Get a pet: We don’t want to learn how to free ourselves from the Fear of Failure by practicing with children because they are highly sensitive and will immediately fall into our behavioral patterns, thus adopting the Fear of Failure with us.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the Fear of Failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Christine-Marie Quigless.
Christine-Marie Quigless is an Holistic Habit Hacker and Coach who continues to successfully work with women to release menstrual suffering + PMS by replacing those burdens with Worthiness. An American living in Germany, Christine-Marie is obsessed with helping women fall in love with their lives through menstruation and integrates Yoga, Habit, Intuitive Treatments, and Presence into her Speaking Experiences, 3-Month Worthiness Activation Programs, and the Sparrow Holistic Members-Only Community. Outside of Sparrow Holistic (SH), Christine-Marie is practicing yoga, hiking with her dog Whitman, spa-ing it up!, or enjoying quality time with her family.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Yes, firstly, thank you for the opportunity to talk about a topic that is particularly meaningful to women. From birth, we are raised to meet obligations and are corrected for how we are rather than what we do, which sets us many of us up to proudly boast that: “we are perfectionists!” in our early-adult years.
This is my story as well. I don’t think we can fault our parents for rewarding and applauding our efforts when we did things right and demonstrating a waning enthusiasm when we did things “differently” from what they expected; it’s human nature. For me, as one of five who really wanted a lot of attention, I glimmered on to this idea of “perfection = good attention” really quickly and set myself on a trajectory of perfection at a very young age. I was very good at ballet and excelled in school, overall, but was extremely emotional because I was terrified — living “on tenterhooks” with fear that I messed up or would mess up in some way.
For example, if someone told me that my dress was pretty or my hair looked nice, even at age seven, I would burst into tears wondering if yesterday’s dress or hairstyle was awful. I was always looking for ways to “win” and for ways not to fail, and because outside validation drove my perfectionism, any suggestion that I had done something wrong or had not met expectations was disastrous for me: I would have to run away and hide while I sobbed or furiously scribbled in my journal about what I can do better next time.
Living like this also contributed to a pattern of needing to prove my resilience. I found myself performing the story of “breakthrough” despite the odds.
Here’s what I mean: in sixth grade, I was told that I would have to repeat the grade because I barely passed for the year — the school was failing me without failing me — and my mother got a second opinion in the form of an IQ Test. The test determined that I was actually very smart and the score qualified me to join a highly competitive academic program in the public school system (I had been in private school up until then). I was certain that I was stupid because my other school told me that I was, but I joined the other school with all of these very smart seventh graders (I subsequently did not repeat sixth grade) and was told that I belonged there. I never believed it and always feared that I was going to mess up and fail, so my mother counseled me to teach what I did not understand. That was when tutoring started for me. I did a lot of tutoring at a very young age and learned by teaching, by pretending to be smart. It worked, but I never truly believe in my intelligence until much later in life. I did believe that I was good at success despite the odds, which I think is why I was later so eager to pursue very difficult career paths like Acting and my entrepreneurial ventures in Tutoring, Test-Prep, Dress Making, and ultimately Sparrow Holistic.
I bring up this attachment to breakthrough because I think it helped me to embrace and to accept failure. I don’t think I pursued anything, until my Mission landed for me, with the actual intention that I would succeed. Success was always a surprise to me because I was the underdog, the one who tried but always failed. As this lands for me right now, I see that Fear of Failure was a safe place, it kept me “less than”, it kept me out of my wholeness, always wanting to prove, to achieve.
For this reason, it is not by accident that my working life, the past two decades, have been devoted to creating breakthroughs for others. I always worked holistically because relying on my own intelligence was a non-option. I didn’t believe it actually existed no matter how much I proved it: National Honors Society in high school, attended Smith College, graduated on Dean’s List. Prior to Sparrow Holistic, the businesses that preceded the truly impactful mission of SH, which ultimately freed me from the Fear of Failure, were all dedicated to creating breakthroughs for clients. I helped high school students go from Ds to As, then I leveraged habit — not intelligence — to teach ACT and SAT Test-Takers to score in the top 98% on these exams, at the same time I founded a Dress Company dedicated to amplifying the unique shine of every dress wearer through a comfy, flattering, and stylish dress design that came in a variety of fabrics. My businesses succeeded because I “knew” that I could approach fashion, tutoring, and Test-Prep, in an out-of-the-box way because if I failed, I was used to it and if I succeeded, I get to be surprised and enjoy the breakthrough.
Here’s where Fear of Failure really showed up in my life with these businesses. Each business experienced an initial success, so the only way to take them was “up”. I knew how to find the solution and how to create the breakthrough, but not how to run a business, and was never willing to go outside of that maverick-y way of being to learn “best practices” in order to actually give these businesses a viable structure. If I learned how to grow my businesses the right way, if I asked for help, other people will know that I really want this. I would go from the “Christine-Marie who has such potential but unfortunately always fails” that my family had grown to love and tolerate — can you imagine the roller coaster of supporting a family member who always has the next big idea, but does not follow through with it? — to the Christine-Marie who is pulling out all of the stops and going outside of her comfort zone and working for others to learn how to get “this” business off of the ground. No way I was going to over-exert myself and work outside of my comfort zone…that didn’t fit my habit of failure governed by fear. The businesses offered services that the world needed and that I could deliver in an excellent way, but they were not important enough to me for me to let go of being the ever-losing, ever-resilient, underdog that I was.
