The 3 Fears (Part 1)

[Note: This post turned out longer than I thought, quickly becoming a miniature book. So to make it easier for you to digest all the goodness to come, this post here is part 1. Please subscribe to the to stay updated of when part 2 is published. You wouldn't want to miss out!]

We all have fears. We really do. Some are very real and scary while others are imaginary but still very frightening.

My fear when I was younger was being stuck in the middle of the big, dark ocean not knowing what’s swimming around me and underneath me. Since you really can’t see past 4 feet under you in the middle of the ocean, there was no telling what could have been lurking around.

That made me feel scared. But this fear did not stem from some traumatic experience like if I had fallen out of a boat into the ocean when I was young and a fish nipped at my toes. This fear was imaginary, caused by watching too many Jaws films.

That and my dad owned piranhas (and still does) at home! Something about man-eating fish that didn’t gel with me, yet I retained a fascination for such creatures all my life. Funny, isn’t it?

Our very own fears can be our most fascinated topics we are curious about. It can be due to our lack of understanding, our inability to get past the fear or at least to learn how to deal with it, and the “out of sight, out of mind” approach to handling fear – and other things – that cause us to remain fascinated by those that we are afraid the most.

What I’ve noticed over time and through reading and observations are 3 main fears. There are many more of course, but these 3 following fears really can cripple a person … for life.

If not properly addressed, the fear(s) will remain a burden and obstacle to finding and realizing one’s full potential. I don’t want that to happen to you, to any of us.

The 3 Fears

Fear #1: Fear of Failure

This is a popular one. The fear of failure stops more people in their tracks from starting anything than any other fear. It is that powerful.

But there is good news. You are more powerful than this fear. You just have to realize it.

Let me give you a real-life example: me. I can speak from this poignantly because I am or have experienced this many times.

You may have read recently that I am quitting my corporate day job soon in order to follow my heart and passions that will truly make me happy. Doing something I dislike for 40 years of my life makes me miserable just hypothetically thinking it. Let alone actually doing it. So I had to make a decision:

  1. Get out.
  2. Stay in.

If I chose option #1, to get out of the situation, I had to make sure I wasn’t jumping into another situation of the same token. A frog leaping out of a pot of hot water into another pot of hot water isn’t helping its situation any better than if it had just stayed in the same pot.

If I chose option #2, to stay in the situation in which was making me feel sad, upset, frustrated, angry, depleted of all energy, and fairly depressed, I was sure to live a very average, boring, and regrettable life.

You’re reading these words right now because I decided to choose option #1. Yay!

Am I scared of failing? Because if I failed, all the haters, risk avoiders, and those who like to play it safe would point at me, laugh, and say “Told you so! Idiot.”

Well, I don’t particularly care for such individuals. If that was the case, simply ignoring them is best.

What I am scared of is breaking my parents’ hearts.

As a matter of fact, due to my decision to not be a good little worker bee, I have, to some extent, been exiled from my own mother’s support and well wishes. It has broken my heart, pained me beyond measure, and is a very tough lesson in the price we have to pay in order to stand firmly by one’s decision that is best for that person.

This past Friday night was the worst night of my life. I adore and love my mom and to hear her say good bye and good luck to me as I venture, literally, on my own … words cannot describe this heartache.

I don’t know how your relationship with your parents are or were, but I hold mine dear to my heart. I certainly do not agree with many of their ways of doing things but that is because we are very different individuals, born of different generations and different upbringings. Of course certain viewpoints will clash.

But clash or no clash, I never intend to hurt my parents for the sake of doing things just because I can. I do things because it’s best for me and ultimately, I choose to live my life the way I need to in order for me to be happy. In an effort to honor my parents, I must live a bold and courageous life, where I take healthy risks that will further catapult me to an extraordinary life, rather than wishing and dreaming about one. I feel that is the best way to honor one’s parents, by living audaciously, fervently, and passionately.

I tell them I feel a part of me dying whenever I go to work, doing something I have no passion in. Am I being melodramatic? To some, yes, it seems like it. But truly, they do not know how I am feeling on the inside and it’s not just a one day emotion. It’s lasted, for months, if not years.

