Fear of Failure

Originally written Nov. 6, 2013

When I was little, maybe 4 or 5, my parents decided I needed to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. A completely age-appropriate expectation with fully supportive parents and a Dad willing to take me up to the near-by playground to teach me the same way he had taught my older siblings. I refused. The truth is, I was embarrassed that I didn’t already know how. What if I just couldn’t do it? What if cars drove by and saw me learning? Then these total strangers would know that I couldn’t ride a bike on my own and they would judge. Somewhere inside of me I must have known this was an irrational fear because I refused to give my parents an explanation for why I was refusing to be taught.

Instead, in private, I took my new two-wheel, big-girl bike and practiced by myself in my cramped garage – think two-car garage (with two cars in it) filled with bikes, scooters, gardening supplies, sports equipment, pool toys, and, obviously, my pink Barbie Jeep. When I felt confident enough that I could balance and pedal once or twice on my own (there wasn’t any room to pedal much further than that), I told my parents that my Dad could teach me, but only in my cul-de-sac, of course, because the playground still carried too many risks of being seen riding less than perfectly.

For years my parents gushed about how smart their daughter was; teaching herself to ride a bike without any help. The truth is, their little girl had been too paralyzed by the fear of failure to have learned any other way.

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