So that was the pattern. In Ballet, in Acting, at university, in business, I always demonstrated promise, and got everyone on board to root for me, and then, right when things might actually be shifting for me in a positive way, something would steer me away from creating sustainability for that thing. I was always a survivor, never a success, I kept myself imprisoned by this belief that I just wasn’t cut out for unfettered success, and Fear of Failure helped me believe in the safety of that identity.
Then, through a series of events way beyond anything I could have thought up or created for myself, in the process of holistic Test-Prep, I noticed the pained expressions of my students who menstruate and identify as women, and started asking them about their pain and wondered if an holistic solution might exist to end PMS and menstrual suffering. At that time, I had been practicing yoga for over two decades, my pursuit of acting and ballet had opened me up to a variety of introspective healing techniques, and my businesses had me fully informed on the inner workings of habit. Everything came together through these modes and fell in to place. As I had done with my dresses, with my Test-Prep method, with my academic students, I experimented with ways to end menstrual pain and suffering through the modalities I understand. I paired the experiments with Coaching, according to the ICF standards; standards which, for me, place a strong emphasis on gentleness, and an end to Menstrual Suffering and PMS availed itself. The difference between this breakthrough and all the breakthroughs that had come before this one was that I was in a position to try the solution on myself as well.
My Menstrual Situation prior to using my process for Menstrual Alignment on myself:
I had suffered from excruciating menstrual cramps, backaches, migraines, insomnia, nausea, and PMS. As a teenager, the doctors diagnosed me with endometriosis, put me on Birth Control to manage pain, and told me that I was anatomically set up to experience pain with every cycle. My Naturopath, who continues to be a nurturing force in my life, had worked with me to enjoy a temporarily pain-free existence — it lasted four months — but even she could not end the monthly misery. I did something that I had never done before: I took myself through my own process.
While this experiment on myself for myself was happening, I was in a place in my life, emotionally and literally that was not safe.
Over the course of my life, I had moved from North Carolina to Massachusetts, for university, to New York City and then LA for acting, and after Covid, and experiencing a pollution-free LA, I moved cross-country back to NC for six weeks, and then across the Atlantic to Germany. I had moved to Germany to spend some time in Europe because it felt right, had met a guy, who would become my ex-partner, and the moment that I became willing to test my proven solution for menstrual pain and PMS happened to also be the moment that I left the relationship with him.
Playing it safe, hiding in “less than”, hiding in perfectionism, always having breakthroughs and showing resilience through new starts, had brought me to a breaking point in my life, and I broke. It was as if every spoke of my Wheel of Life snapped. And as Pema Chodrun says, “Things fall apart to fall into place”. The force that was there for me, besides one of my now very-close friends, who took me in even though she barely knew me when I left my ex, was this tiny flicker of faith that the same way that I was Coaching women to release pain, that this way might work for me.
It worked for me. I was grateful that the businesses that preceded Sparrow Holistic and the Acting and the Ballet had all failed because they contributed to my Mission, which is so much bigger than a business. My Mission was bigger than me but it required my wholeness for sustainability. My Mission needed all of the experiences, all of the failures that I underwent and most of the time precipitated to exist, so that I can empathize with the women I help and say, “yes, I understand…all of it”. Freeing myself from the Fear of Failure meant endowing worthiness and Worthiness replaced the monthly physical pain and PMS.
I couldn’t do it for me initially, but I could create the solution for other women who were going through exactly what I went through since menstruation began for me at age 15.
I had to let go of the Fear of Failure because I had to let go of keeping myself small to create a false sense of safety. This Mission to free women from obligation, perfectionism, self-sacrifice, from needing to be everything for everyone, all of these attempts at creating False Evidence (of their unworthiness to have what they want) Appearing Real (read FEAR) in order to feel like they are not failing was manifesting as menstrual pain and suffering — as the diagnosis endometriosis. I had to be bigger than any way that I had ever known myself to be in order to practice what I preach and to preach what I practice.
I show women, by personal example and through the examples of my clients, that when our body screams at us in pain, it is begging us with its most powerful instrument, our menstrual cycle, which is not by accident in the center of the body — the main event, our body is begging us to fall in love with ourselves and our worthiness. When the pain is too overwhelming, I aim for women to turn more deeply to their bodies for guidance and a cure rather than to Birth Control, which still includes pain and results in even more highly volatile episodes of PMS.
The side effects of freeing myself from menstrual pain/PMS are worthiness, which compels me to live the life that I want, thriving in every spoke of my Wheel of Life instead of coping and surviving. What a world to live in when all women who experience menstrual pain, choose to free themselves from the idea that they are not enough by keeping themselves paralyzed by the Fear of Failure.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The story that comes to mind references one of my early menstrual alignment “breakthrough” clients. Her mother asked me why I was qualified to coach her daughter toward an end to her menstrual pain and an end to her PMS. At the time, I had no certification that acknowledged my definitely 10,000+ hours working in the breakthrough container and definitely had no certification as an holistic healer or a medical practitioner. Her question was highly valid, and I wondered to myself as well, “how dare I offer this experiment (at the time we were still experimenting and I had not yet published the menstrual alignment course)?”. But then I thought about the decades of breakthrough I had created with no credentials prior to this interview and went back to an anchor in my life that had always emboldened me to start my businesses and to experiment: evidence.
I countered to the client’s mother: “How did you find me?”.
She answered: “you were referred to my daughter by one of her friends”.
Me: …so you found me because of the results that your daughter’s friend experienced?
Me: …so your daughter’s friend had menstrual cramps and PMS and didn’t want to go on the pill and now she doesn’t have pain and avoided the pill, and that’s how your daughter knows about me?
Me: Is that a sufficient reason to believe that I’m qualified to coach your daughter to release menstrual suffering and PMS?
