of quitting.
That’s when I realised, I had to jump in a different way. I needed to leave medicine and jump out of that plane without knowing how I was going to land. Maybe I’ll be caught by a net, maybe my parachute will work, or maybe it won’t. Now it’s time to enjoy the act of falling itself. To welcome the beauty of failure and start anew. The metaphorical death of my old self that cared more about pleasing others than my own life. I’m starting a new.
I’ll tell you how it goes.
Isabella is a junior doctor from Sydney, Australia that has left clinical medicine. She is also the founder of Balanced Medics, a place for doctors looking for more or wanting to transform their current situations. Balanced Medics offers 1:1 coaching as well as free resources through a blog, podcast and sharing of helpful organisations that offer support for medics.
Isabella is passionate about helping people understand themselves so that they can create a life that is fulfilling for them. Having lived the life of the perpetual overachiever, people-pleaser, and golden child of her Chilean immigrant family, she knows what it’s like to live a life that isn’t yours. If you feel like this, know you’re not alone and it’s okay. There’s always a way to transform and it’s never too late.