As a child, I never imagined my life to be like this: wake up at a God awful early hour in the morning when my body has not had enough rest, rush to work fighting morning traffic, come into the office and go to my 8×10 cubicle in which I will call my home for the next 8 hours of my life, take a lunch break by running around doing all the errands I need to do because I’ll be too exhausted by the time work lets out, and then churning away the remainder of the afternoon while I listen to coworkers sneeze, cough, yell at their children on the phones, swear and cuss at their wife/husband, and at precisely 5:00 (or few minutes beforehand), the place is quiet as can be with everyone dashed out the door.

This was not dreams were made of. This is a particular kind of living hell for some.

Parents want their children to be happy. Ask any parent. They want their child to be happy, safe, and healthy.

So if I fail in their eyes, I’m not just letting them down. It’d be equivalent to a major heartbreak, a huge disappointment, a waste, a shame.

In the Chinese culture, parents are extremely proud of their children, but only when that child has gone to school for Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, or Business. Never mind the Arts field or anything in the creative endeavors. These are deemed as hobbies, not as full-blown careers.

So in my choosing to pursue the creative arts, I have brought shame to my own family. They are no longer proud of the daughter they’ve raised, the one who holds a Masters in HR by age 24, who graduated with honors, who has always brought home A’s and has tried hard to not let them down. I am now viewed as someone incredibly foolish, immature, unstable, a disappointment, and a waste. Are these true? I do not believe so. But perception is reality, and right now, their perception of me is not in good light.

I am an exile, an outcast. One in which has not only quit one corporate job already, but is going to quit yet another one during this time of recession. Am I absolutely out of my mind? Am I insane?

I tell my parents, “Don’t worry about me.” But of course they worry.

I do not know what the future holds for me but I am certain it will not be a predictable one.

You see, failure is not an option for me. By my admittance to freeing myself from societal demands and leading a mediocre lifestyle, I have already succeeded.

Failure causes us to stop before we even start.

5 scenarios you may find yourself relating to or actually in:

Scenario 1: Organizing

The closet is bursting at its door, and I’m a poor organizer. If I tend to keep everything, from the ketchup packets and straws at McDonald’s to my 3rd grade report card; how the heck am I supposed to just start throwing things out? Better to just ignore it and see how long I can go without addressing this problem …

Scenario 2: Going Back to School

I really want to go back to school; it’s been so long. But … then I’d need to save up money for tuition and books and I can’t afford that right now. I have my car payment still. Shoot! I also have to pay back my brother with the money he lent me. Yeah, better to hold off on school, just for a little bit. If I can’t even pay back some debt, how can I expect myself to get my stuff together for school? I’d fail before school even started!

Scenario 3: Weight

Gosh, this 5 lbs. gained is really making me feel bad about myself. I want to start Jenny Craig but I don’t want to start until after all the weddings I’m going to are over with. Because I just know when I’m at the wedding, I’ll eat the food, cake, desserts, drinks, and all the good stuff there. We’re supposed to have a good time and I don’t want to have failed at the beginning of a program. Better to just wait it out.

Scenario 4: Relationships

My girlfriend is a real manipulator and perpetual liar. She hurts my feelings time and time again but I just can’t seem to break things off with her. We’ve been together for over 3 years, I can’t just throw away those years of my life invested into this relationship! I think that if I try to bring up her ways of hurting me, she’ll just get defensive and then we’d argue for hours. I just don’t have the energy for that. *sigh* Maybe it’s just me that’s the problem. Maybe I’m just being too sensitive.

Scenario 5: Work

I can’t believe I was passed up for a promotion, again! This is the 3rd time my boss gave another person on our team a promotion when I’ve been here longer than they have! I just don’t get it! Maybe I should ask him about this. No wait, I can’t just do that. It’ll seem as if I’m demanding a promotion and what if he gets upset? I don’t want to cause any trouble around here. I just wish he would give me the chance. I put in hard work around here too.

Can you sense the fears holding back each of these persons in the above hypothetical scenarios? We start playing games in our heads, tricking ourselves that this fear is real and that we will fail inevitably, so let’s not “rock the boat,” shall we? Better to be a good little person and not say anything at all.

No. We cannot do this to ourselves. Realize that if you don’t say anything, the situation won’t change itself. So don’t be surprised if you wake up tomorrow and it’s the same thing again.

Change your situation by first changing your perspective regarding fear of failure.

Want more? I hope so! In the next post, I’ll discuss the Fear of Success and Fear of AbandonmentSubscribe to the in order to stay updated. You can find me on and feel free to send a note to me on . See you soon, and thank you for reading!