Her: Yes, but is it safe?
Me: We do not use medication, or supplements of any kind. We listen to the body. It may not work, and if it doesn’t you can go the medical route. How does that feel?
Her: Let’s try it.
It worked for her daughter!
The “takeaway” that I learned from this story is how easily most of us depend on outside validation. It helped me realize how terrifying a solution to a “fact of our lives”, like painful periods, might be for the population I wish to serve. This client was about to walk away because she didn’t see MD or any letters after my name, and in a world where there are so many quacks and where misinformation comes from people, credentialed and non-credentialed, I cannot blame her for that.
This experience also reminded me of how disconnected many of us are from our bodies. All of us were born with this truth-monitoring device called our intuition and are so quick to defer to the opinions of someone else because they are more qualified on a subject, even though, we ourselves are our greatest experts on ourselves. For example, I am the daughter of a General Surgeon. When I was in the hospital for an emergency surgery on my ovary as a seventeen-year-old (my reproductive organs have always been sensitive and “communicative”) his advice, prior to surgery, was: a “good” patient is a dead patient. He told me to speak up and not to assume that the doctors and nurses know what is going on with my body.
I think our instincts to defer to the experts, is always a great start, but we have to think critically about the solutions the different experts offer. A surgeon will always opt for surgery, a personal trainer will always opt for athletic training, etc. It is such a difficult “ask” to offer the client the opportunity to listen to herself — most of us just want to be told a solution. This mindset keeps us in a state of “less than” and might hold us back.
If I had held back my supplement-free, medical-treatment free solution to get a certification in medical coaching followed by a certification in holistic therapy, my work would not be here now, and the irony is that getting rid of menstrual pain and PMS is only where we start! The bulk of my work with clients is dedicated to endowing worthiness, dedicated to keeping them oriented toward their life, dedicated to keeping Fear of Failure out of their path until they are strong enough to live without it — without my and/or my programs’ help.
Other schools of thought, other practices will help the clients who want to use medication, or birth control, or want to believe that there is no solution and want to put time and energy in to pain management instead of cure.
So this deeply challenging question served as the inciting incident to free myself from Fear of Failure around my mission because I could have backed down and let my lack of credentials define me. Do I verify and seek help form medical professionals to validate my findings? Yes, but my work is not medical. It is an approach that comes from a lifetime study of interventions that create physiological change. I was trained by the school of life, and I’m valued for that training and the results I partner with my clients and program participants and audiences to deliver.
The final takeaway is that my work is about treating the “within” to cure the “without”. The interaction with this client’s mother, helped heal a doubt that I had about myself and my efforts, a doubt that, if not addressed, perhaps could have eventually led me to failure and stopping. I am reminded of the W.H. Murray/Goethe quote that I recite to or with my clients practically on a daily basis, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of creation (or initiation), there is an elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless plans and splendid ideas, that when one commits providence moves too…” I will stop there. The point is that that woman’s question compelled me to address the integrity of my mission, which helped strengthen it. Providence moved in my favor to help me realize the power of my mission and to keep me free from failure.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Worthiness, Humility, and Faith
Worthiness because it was the game-changer that shifted me out of “less than” and out of keeping myself held back by the Fear of Failure; worthiness shifted me in to embracing my Mission. I had self-esteem, but it is not the same as worthiness. For example, self-esteem protected me from starting unhealthy friendships and relationships, but worthiness helped me realize, even though I was deeply entrenched within a very serious relationship, that who I was and how I lived was absolutely okay. At the time, I was in such deep fear, and so desperately wanted a partner and a husband, that I had suppressed my unique light to be what that guy wanted me to be. Fear of failing in yet another relationship helped me keep the truth of my being obscured. Yes, that’s a good way to put it: self-esteem compels us to be respectful of ourselves and others, but worthiness instils the dignity within that enables us to nurture our sacredness and wholeness, even when that means changing our minds especially in love and in business. A business example: when we spend less time validating and explaining shifts that need to happen in our business or with a project because we are following a hunch, listening from within, and have verified that that hunch is the right way to go, we save time, money, and the company benefits from the shift.
This showed up when we were figuring out our marketing strategy early on. I really wanted to do “best practices”: Social Media, Call-to-Actions, invest in tons of digital ads, but the practice of the strategies felt empty and did not resonate with Sparrow Holistic, with me. I was very frustrated and saw this as proof that I am not cut out for business, but I worked with a coach to pivot on the frustration, and from that work, figured out that Social Media is not my strength. Speaking is. When I switched to using Speaking Engagements for top-of-funnel engagement, we attracted our Ideal Client Avatars and the deeper mission of Sparrow Holistic, to raise awareness of the power of Menstrual Alignment, so that more women can live in their worthiness and model this for their daughters. Now, Sparrow Holistic reaches more people and our message impacts more deeply, so by honoring my worthiness and expecting that every aspect of my work be in alignment with me, I am contributing to diminishing the disempowering myth that we women are born with this “burden” called menstruation.
Humility and Faith have existed within me ever since sobriety became a part of my life 14 years ago.
Humility taught me how to listen. In Coaching, we are taught to listen 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time. Humility allows me to listen with wonder. Humility made it possible to find an holistic solution for high scores in Test Prep and for the end of Menstrual Suffering and PMS because of my lifelong belief that I wasn’t smart. I was humbled by my lack of intelligence, my lack of confidently “knowing”, so I did not rely on the Mental for solutions. I listened and investigated these problems in an entirely different way. I did not experiment to prove that I was right because of humility. Instead, I experimented to find out if the approach worked — it’s a different mindset and orientation to solution.
