The fear of failure is something that grips most people and I am no exception. As I write this, it has been a year since I have graduated from university. In that time, I have grown so much as an individual, both personally and professionally. But that growth came out of a profound feeling of uncertainty and worry about failing. All of my close friends from university had gone into the City to work for big firms in some respect or another.
However my road has been a lot slower. I know making comparisons to other people’s lives is foolish but when you are constantly bombarded with seeing people’s successes on social media it packs on the pressure for you to do the same. More than that, it is hard to give yourself a break when you are also competing against the idea of what your life should be as constructed by your own imagination and ambition.
Post graduate depression is something I was unprepared for. The state of limbo is filled with a lack of structure, no clear goals or progression routes and an abundance of rejection. Moving back home feels like regression and the loss of proximity to friends leaves you feeling alone. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t just say yes to the first job that picked me. There are so many different jobs available after all especially in the creative sector. I decided to take the time to apply to internships that really peaked my interest and continue to build my confidence. Of course I am also aware of the level of privilege I have in being able to have the time and space to decide the best path for me.
Giving yourself time is actually quite scary and living in uncertainty is not for the faint of heart. I think the first thing the wonderful Jennifer, my mentor in the Meet a Mentor programme, and I discussed, was that success is defined by you. This was a simple thought, yet it was revolutionary to me at the time. Rather than comparing yourself to others, instead focus on what you want to get out of your own personal journey.
I also have a tendency to want to do everything all at the same time. Jennifer suggested I channel my energy into one thing for a while and honestly that is something I struggle with. I do realise the strength of having a clear goal and making sure that all actions reflect your goal. But I also have the mindset that having multiple things on the go is good for when one eventually fails, a real worry for when you’re a freelancer. I am also not devoted to one particular creative practice which, when you are not trying to make a living just yet, is also a luxury.
'Having a mentor was a very grounding experience. Jennifer was a critical eye and a real challenging force.'
What has been invaluable has been the support Jennifer has given me. Being able to vent frustrations and share my hopes with someone who is able to give you insight into what is on the other side of the dark tunnel I find myself in. Who understands about the worries of saying no to jobs, asking for money from clients, working for free and mental health stress.
Asking myself what I want to get out of experiences, helps me to focus my ambition. I am still not sure how to define success for me, I think that constantly changes. In turn I’m also not sure of what failure really means.
But I know I’m less scared of it now, and for a while I think that is good enough.