How I Wasted An Opportunity Due To Fear

Photo by Jennifer Sando (From the 'I Want to Take a Portrait of Eddie Vedder' campaign)

Photo by Jennifer Sando. From the ‘I Want to Take a Portrait of Eddie Vedder’ campaign.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato

It’s one thing when your ego tells you that you are not up to a task, but it’s harder to fight fear when those closest to you feed your hangups as well. My story would have a different outcome if only I had remembered three simple words: YES I CAN.

Often, we are quick to dismiss an opportunity because our ego has already decided that we will fail at it. We’ve heard the phrase that when one door closes, another one opens. This is fitting for when you cannot control an outcome and someone has closed the door on you. Perhaps you were made redundant at your job, or you didn’t get the artist grant that you applied for, or your poetry was rejected for publication, and so on.

When it’s your own hand that closes the door, be sure that you’re not making a fear-based decision like I did.

I had an opportunity arise after a successful project that I ran. Word of my success had reached an advertising firm in Melbourne and I received a phone call from the director of the firm. My project had impressed him because it was the first time he had seen social media being used to achieve a very public objective. He was so buzzed about it that he wanted his team to see my project as a fresh and exciting way to show initiative.

What was the opportunity?

I was asked to go to Melbourne and meet his team, talk to them and tell my story. The goal? For my project details to motivate and inspire his team.

While I was flattered and humbled at being asked, it was beyond daunting. Simply put, I was terrified. I froze with fear at what was expected of me, and what a motivating and inspiring talk should sound and look like.

I spoke to my family members about the request. They were just as surprised as I was. The first thing they wanted to know was if he was paying for it. I told them, no. What followed: You’re not very good at speaking in public. You’re too shy. You don’t have what it takes to engage a group in that way. Words to that effect, but the gist of their response was: you will flounder.

And I listened to it all. Don’t get me wrong about my family, they are very loving. They were just mirroring what I felt about myself.

Needless to say, I didn’t take up the firm’s offer. And I regret it to this day.

I know there’s a pretty good chance that I would not have performed well by showing zero charisma, stumbling and stammering, and generally allowing my nerves to get the better of me. However, I am confident that something good would have come out of it. Because something always does. I let the opportunity go, thinking I was saving myself from embarrassment due to being out of my depth.

Who knows how many other opportunities died as a result of that decision. I was also saying no to a chance to grow and face a debilitating fear. I took the easy way out.

To feel better about declining, I told myself that at least I would not be out of pocket.

Today, I would not let that stop me; I would raise the funds to get myself there. For those trying to get their art noticed, and trying to build a platform, you know as well as I do that the world is getting noisier; attention is almost a luxury. I was offered a stepping stone with building my credibility as a creative and I simply said: No Thanks.

It Is Not A Complete Waste When You Understand The Lessons To Be Learnt

Here’s what I realised. It was never expressed by the director that I was to be a female Jack Canfield and blow them all away. I sabotaged the opportunity when I planted that idea in my mind, and expected that of myself. I had forgotten that it wasn’t my awkward public-speaking skills that caused me to succeed in my project. It was my photography; my self-expression and perspective via my creativity. Savour faire wasn’t what the director was asking of me. It was my story. They wanted to meet the person behind the voice of the project.

This is what it looks like when you let fear govern your path. When you are handed an opportunity, keep a positive outlook and remember your strengths. Don’t do what I did and think of everything that could go wrong. Think of everything that can go right. Even though I would have had to invest in the trip, I believe it would have been worth it. Every cent.

My family did encourage my fear but I accept responsibility for that because I chose to give in and believe them. I was projecting my insecurities and the notion that I would fail when I let the request become a topic of discussion for them. I put my destiny in their hands. The today version of myself understands that I create my own destiny.

What opportunities do you wish you had not passed on? Please 20 Comments–I would love to hear from you.

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About Jennifer Sando

I am a writer and photographer, and author of the book, Picture In A Frame.