Faith. Faith is everything to me. Living a life of self-imprisonment under the belief of a Fear of Failure, there were times, when I really wondered why I had any right to take up space on the planet. Not suicidal thoughts, but really questioning what use I was to the world — feeling like a taker more than a giver. Even in my darkest hour, I could find faith in the shades of color on a fallen leaf, in a quote of graffiti sprayed on a wall, in a meme shared by someone I do not know in a 30+ person WhatsApp group. Faith is the little nudges and the big nudges. Faith empowers us to live ulterior-motive free — which can be quite a challenge in a world where advertising seems more typically message the power of leverage (lose weight to get the guy, get a nice car to sell more houses, etc.). One big nudge that I love to use as a testament to how powerful truly being in love with our lives and living ulterior-motive free (in faith) is, is my Apple Store Soho Experience.
I had just graduated university (from Smith College), and had spent the summer at a theatre camp at Vassar College — the Powerhouse Program. All summer, I insisted on using my friend, Dakota’s, adorable 12.1” MacBook because my larger Sony Vaio, which I had had since my first-year of college was not as fun to use as the MacBook, and it was on the fritz — I had to shake it to see images on the screen…I would go into her room every day, grab her laptop and take it back to my room to do all of my internet business because I just relished every minute I was able to spend with it. I was in love with Apple.
After the program finished, I spent a week hanging out between Northampton, Mass and Boston with my boyfriend at the time, Jon, and that week the Vaio laptop went kaputt. At the end of the week, Jon moved me in to my new apartment in New York City, and we broke up the next morning because a long-distance relationship between Northampton and New York City made no sense for us.
That day found me very much in the doldrums, and to cheer me up, my roommate, Janet invited me to go shopping with her at J.Crew. Now, I knew that the Apple Store was in Soho and I had a new credit card, so I was elated to visit the Apple Store if we happened upon it. As a security measure, Janet held on to my credit card, so that I wouldn’t use retail therapy in my sadness. We went to J.Crew, and it just happened that, upon exiting J.Crew we realized that the Apple Store was literally beside J.Crew. When I saw this, I hugged the walls of the Apple Store, I shouted to the heavens, “This is a sign and we must go in!”, Janet agreed.
As we walked in, everyone was staring at us in the entry way. I am Black and Janet is Korean. I thought to myself, “Are we being judged here?”. And then a man yelled, “Let’s do it!”. He ran up to me, took me by both shoulders and said, “You’re the two-millionth customer of the Apple Store Soho”. My friend Janet had just received a new laptop from her parents the week prior and my laptop was broken. In that moment, I was rewarded with a new 12.1” laptop, an iPod Mini, and a variety of other Apple products, all for just showing up. How did this guy know that I needed and loved these things so much?!
This experience has always reminded me of the power of love and the power of living ulterior-motive free. This is Faith. Can I really have the life I want, attract the clients who need and want my solution, and be in wholeness joyfully nurturing myself in my different menstrual phases, all at the same time? It is Faith; this example, as silly and fun as it is, that reminds me that the life I want wants me and the way that I am is the right way for my mission to succeed. I am enough. I am in love with my mission because I have faith in the change that women living without menstrual suffering can impact in this world.
Faith in the mission, makes even the deeply-rooted power of Fear of Failure wither in its presence.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
The backstory answer definitely explains why I was so afraid of failure, but to put my finger on why people are so afraid of failure and why it is so frightening actually has to do with our history — how we survived. Fear of Failure and fear of success are really two sides of the same coin because they both address the possibility of being kicked out of the “group”. And being kicked out of the group brings us back to the impossibility of survival alone from the times when we were nomads or even as late as the beginnings of agrarian civilizations. At these times, we could not live alone and survive for long because the threat of a different tribe or a wild animal attack were both imminent. Even up to the Middle Ages, punishment for severe crimes included banishment because “banishment” meant certain death.
Personally, I think that my Fear of Failure kept me in university because I didn’t really want to go, but the idea of not going seemed impossible to me. Fear of Failure kept me in the flow of creating businesses that addressed deeply respected needs of society: tutoring, test-prep, menstruation, because the idea of creating to create would, for me, feel like I was not being of service to the world. Even my beginnings in tutoring — a vocation that continues to inform my work — lie (lay?) in Fear of Failure: I was motivated to tutor my little butt off because wanted to avoid further proof that I was not smart and teaching “what I didn’t know” kept me on top of my studies.
So Fear of Failure kept me in “the group”, but it also frightened me enough to keep me in “the group” of failures because I do think that adage: “what we resist persists” holds true. My Fear of Failure chased me into continual failure. My fear of failing kept me from success because to genuinely do things that would result in setting me apart from the failures — putting me with the winners, which I was certain was a group I was definitely not allowed to be with, would actually result in an even greater failure. The “winners” would know that I was an imposter — imposter syndrome — and they would kick me out. Even though I wouldn’t die because I was an “imposter winner”, the world would know that I really tried and failed.
How embarrassing might that be? Embarrassment: yet another reason why Fear of Failure is so powerful. When we are more obsessed with how others think of us than our innate truth, our innate mission, the thoughts of what they could be thinking paralyze us into inaction: “If I do nothing, I can’t fail — no one will know”, or, “I will fit in because I won’t be seen trying to do something different and failing at it”. Ironically, the ones who care the most about the failures of others and not being seen as failures in the eyes of others — the ones who need outside validation to feel a sense of security — are other failures.
