By Derek Frazier
Growing up and recognizing that my high school experience is over because I am a senior, creates a looking-in-the-mirror kind of mindset in me. It makes me pause, and look back on the wisdom I have developed over the last four years, and what affected me the most. For me, it was learning the difference between a defeat and a failure.
I have a very disciplined work ethic, and that has bled into my personality as I have matured. If I am given a challenge, I will move heaven and Earth to accomplish that goal. I don’t feel satisfied until I have given it my one hundred percent, even if it costs me mealtime or sleep.
As I’ve grown, however, my self-doubt has almost manifested into a voice, one that I associate with Satan himself. When I did something that I knew I could do, such as brave my fear of heights on a zip line, or make a medical decision at work when a little kid is injured, the voice whispers “you can’t do this,” or “why are you even trying?”
I will not say I’m embarrassed that sometimes I gave into the voice, but I am ashamed of the effects. As someone who still strives to work hard, I melted down when I performed a job poorly. My anxieties would go into overdrive, and start to hammer a massive amount of stress into me. I would start to hyperventilate, pace back and forth, and talk faster than I already do. The voice would start to repeat, “failure, failure, failure.”
Even now, my brain is prone to overthinking. So when the voice got louder I started wondering, “What else can’t I do, what else have I failed to do?” When often I hadn’t failed or done anything wrong. Unfortunately, I am still plagued with the symptoms of overthinking, just not to the same degree.
Meditations on who I am as a person helped me quiet that voice, as did yoga and spending time reflecting in nature. There is something very intimate and enlightening about dissecting the things that make you who you are. It’s like standing naked in front of a mirror and recounting the stories of how you got all your scars. I’m not saying go into the park and everything will get sorted out, I’m saying it helps to close your eyes and teach yourself acceptance.
To me, failure isn’t a bad thing anymore, its an opportunity to improve, to accept that you didn’t do it right. It’s not an ugly “F” written in sharpie, it’s the universe’s way of giving you permission to try again. It’s okay to cry and admit that whatever it is you’re facing in life might just be a little too much for you. Just don’t give up on yourself.
That is defeat, that is letting something beat you. The red pill versus the blue. It’s the mental decision to give up and let that voice feed off you.
When I was younger I studied martial arts, and I had a very serious Sensei. He would always tell us that we weren’t trying hard enough when we were putting our everything into the forms and repetition of movement. Looking back, I see the point he was trying to convey about a lack of mental discipline. Karate was more than repeating a kick or a punch, you needed to look past him and prove that you could do it.
But it hurt nonetheless. And after deciding enough was enough, I gave up on karate, convinced that all dojos and martial arts were like that. And now I regret that decision very much. I have trained in other styles of martial arts, and self-defense since, but I regret not proving myself to my Sensei. I wholeheartedly believe that decision is where my voice of self-doubt started. If I had stayed and practiced Karate under a different tutor perhaps things would have been different. That was my first defeat.
I still have anxieties about whether or not I can do something, crippling as they were prior to my self-reflections but not as often as before. I learned to close my eyes, take a breath and clear my mind so I could enjoy a few moments in peace. If I had given into the self-doubting voice. I would never have been a writer. I would never have gained the self assurity that I will become a paleontologist, or dissipated my fears of being a terrible father one day.
This isn’t a statement of triumph, or a claim that I’m better than anyone, this is a reflection on the greatest chapter in the reflection of my life to date, and a hope that it inspires others to do the same.