Sooth the Smarting Wound
August 7, 2022
Eri Ikezawa (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
Peering over the edge of a 40-foot cliff. Sitting in a crowded plane, rocking from side to side, trying to stomach the nausea from turbulence. Feeling faint as I watch blood pouring copiously from an open wound. These are all legitimate fears, personal ones that I have, ranked highly on my list of things that frighten me. But above those has always been my great and appreciable fear of failure.
Since having been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, my reaction to the unknown has started making more sense to me — that crippling, debilitating sensation of terror, causing me to freeze on the spot, like dipping my toes into an icy pond with regrettable haste.
Although it might be a stretch to say that I regret certain events in my life — living by the philosophy that anything that happens is a lesson to be learned — I must confess I do occasionally feel a twinge of wistfulness for the opportunities I have missed in my life due to my anxiety.
Before, the notion of failure itself was enough to completely paralyze me into inaction — worse yet, I couldn’t find the words to articulate the barrier between myself and any goal I wanted for myself. All I knew was that I felt like a microscopic entity, craning my neck backwards until it felt unhinged, feeling doomed by the towering partition between me and my aspirations. And this applied to so many areas of my life — grades I wanted in school, friends I wanted to make, hobbies I wanted to invest more time into.
Back then, I didn’t realize that the root of that cacophonous buzzing — the angry voices in my head susurrating, “You’ll probably fail anyway, what’s the point in trying?” — was my anxiety. To me, that feeling I experienced preluding the ultimate outcome, whether it was failure or success, was so unbearable that I would talk myself out of even taking a stab at whatever I wanted.
Unsurprisingly this led me to playing it safe, like walking a tightline — only it was 10 centimeters off the ground. If I believed that whatever I wanted to attain was more or less guaranteed, then I would give it a go. I felt as though anything I achieved was to be expected, while everything else was unfeasible, and thus not worth trying at.
Obviously, this led to minimal personal growth. I was sitting in a cozy refuge, barricaded from discomfiting experiences, idle in my comfort zone.
Once I was formally diagnosed with anxiety, every jumbled puzzle piece in my discombobulated brain began to gradually fall into place. I could finally make sense of my mental hieroglyphics — what once seemed like illegible scrawl was decipherable language, and the storm thundering in my chest came to a manageable simmer.
It wasn’t so much that it solved all my problems, but rather I felt as though I finally had a starting point to work from. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, I could better discern moments where I felt as though I might succumb to my anxious thoughts. Then, instead of allowing myself to be plowed over by the drum of the road roller and compressed by the weight of my inferiority, I would try to ground myself again.
I remind myself that failure is a natural staple of life, that all successful people have taken shots and missed, the arrow throttling through the air at the wrong angle, missing the target at the last second. I coax myself off the ledge of self-pity, uplifting myself with the knowledge that whatever happens, I need to keep laboring through the dirt until I find myself at the other side. After all, rejection is not a reflection of my self-worth.
I have also learned that if I maintain and nourish the internal image that I hold of myself, I am able to stand firm in the face of slights and rejections. Now, I ask myself, “Is it worth tarnishing my own self-value because of someone else’s impression of me?” Just because I am not what someone is looking for doesn’t mean that I am worthless. It does not mean that I am a failure in my pursuit for self-actualization and success.
I won’t lie and say that it doesn’t still sting when I apply for a job and don’t get selected. Nor is it satisfying when someone doesn’t like me — it still hurts when people hold negative views about me. I still struggle with the desire to people-please over prioritizing my own needs as a person, but at the end of the day, we must make small sacrifices in the process of self-development. In striving to better myself, it is inevitable that I will “fail” to meet someone’s expectations of me — especially when it doesn’t benefit them.
These days, for me, it’s all about recalibration. I allow myself to fully acknowledge the pricking sensation of failure and rejection; I don’t delay the healing process by trying to euphemize or sugarcoat how I really feel. If that means sulking for a few days, that’s just my process — as long as I know I am fully committed to picking myself back up, rebounding from lying face-flat on the ground to hiking back towards the peak, it’s okay. A few days to reset is okay.
Once I feel as though I’ve recovered enough, having soothed the smarting wound until it’s a faint throb, I just pick up right where I left off, recognizing that one small defeat in the grand scheme of things is nothing but a lesson. I realize now that tenacity and determination to triumph are the true hallmarks of successful people. And even if I am not quite at the destination I wish to arrive at, I am always immensely grateful to have transitioned from my former attitude and fear towards failure to my composed acceptance of it now.
These reactions, pragmatic and tranquil, help me from permanently floundering after any blunder — they are what keep me moving forward.
My name is Eri Ikezawa and I have an extended minor in psychology and a major in linguistics. I’m still on the path to quelling questions about myself and the direction I want to head in, but in the meantime, I have always wanted to find a way to help others and contribute to a community dedicated to personal development and self-love.
At Low Entropy, we believe changing the world starts with changing ourselves.
Founded in 2015, Low Entropy Facilitates conversations that encourage diversity and promote inclusivity.
We understand that life can be confusing at times. It can seem challenging and sometimes you may feel like no one really “gets you.” We offer an opportunity to connect with others who have the capacity to understand you.