It’s also frightening because our society, especially in a world where every movement, blink of an eye, a minute gesture, is recorded. When we fail, society, again referencing to those who prey on witnessing the failure of others so that they can keep themselves in hiding as well, comes down on us hard. A failed celebrity relationship results in years of media footage being scrutinized by the world to prove that the relationship was destined to fail.
In business, as a leader, the Fear of Failure is even more frightening because you failed publicly, and you fear that anyone will ever trust you to deliver after you failed.
This is why integrity to mission is paramount to a business’ growth. When the business is built in integrity with its mission, the outside pressure of Fear of Failure diminishes because the actions of the business are governed by metrics that often go unseen by the public for many years — until the business itself goes public. The freedom to fail outshines the Fear of Failure and the business thrives with that orientation.
“Fail better.” “Fail up.” Mantras like these, although not always used in the most uplifting contexts keep me in alignment with my mission and normalize failure instead of keeping it in the shadow of fear. From this position failure serves rather than hurts.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
I happened to touch on this a bit in the previous answer. The downsides of being afraid of failure are: all of the ways that people can transmute it to keep themselves from believing in and pursuing a life that they want, the ways that society keeps itself in suffering because of how it shames failure, and the way that generations and cultures use Fear of Failure to inform their day-to-day lives even centuries later.
This question and the last point bring up a topic that matters very deeply to me: the Slave Archetype and how it keeps Black Americans hemmed in through Fear of Failure.
A Black American myself, I found myself struggling deeply with the idea of permission to succeed on my own, without working for a salary from a bigger institution (being owned). Really, this isn’t just Black Americans; the majority of the world would like to work for themselves and do what they want to do, but prefer to work for a corporation in order to receive a salary and benefits for the sense of security it provides. But that’s me speaking personally in terms of letting go of the Fear of Failure that I faced when it came to taking the entrepreneurial route rather than the corporate one.
On a cultural level, the unconscious generational vow of slavery that passes down from generation to generation of Black Americans is a reason why Blacks are typically occupying the worst places in statistical results. Other cultural groups immigrate to the US and start lower than, but eventually surpass, Black Americans in terms of income level, unemployment, home ownership, health standards, etc. There are so many reasons for this immobility including historic systems like red-lining, segregation, the continued dismantling of the Black Family Structure, racism in the Judicial system to name a few. Those reasons are part of the “without”. Now the “within”: I can personally attest to the power and freedom that availed themselves when I offloaded the vow of slavery once I realized that it governed a deep-seeded need for permission to achieve, permission to own, permission to be enough and to be proud of all that I am. Turning the Slave Archetype from the shadow (see above) to the light allowed me to give myself permission and to really believe in that truth — to take up my mission not because I am a credit to my race and an outlier, but because who I am including my blackness is beautiful and wonderful, and living an awesome, thriving, powerful, pain-free, fulfilling life is normal for a Black American woman.
Can you imagine how deeply terrifying Fear of Failure can be when you are going against the vows of your race and the vows of your ancestors? This is not to say that we willingly agree to the vow of slavery and poverty and lack of personal agency, it is to acknowledge the awareness that these vows could be informing the terror that comes with failing — failing because we colored outside of the lines (the lines white men set as boundaries over 200 years ago).
My Grandpapa, Dr. Milton Quigless, Sr., and Grandmother Helen Gordon Quigless, Sr., founded the first Black hospital in North Carolina. It was successful, but I can’t imagine what they might have been up against — how many naysayers within the Black Community might have thought that to be audacious. I do believe that that same racism exists today, within ourselves as Black Americans. That question of “How dare I do something differently?”.
When the above question came up for me personally — when I feared moments like the event I described when the client’s mother asked why I am qualified to do what I do, I find myself in gratitude because my roots connect me to the audacious accomplishments of my grandparents, but what about the rest of us who don’t get to tap in to their history, their bloodlines, for solutions and for whom things like a Black President and Black Business/Thought Leaders are exceptions and not the norm? To step out of line and to go after what you want is to be an outlier, to be alone, and to be shamed for it, especially if you are surrounded by others who need to keep themselves in line and to keep themselves from following their dreams.
This is how Fear of Failure can be so limiting, especially to people like me. We keep ourselves in fear not only because society tells us that to achieve is to be exceptional, but also because we may be operating with a cultural commitment that hinders the realization of success.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
Freedom from the Fear of Failure allows us to make friends with failure. When we take away “Fear of” and just address failure, a world of possibility opens up. A world of possibility, that cannot exist without the word “failure” because failure gives us contrast and awareness around how we can better achieve a goal.
Freedom to Learn: For a short time, roughly a year, I was in a relationship with a man who had a daughter and his daughter had come to see me as her stepmother. She struggled with failing and perfectionism, and even at age six, was acutely aware of the importance of success. We started playing a game around failure: anytime any of us made a mistake (me, her, her dad) we would announce our “good mistake” very proudly, sometimes even singing a song about how awesome our mistake really was. She and I would read about “great mistakes” like the discovery of penicillin, chocolate chip cookies, and microwaves, to remind each other of how important failures are.
Empowered Creativity: Earlier I mentioned how powerful phrases like, “fail up” and “fail better” are in my life. I spent more of my life governed by a Fear of Failure than by Freedom from Failure, but in both phases, I was comfortable with the low-stakes pressure that failure offered. Yes, it keeping low expectations for my success kept me from achieving for most of my life, but it also allowed me the freedom to innovate and to do things differently. For example, even at the beginning of my work as a tutor, I already “knew” that I wasn’t intelligent, so proceeding from the idea that I’ve already failed gave me plenty of space to play with how to succeed in school without being smart — I was free to create.