  • Anonymous

    “…to hear her say good bye and good luck to me as I venture, literally, on my own u2026 words cannot describe this heartache.”nHey now you aren’t on your own, you’ve got all of our support!nnMy dad is the same way, he eventually got tired of nagging me because he knew he wasn’t getting through. I think he views himself as a failure, and wished he hadn’t taken risks in the past and had just become a corporate drone instead of trying to be his own boss. I know he loves me and just doesn’t want me to go down the same path, but if no one took any risks we wouldn’t be anywhere.nI bet your mom will get over it someday, I doubt she really wants to lose you.nEven if she doesn’t, sometimes you have to remember that, as humans, we really only NEED our parents when we’re very young, and then we can fend for ourselves. If they provided us with a decent upbringing then we have to be grateful for that no matter how things turn between us when we become older. (Not that you aren’t, but I guess what I’m trying to say is your mother gave you all the tools you needed to be who you are today, accept that and try to stand tall even if she doesn’t support you now.)

  • Anonymous

    Good point, Aisha. You are so right. Thank you! :)

  • Lynn Fang

    Hi Nina, Sorry to hear about your parents. I know how terrible it can be when your parents are staunchly against your ideas. Hopefully they will warm up in the ensuing months and years. Once they see that you are happier and more successful doing things your way, perhaps they will calm down and be more accepting.nnMy parents were never on board with my beliefs, either. I knew I wanted to be in agriculture in some way, and they weren’t going to stop me. I had them watch documentaries when they were finally open to it. They learned about the food system and the ails of corporate control and finally warmed up to me, understood that I wanted to do something to better the world.nnAnyway, I hope your parents will warm up to your new changes – show them the positive effects of your artist life (that they could relate to). Show them your successes, and hopefully they will have more trust in you. Best of luck!

  • Mschatz

    Sorry about your parents, Nina. Congrats on making a difficult decision, and best of luck with these new opportunities.nnBest,nMartin

  • Mark Powers

    “Failure is not an option.” I like your attitude!nnSo true that we often let that fear keep us from even getting going in the first place. Thanks for the fantastic post . . . looking forward to the rest of the series!

  • Jen

    great article! I look forward to reading the rest, I can relate to almost all of those scenarios. Fear is a very powerful thing. You seem like a very brave person I wish I had that much courage, it is so great that you are going to follow your dream :)

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    Thanks, Lynn! Glad to hear your parents came around. Sometimes, parents may never come around, but inherently, they love their children and want the best for them. I know, in due time, that there is a bright side to all of this, and my life is changing for the better. nnThis is yet another life lesson to be had: that when one defies society, even one’s own parents, that there will always be hardship to endure. But this hardship, thankfully, won’t last forever. I believe that through and through.

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    Cool, thanks Mark!

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    Martin, thanks! I will survive, always have.

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    Jen, you can follow your dreams no matter what, you just have to believe in yourself that you can do it and this is what you truly want for your life. Once you believe, there’s no stopping you. All hell can break loose but it won’t stop a determined person from doing what they were made to do. :)

  • Santiago Rial

    Nina, I’m sorry you’re going through a roughie right now with the parents situation, but just hang in there. I sympathized with the part where you say that because of what you’re doing, it appears as if you’re talking nonsense and being silly. That’s just because there’s no backup to what you’re saying. It’s just words. FOR NOW. Once you actually do it, once you have actions, results, achievement and fulfillment, you’ll see how your voice is valid again. Parents are weird that way. It happened a lot to me before I traveled to NZ for a year, grew up and became finally comfortable inside my own skin, and came back shining with strenght and won battles (and the perfect attitude to keep on winning back here). Before all that, it was always “Santiago and his foolish ideas of caramelized dreams and delusions”. But now it’s not like that anymore. My voice is valid now. Because they can SEE that it works. For me. What I say, what I preach, it’s valid because there’s results behind the appliance of those living rules. So my point is: Don’t stress too much about it, as you say, they were raised differently. Once they see you glowing with happiness and self development, they’ll be awesomely proud of you.nn”Waking is better than sleeping, knowing is better than wondering, and any failure, even the biggest one, kicks the ass out of never trying at all”.nnBe well! :D

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    WOO HOO, love that quote, Santiago! You rock, thanks for everything!!

  • Ashley

    Nina, I’ve been reading your blog for about 3 weeks now, but the first time I stumbled upon it, I went back and read all of your older posts because I was so inspired! Everything you write about, I have felt or am feeling at the moment, and reading about your life has given me so many things to think about! Your posts are what I look forward to each day :)

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    I am so touched to hear you say that, Ashley! This is the reason why I write. To help others and inspire them in big and small ways. So glad to have you as a part of this blog!

