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A strange thing happened in the days preceding my daughter’s first dance recital. She got nervous.

I’m often overly proud of my ultra-competitive little ass-kicker. Whether it’s learning to swim, climb an obstacle at the park, or color within the lines, when she sets her mind to do something, it usually gets done. I’m already considering removing the training wheels from her bicycle this summer and anticipate making good progress on her reading skills.

There have been times when she’s been advised to take it down a few notches. Racing against imaginary people to ensure victory or an insistence on keeping score while playing catch in the backyard. Days when she’s spent more time trying to steal her coach’s larger soccer ball than she did listening to his instruction. She also seems to have an inherent gift for smack talk.

This was something different though, actual anxiety about the prospect of not performing well. It’s a sign of burgeoning maturity and a healthier, more realistic self-perception than continuing to consider herself The Greatest of All Time at All Things, but also a little sad, the loss of something unique to young children and sociopaths. It was also potentially threatening to the most important end result. Having fun.

I think that I spent most of the day more nervous than she was, chewing my fingernails down to the quick during the preceding performances. Worrying that something might potentially get into my eyes at an embarrassing moment.

She was awesome, of course. There was loud applause and lavish praise that honestly would have come regardless of the outcome. The only issue she had was when people had the audacity to call her “cute”.

She preferred “beautiful.” I personally think “adorable” was most accurate. My eyes stayed clear, though they did threaten a few times.

At some point, she is going to come across something that she can’t do well, and will need to learn how to deal with that. Early indications are that it may be catching a ball. Just as important will be learning to ignore her nerves and performing under pressure, to not be afraid of failing, not be afraid of not always winning. Most important will be learning to have fun, to enjoy whatever it is she is doing, regardless of outcome.

It’s about the only reason I continue to play golf.


A version of this post was previously published on ThirstyDaddy and is republished here with permission form the author.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Barnes

The post A New Fear of Failure appeared first on The Good Men Project.

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