Be Here, Now — Ram Das: When we are free from the Fear of Failure, we stop thinking about what happens next, how will others react if I fail or succeed, and we get to integrate faith through ulterior-motive-free living in our lives. We can only fail if we are working to meet a standard or an outcome that exists in the future. If we are worried about the future and meeting that outcome, then we are not in the “here and now” living and actioning with pure intention and presence with what we are doing. I have felt the difference in my business when I have set outside goals and worked to meet them versus when I have set outside goals and showed up to do the work that needs to be done in that moment’s time and space. The grace with which I succeed in meeting our business’ goals and fail in meeting our business’ goals when I show up in alignment solely with the action I am taking is unparalleled. My business wins whether or not I “succeed” when I show up with purity of intention/in the “now” because I am not putting pressure on the outcome. Instead, in the presence I bring to the work, I am guaranteeing impact without controlling the outcome, which may lead the project, conversation, creation down an entirely different path that has nothing to do with the projected outcome. Freedom from the Fear of Failure frees us from limitation of what was and opens us up to the allowance of what is meant to be.
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
The story that comes to mind is somewhat recent and includes business and love — thrilling…! I had moved to Germany with the understanding that eventually the ACT and SAT exams would rise back to their previous level of popularity and my holistic test-prep work would also bounce back to its 2019 level of activity. I hustled really hard and aggressively marketed in every way that I could, even worked US hours — getting up in the middle of the night for 2am appointments for instance, but the work was grinding on me, and I was so much more interested in Coaching and Menstrual Alignment.
I shamed myself for having “shiny-object syndrome” and wanting to do something else because the holistic Test-Prep activity was waning. I shamed myself for having no perseverance and for being lazy and a bad worker because: if I was doing enough for my business, it would be a success. I was so hard on myself. Eventually, I gave up on the Test-Prep totally disappointed that the referrals and my marketing just were not enough — by the way, pretty much all American universities had switched to “Test Optional” by then…So there I was again, looking at yet another failed business and wondering if this is just a pattern that I was doomed to repeat for the rest of my life.
At the same time, my romantic relationship was not going well. I had trapped myself in a relationship built on hope that things would be better in the future if only I could be better (I thought). I worked with outside help to try to make the situation okay for myself, but I was truly unhappy with myself and the way that I was because I did not fit with the situation. I was ashamed that I was not mature enough for the kind of relationship that I was in and felt “broken”. I remember, the night before the relationship ended, kneeling, sobbing, and asking for help, asking God for a change.
Boom. The next day, the relationship ended in a dramatic flourish of failure, and I moved out. Just me, my dog, no income, two suitcases and my dog’s bag walking down a city street at 8pm to stay with my friend and her family at her home.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
The rebound was beyond me. Ironically, it was the friend whose home was my refuge from the ended relationship who inspired me to consider the holistic life coaching. Months prior, when we first met, I told her how I tutor, and she remarked that it sounded very much like coaching. I had heard of Life Coaching and had worked with coaches, but the work always seemed to be more of someone giving uninformed advice about what you should do and how you should be instead of the work that I was doing to holistically empower clients through holistic Test Prep. But, from that moment, months prior to the breakup and leaving, I had been very curious about Coaching and had set on pursuing a certification to learn the ICF Standards because they were particularly essential to the type of work that I wanted to do. I knew that I would find a certification program once I could afford it, after I got the Test-Prep going again (ha ha).
So back to the rebound. I find myself, a guest at my friend’s house, with no idea of what I’m going to do next, wondering how to pick up the pieces.
At first I was very sad, and had emergency sessions with outside help: therapy, reiki, family, family, family. I couldn’t believe how supported I was by my family. I was stunned. I kept thinking, “…but I’m a failure. I failed big time: I have no money, no business, no relationship and am on the other side of the Atlantic, a foreigner”. They did not judge, they only loved.
I was pretty numb through the days that followed. I had to find a place to live. I reached out to friends and family in Germany and found a three-month yoga teacher residency in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, which amazingly I applied for and was accepted to. I just had to get in to action because I had no choice, I was literally dealing with the bottom level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I did not have the luxury of even a thought to put toward Fear of Failure because my dog and I needed a home. One thing about a life filled with failures, I could hustle — I was resilient AF!
I also had a lot of administrative stuff that needed to be handled in the US — paperwork that I had been waiting to have processed and the meetings for that all of that work happened to be during the week that I was at my friend’s house even though I was dealing with two different municipal systems.
Well, the paperwork was handled and as a result of a very knit-picky, detail-oriented city worker, doing her job (“just the facts ma’am”) it turned out that a payment I was first told that I would receive and then told that I would definitely not receive was in error. In fact, I was meant to receive three times the amount that was under discussion. It was the city worker’s attention to detail that caught the oversight.
Instead of the pittance I had scraped together from selling the furniture that I had brought for the apartment at the previous living situation, I had plenty of money to cover my travel between locations while I found a new place to live in Germany (I was deliberate about staying in Germany), money to cover my Coaching Certification program, and money to pay for a week-long stay at a dog-friendly yoga retreat center — a little gift to myself amidst the upheaval.
Had the paperwork been handled and I received the money even a week prior, I would have used the money to invest in things for the relationship that I was in, instead, the money arrived after everything fell apart to be used to help me build the life I have now.
I will never get over the perfect timing of the situation, although I do think that if I had left earlier, the money probably would have arrived earlier.
The lesson here for me is two-fold: 1) Life does not want you to suffer, but, like a good parent, life will not intervene unless you ask for help and really mean it. My Fear of Failure of my business and failure of my relationship kept me in suffering for much longer than I needed to be. At the same time, the suffering allowed the landing of innumerable conscious and unconscious lessons that I do not have to repeat — I can feel when I am starting to move toward one of those lessons, and the warning feelings are enough for me to “change course”.