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20 Replies

  1. daniebothawriter

    Jennifer,
    “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
    Yes, it’s unbelievable sometimes the opportunities we miss because of fear.
    But, its life’s tuition fees.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hey Danie, thanks for your comment and for coming back : ) “Tuition fees” – I like that one. PS – did you really comment at 5:40am? Such a precious part of the day – when there is still so much promise. 😀

  2. Someone who I had once traveled to Turkey with as part of a tour group sent me an email that said, “Kelly, want to go to Turkey?” I was in grad school at the time and thought the question rhetorical – of course I wanted to go back! But I never responded and what she actually wanted was to pay someone to be an au pair for her daughter for their summer travels. One of my other friends ended up accepting her offer. I

    1. Arrrgh, I can see why that one would sit with you til the present day. I just remembered another thing I tell myself when I have missed out on an opportunity–especially if it’s travel-related: that God was protecting me from something sinister!

  3. Regret is the worst! But the good thing is, you learned from this situation, so it wasn’t wasted. It changed the way you see and take opportunities now, so it was worth it 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting Sarah – you’re absolutely right. That’s a good point too–knowing when the opportunity is actually a good one, or whether it presents as good but will actually set me back.

  4. I always say that our failures serve a purpose which is often to teach us. They only become regrets if we do not learn from them. All things happen for a reason even the bad ones. It is good that you learnt from this missed.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi, thanks for dropping by and for your comment. You’re right, if I know what there is to learn from the experience then I could even view it as a highlight rather than a regret. : )

  5. Hi Jennifer, I really enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of my personal focus on fear rather than enjoyment – it made me feel inspired to fight back to fear! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Cheers for the comment – happy to provide any inspiration or insight. : )

  6. Thanks for this honest post!I find in my line of work I have to battle with that inner feeling everyday but you’re right YES WE CAN 🙂 x

    1. Hi Sarah. You’re a trooper to battle this every day, mate. Thanks for the comment.

  7. iammyinspiration

    I was offered a job after my pregnancy, but I was completely unsure whether I will be able to continue or not, as I had become too attached to my newly born. I rejected it and regretted it a lot. But nevertheless, I’m happy now being a full time mommy and a part time blogger. You’re absolutely right Jennifer, instead of constantly thinking what can go wrong, we must always think positively of all the things that can go right.

    1. Awww, as a mum, I sympathise. Without knowing much about your circumstances, it’s so lovely that you were too attached to your baby at the time. I get that! I also get that you must think about the “what if” a lot. Newbornhood is such a short, precious time! Thank you for your comment. x

  8. I can relate to you so much, I’m not good at all with public speaking, actually during University I was dreading the times when I had to present my art and speak about it. My anxiety would kick in fully! But I had no choice because the presentations were mandatory. I think sometimes we have to face our fears, but our biggest enemy is ourselves, that interior voice we have! I’m practicing everyday, when I say something negative about myself, I immediately correct it, and replace it with a positive statement!

    1. Hi Adela, I’d like to think that public speaking gets easier with age. Time will tell. 😉 I love your last tip – being conscious of something positive about myself to replace anything negative that I might say. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I recently read the following quote: “Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you’ll have to do it afraid.” And it kind of blew my mind. All our lives we’ve been told to get over fear but the truth is that sometimes, we can’t. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go ahead and do it anyway. Since I’ve started taking my own writing seriously, I feel fear all the time in the pit of my stomach. Some days it gets the better of me but some days I just go ahead and write even though I’m scared. And I tell myself that I’ll regret not doing it a lot more!

    1. Hi Tammy. Definitely. If I waited til my fear dissipated every single time, there’s a lot of things I wouldn’t get done! Thanks for your comment.

  10. Jennifer, your words called to mind several opportunities lost, professionally, personally, and romantically. Life races forward, unforgiving and unrelenting. All we have left is reflection. And what we do with it today.

    Thank you for having the courage and humility to share your story and perspective.

    1. Hi Dave, thanks for dropping by and reading. May you gain new opportunities for those that you have lost. I went to your blog just before. I’m sorry to hear about your father. I’ve started following you on Medium, too. Cheers.

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