Cuddling With Fear & Daring to FAIL

Sunday afternoon I found myself in my office catching up on emails. My professional procrastination got the best of me as I began searching the world wide web (read: Facebook).

The TedxJacksonville page popped up with its annual call for speakers. I thought back to last year when this popped on my feed, the difference being it was at 4am. I was lying on a stiff hospital couch next to Marjorie.

On a whim and in complete sleep and life delirium, I applied, even though my application had ZERO to do with the 2015 theme: Into the Machine: Acknowledging that machines are the essential engines of future progress, exploring the roles humanity plays in this new age.

As you can imagine, my ‘body-beautiful-find-gratitude-in-the-darkness’ application was denied. And it was not the first nor will it be the last time a proposal of mine gets tossed in the ‘No’ pile.

And that is OKAY.

Does denial/failure define me? Does it mean that I am less of a person? Does it shame me to publicly announce I have failed on many occasions? NOPE.

We often see failure as this finite finish line. It is over, done, failed. That was the same black and white view I had of school, relationships, recovery and life. The first time I slipped in treatment I immediately told my therapist I had failed and it was all over. But eating disorder recovery (and life) are not linear. There will be ups, downs, steps backwards and jumps forward.

Failure is no longer a bad word in my vocabulary. I see it as an opportunity to try again or switch routes. Just because we didn’t get into med school doesn’t mean we have failed as a medical professional. Life is full of options and our paths are filled with an abundant number of choices.

Yes, sometimes we don’t get to choose, but somehow life always seems to work out. AND sometimes it is up to us to choose how to make it work out. Instead of never applying for another talking gig, I chalked it up to the wrong time and continue to apply for anything that comes my way.

Just like recovery and any other life trial, we get to choose how to handle our slips, falls, failures. Most of all we have to remember that failures do not define us. I hardly doubt my bio will ever read: “McCall Manning Dempsey, failed to be accepted in the 2015 TedX Talk”

Years ago, my life was ruled by fear and shame, which fueled my eating disorder. I would have NEVER applied to do something I wasn’t 100% sure I would get. Because WHAT.IF.I.FAILED. That was not option. That would be mortifying! I had to be perfect.

I only applied to three colleges. I didn’t get into to Auburn University and until now, I’m not sure I have ever said that out loud. I just loudly declared my love and admission to Ole Miss. I was loud and proud so as to drown out the shake in my voice and shame in my spirit.

Putting myself out there was something I only did superficially. I did not take chances or try for things I really wanted. If I could go back in time, do you know what I would have done? Theater. As a kid (and as an adult), I love to sing and dance. I love to make people laugh. But fear kept me from really going for it because…what if I failed? What if others laughed? What if I didn’t get a part?

Journal excerpt from Thursday, January 27, 2000

“Today in Speech Class I gave my persuasive speech […] Two juniors said I was really good and a natural speaker. It was so nice of them to say that and it made me think maybe I have a future in public speaking. God, I don’t know where I will end up. All I want to do is be happy and to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Today I finally live the life that girl always wanted to live. It has been a very crooked road, but through recovery, I have come honor my talents and put myself out there. I take chances. I jump. I get denied, I fall, I look silly (most of the time), but every now and then I succeed and that makes every bruise worth it.

With the blank TedXJacksonville application before me, I smiled. Guess what this year’s theme is? You ready for this…


Yep. I know. It is so me. But then again, maybe it isn’t. Maybe my application will go in the “No” pile again. And guess what…that is okay.

Life isn’t about the safe zone. As much as I shout we must Dare to Love Ourselves…we must Dare to FAIL. Embrace your fears. Cuddle up with fear, acknowledge it and jump anyway.

Be FearLESS.




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