IRL: banish your fears and remember you’ll learn from any failure

At a time of year when we’re all facing the challenges that Christmas brings, and thinking about resolutions for next year, Louise Johnstone urges us not to be ruled by fear and negativity

They permeate every second, they can boost us or destroy us, shaped by our past, our present and our possibilities.

They are my thoughts…my mind! There is no escaping them and they can let me down at the most crucial of times.

By the same token, they can really drive me forwards to achieve what can seem like the impossible. At the most challenging of times, in the face of what others consider to be certain defeat, I can have unwavering confidence in the possibilities.

I have taken on and faced my biggest challenges to date, both physically and mentally. Completing the Marathon des Sables, as you may have read about in my last article on Positively Scottish, took me to hell and back mentally and it felt like the worst of the worst.

But in retrospect it wasn’t. I have endured much worse mentally but, in that moment – facing my fears, facing the idea that I may fail, that I was not good enough – I thought I had reached my limits. That both my mind and my body were about to let me down because I couldn’t find the strength to keep going, not even for all the people back home who were behind me. It was crippling! It took me to my knees, quite literally at times.

(You may be reading this thinking if that is the worst you have had to face you need to get on with it. In one sense, yes, I‘d agree with you. However, in another, it is one’s own mind we must always overcome. For me this holds true, even if it’s not necessarily applicable to everyone and all situations).

As soon as I harnessed the power of my own mind and beliefs in that moment, my body followed and I found a way to drive on and complete my biggest physical challenge. I hadn’t reached those physical limits…yet!

Without even trying, we can draw parallels to others areas of our lives where we feel the same way. It can very quickly develop into a black hole, a bottomless pit of negativity.

Mentally, I have put myself through university. Many people in my life doubted that I would complete the required time, never mind pass. That has proven to be fuel for the mind, to push me, not quitting when I wanted to the most.

The academic world is a very different one, there is a different etiquette, people write differently, they talk differently, have unknown expectations. Or so it seems.

More often than not it is our own expectations that pile the pressure on, the thoughts that we ‘can’t do it’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I don’t belong here’, ‘what can I possibly have to say that is worth saying’.

These are just two recent examples I can pull out right now. There are many more and I know everyone has them. We don’t get to where we are without facing challenges: you have been successful, because you are still here.

There are always lessons, some may say failures, but they are only failures if we do not learn.

It has only been by putting myself into incredibly uncomfortable situations that I have actually learned my true worth, my true capabilities and gained a little insight into my determination and stubbornness in the face of difficulties – some would call this ‘pain in the ass syndrome’.

But it is these situations that allow us to grow, to develop, to learn new lessons, the ones we would naturally avoid, it is these that provide us with the biggest insights into ourselves.

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