2) Trust your gut. Prior to the complete breakdown, the outside help that I was getting was teaching me how to trust all of the signals and awareness that had been availing themselves to me, at a rapid-fire pace, for more than a year. But, until the breakdown, I had deferred to outside ideas of success to keep myself from listening because I was certain that I, the failure, was probably wrong and that the signs and awarenesses I was experiencing had to be wrong. When I heeded the messages my body and the universe were offering, like: fix your menstrual alignment by taking care of yourself the way that you uniquely are meant to be cared for, the pain, on so many levels stopped; including menstrual suffering and PMS.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the Fear of Failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Link to 5 Things Video: https://bit.ly/3ACBTjE
- Trust that what you want, wants you, so make friends with Failure: This is not business related, but it is a great story about the Fear of Failure and how Now frees you. When I moved to the town where I live now, Freiburg, I was told that the best place to live was the Altstadt (read “old town”). It was exclusive, safe, nice, cute, the middle of it all, the place where everyone wants to be. So I made that my goal: location Altstadt, must be a two-floor unit (Germans call it a maisonette, Americans might call it a loft), with lots of light, quiet street, and a small, clean building. I had the best luck during my search, and multiple times found myself to be the first or second applicant on places available in my price range, but after two weeks of looking, I had not even been invited to see a place yet. At this point I was renting an apartment for two months because I figured two months was plenty of time to find a place in Freiburg. Totally disappointed with my progress, I saw a rental listing that was one-month-old and had learned that no listings really stay on the Freiburg market for more than about three days. The listing was in a place that was described as “fine” and the pictures looked “fine”. I was starting to get a bit worried about securing a longer-term place, because I knew I had to move out at the end of the two months, so I gave up on my Altstadt dreams and the obsessive sleepless nights that I spent constantly refreshing apartment listings, and inquired with the landlords at this unit to see if I could be their back up in case my Altstadt dream was a fallacy and in case they didn’t find someone since their listing was active. The agreed to meet. I saw the apartment and had no idea that it was: a maisonette, in a small, clean building, on a quiet street, in what turned out to be the cutest little corner of the world. I liked the space and the landlord liked me and my dog. I moved in a month later. The lesson: I had failed at getting a place in the neighborhood that was the “best” according to…not me. Over the two months that I had lived in Freiburg, I had come to love the area, which includes my home, but was unaware that my home was there. I thought if I love this area, I will love Altstadt even more. Altstadt is crowded, busy, and definitely in the center of things — that isn’t what I wanted actually. But in the novelty of it all, I deferred to outside “experts” to find out where I, Christine-Marie Quigless, whom “they” had never met, wanted to live, and let my Fear of Failure to meet their expectations run me. Luckily, I had already learned the virtues of staying out of force with the universe, and staying in partnership, so when the flow was stopped in the direction of Altstadt, I let the “stop” sign be enough, and explored another way.
- The only thing that matters is happening now!: There is so much freedom when you allow the things you want to exist. For example, “Yes, I want to be the top seller for this month!”. That intention is out there. That’s it. Now, every action you take is not: I will do this to make sure that I do that, so that I can be the top seller for this month. Every action instead happens in presence: “I will do this because I want to do this” or “I have a hunch to do this, but it does not contribute to being the top seller this month, but it’s in front of me, so I’m going to do it”. Take actions that bring you joy in the moment and expect nothing but the literal result of the action to be the win. That integrity with the “now”, is incredibly magnetizing for what you want to find you. In contrast, when we are governed by the Fear of Failure and make everything we do mean that we are or are not going to meet our goal: in this case, be the Top Seller for the month, we are actually pushing away what we want because we are putting undue pressure on the big outcome and on every outcome. I would offer a story, but the adage: “A watched pot never boils” suffices. Free yourself from even the idea of Fear of Failure by doing whatever it takes to be in the “here and now”.
- Get into Integrity with Yourself: One of the guiding principles of my Worthiness Activation is that taking care of ourselves is an act that serves the greatest good of all concerned. What this means is that when we ask ourselves,”Does this feel right?”, “Do I really want this?”, “Do I feel good taking this action?” — these basic questions, we might be surprised by how often we are taking actions or putting ourselves in situations that do not serve us even though we think that being of service to others, letting others have their way, “Turning the other cheek”, is the better way. That line from the Bible, is often characterized as a misinterpretation, it is not about self-victimization, but rather about taking a different perspective: not, “Hurt me more”, but, this does not feel good, what would feel good. “Turning the other cheek” is an act of reorientation to the self, because ultimately we are all one. When we consider our needs and whether or not they are being met and take actions to have our needs met, we model healthy behavior for the people with whom we interact and those watching us to learn how to be. Choosing ourselves first, creates a world built on literal good feeling instead of good intentions — “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. This frees us from the Fear of Failure because it puts us out there: out of the group, out of the family, out of the cohort. It sets us apart. It puts us in the very situation that Fear of Failure means to keep us from ever being in, and when we find ourselves out there, we realize, “Oh my gosh, I am not dead…I’m just fine”. This doesn’t mean to walk around being a contrarian, but it is an invitation to actually help heal the world through your presence. When we free ourselves from the Fear of Failure by actually doing the thing that Fear of Failure means to keep from happening, Fear of Failure has no way to take hold of us.
