When I was growing up, exploring my interests and discovering my skills, I had a massive fear of failure that often kept me from even participating. If I couldn't be the best at the thing (whatever 'the thing' happened to be), I didn't see the value in trying. My ego was fragile and desperately trying to protect itself as it grew and hung on to the things that made me feel special. I hated competing, especially if I felt I wasn't at the top of the pack; second or third place eventually became acceptable to me, but anything less felt humiliating.
This fear stuck with me through my early adulthood, and in fact, this is something I continue to work on to this day. But, my yoga practice gives me the opportunity to confront my ego and examine the ways that it holds me back. It also reminds me that failure is ultimately just a step on the path to success. (I am so sorry for the cheesiness but there's just no other way to put it!)
For the past few months, I've been practicing in group classes at a local studio, and I noticed that I would often avoid variations of postures that really challenged me, because I didn't want others to see me struggle. This is almost embarrassing to admit, but having gotten back to my home practice recently and revisiting challenging drills and asanas without the fear of judgement helped me realize just how much I was avoiding because of my fear of failure.
Our greatest successes in life come from trusting ourselves and taking some (intelligent/calculated) risks, not tightly holding on to all that feels safe and familiar without ever really pushing through our perceived limitations. When we fail, we assess where things went wrong, and (*hopefully*) move through the challenges that held us back initially: in failing, we grow. Anaïs Nin said, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to our courage." Here's the secret: permission to fail is actually permission to succeed.