  • davidd

    Scenario #1… ha ha ha ha ha!!!! you’ve been reading MY blog, haven’t you? ;-)nnOf course, it’s the “minimalist” angle that led me to YOUR writing, so there are potential positives even in being-buried-by-stuff, I guess.

  • Walter

    Fear of failure has crippled me many times and I have many regrets over things that should have been had I not allowed my fear to dominate. But so long as we breath, there will always be an opportunity to overcome our fear of failure. Sadly, most of us brood over our past failures, making us more of a failure. :-)

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    We can only do so much … one day at a time, one hurdle at a time. I believe we can all overcome our fears, especially the fear of failure. It’s powerful, but like I said, we are more powerful than this fear.

  • Linda

    Nina, I know what you are going through is very difficult, but congratulations for having the courage to follow your dreams! I am not Asian so I can’t understand how your parents feel, but I do have two sons of my own forging their way into the world. They are 26 and 22 and haven’t always made the choices I thought they should, but you know what? They are happy, healthy and successful for the stage of their lives. I’ve always supported and encouraged them and they know I am always here for them. What more could a mother ask for? By the way, support does not mean financially. They are own their own and proud of it. I’ve helped them here and there to get over a few bumps, but they are totally self supporting now and proud of the fact. There is no sense of entitlement where anyone owes them a living. The world needs more young people like you. Keep following your dreams. Why be unhappy? I don’t regret my past, but if I had it to do all over again I would choose the path of happiness, not duty. I am finally on the path of happiness now and enjoying every minute! That doesn’t mean that I love every task I have to do, but now I don’t feel, as you said, like a part of me is dying. I am looking forward to reading about your future success!

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    Wow, what inspiration, thank you Linda! I am 26 myself, same age as your oldest son, and by now, usually we should have “gotten things down.” But sometimes, it takes some time, some deep thinking, some risks to take, and finally the boldness to take action in order to find what makes us truly happy. It doesn’t always happen right away; it can take many, many years for one to realize this. I’m just glad I’m realizing this now and not 40 years from now.nnThanks again for the encouraging words!!!

  • Paige of Redefining Wealth

    Thanks for such an honest post Nina! I think so many of us are feeling the way you are and we just want more out of lives than sitting at a cubicle 40+ hours a week while making someone’s else dreams come true not to mention rich. I know I do! nnI’m sorry you are going through so much with your parents. If it makes you feel any better, I’m 46 and have never felt any approval from my mother. She doesn’t think I’m “Christian” enough “slim” enough and she’s upset that I live on the other side of the country. It has taken me awhile but I’m finally beginning to let go and realize I have no control over what she thinks. Easier said than done, huh? The only advice I can give is to just continue to love your mother (which I know you do) and follow your own heart and dreams. What I want from my mother is for her to respect my feelings and decisions and to encourage me to live my life on my own terms. Since I want this from her, I practice giving to her what I don’t feel she gives me to me. Also, look at it this way. You would be miserable if you did what she wanted you to do. At least this way, you are happy with your life even if there is some friction in the relationship.nnI look forward to the second part of your post!

  • Nina | Castles in the Air

    Oh, Paige, sharing with me your story of how your relationship with your mother is touching, sad, but honest. And I’m glad you are living your life the way you believe it to be so. We sometimes will never be able to please others, but when we live our life not trying to do so, we are abundantly more free.nnI know there are many, many out there who can’t even say they have a relationship with their mother. Some who don’t even know what it’s like. nnSo I’m counting my blessings, and going strong in the direction I’ve chosen for myself. I will always be compared to other parents’ sons and daughters and how I “didn’t turn out the way they’ve expected me to” and how I’ve “disappointed my family” and how I’m “young and foolish and will realize how hard life is.” nnAll I know for sure is … my life is my legacy. I’m paving it the way it’s meant to. At least they can’t say I didn’t have the courage and boldness to take risks in life! :)

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  • Merise_frederiksen

    You are addressing my most dominant fears that have held me back for so many years!! I, too, was trying to make my parents proud. Now, I am combatting all this “luggage” and have ventured into my own business, which makes me happy every day. I LOVE Mondays! And every day in the week! :-) THANK YOU for making it clear to me that my decision was the right one for me! All the best, Merise

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