- Get a pet: We don’t want to learn how to free ourselves from the Fear of Failure by practicing with children because they are highly sensitive and will immediately fall into our behavioral patterns, thus adopting the Fear of Failure with us. A pet, on the other hand, connects with us energetically and connects with the world’s energetic one-ness. Before worthiness set in for me, I was able to witness worthiness in my dog. I noticed that he never knew or cared whether or not I was a failure. He also reflected an intolerance for feeling bad. I could put his welfare ahead of my own, and I could see when he was uncomfortable, which meant: get out of this situation or environment. My dog enabled me to make really impactful moves in my life and taught me empathy, and taking care of my dog, did segue in to me taking care of myself. My dog’s welfare is a “no matter what” situation — when you have that “all or nothing attitude” about the well-being of another creature, you become willing to take that attitude with yourself and your integrity. Fear of Failure needs self-doubt, deference to the “experts”, outside validation to matter. Our pets don’t run on outside validation, and they remind us that we don’t need that either, they remind us that we are enough.
- Die before Dying Meditation: I have always been afraid of and drawn to the subject of death because of how deeply I love my life and the people and pets in it. It broke my heart how much I loved my friends and family and my dog, especially when I am in Queen Phase (one of the Four Menstrual Phases), when my emotions are introverted, my mental energy is active, my subconscious is almost at the surface, and my body is in this deeply feeling/joyful place. I found refuge and relief in reading Marcus Aurelius, the Stoics, and doing a variety of “Die before Dying” Meditations. When I feel myself at the precipice of a massive shift within or without, or when I find myself desperately needing something (“need” is a repulsive energy, so it can’t be held too long without causing problems) for myself or for someone else, I go to “Die before dying”. Sometimes I guide myself in the meditation or I grab a quick guided meditation from YouTube. Regardless of how I access it, the power and freedom is immense. Fear of Failure functions on the threat of ruin — socially, emotionally, financially, reputation-wise, etc. — as a means to control you, but if I am “dead”, what really matters? When I use the “Die before dying” meditation, what matters shows up and what doesn’t matter also shows up with a giant “This does not matter” sign accompanying it.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I take great heart from this quote, and it is the first time I’ve ever seen it. Wow, it makes me so so very happy! This beam of rosy light just shines through me and around me as I let it land within.
The truth of this quote pervades this article, my experiences, my life. The success is the the thing that is meant to be. I touched on something close to this earlier, but Aristotle, unsurprisingly, said it better!
He means that: We need failure on our way to success and “to succeed” is the way that works — the thing that shows up for our greatest good, the thing that moves us along our path and purpose.
Alexander Fleming, the scientist who failed his way in to discovering penicillin, would definitely count the discovery as the success of his life, even though he failed by going about the discovery that happened to happen to him in a really failing way (read he never set out to discover it!).
I hope you’re with me here. I can’t help but laugh! This is one of those quotes that can trap you in a closed loop of “because”…
This quote resonates so powerfully for me because it was my series of failures in Ballet, in Acting, in my businesses, that made my success with Sparrow Holistic and all of the knowledge and experience that I bring to it possible. The prior ventures informed me of the holistic body in ways that cannot be taught all in one program or scholastic journey at university.
Even my very tiny failure (because I never, in the least, attempted it) to become an Architect — my focus at university — had its “one way to succeed” in my ability to graphically design and layout my websites, and to be able to give attention to graphic details. Can I work as quickly and impactfully as a Graphic Designer? No, but it definitely helped me get my business on its feet in the early stages.
It was my failure to be able to drink like a normal person that brought me to my success in recovery and in a life that does not include drugs and alcohol, which also allows me to channel through and communicate with my body with more ease as keeping my vessel clear is much easier without having to manage these substances.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love this question because “the movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people” is my Mission. I believe that raising awareness of the power of Menstrual Alignment will get women out of physical pain and emotional pain (PMS), and because it requires Worthiness, more of us will speak up for ourselves and our needs.
This looks like reorganizing the workspace and home life according to one’s menstrual phase and batching the different tasks in these spheres also according to phase. This includes three days in solitude every 28-days for the body’s much needed restoration time, which allows the menstruator to have the massive energy they need to go full force (according to each phase) for the next cycle.
When we have women living without menstrual pain and living in worthiness they are no longer sacrificing themselves out of obligation or guilt, instead they are receiving equal pay because they value their time and energy and can’t give it away or accept 3/4 or 1/2 of every dollar that men earn. Men would no longer see the “concessions” being made in the work place as a “favor” in an effort toward equality. They will experience the brilliant ideations and impactful offerings delivered by women who are not adapting themselves to the workplace for a “seat at the table” or to try to break the “glass ceiling”, but who are living in their power, based on their life needs, doing their work.
We would no longer see articles about how to deal with PMS and how to deal with period pain because these issues would be eradicated. The body screams with pain, illness, cancer, because there is an imbalance, my mission begins with the period, but it is about listening, not to fix the symptom, but to hear yourself, pain and illness are how the body communicates that something is wrong. We women know how to listen, but we do not believe we have the right to heed the calls and to treat the screams, so we cope and override and power through and diminish ourselves from the inside until we have ground ourselves down to nothing but sickness. We all have to die and the body breaking down is certainly a possibility, but we do not have to kill little bits of ourselves each day in service to others.
If we are in pain, especially menstrual pain, there is a way out, there is an end. Doctors mean well, but they don’t have access to the KPIs of the Holistic Being, which is why it is up to us, to listen and take the actions we need.
When we start listening, and endow ourselves with the worthiness to be willing to take the called-for action, we will create a world of equity, not equality — we are not the same, but we are complementary. Yin and Yang need each other. Light and dark need each other. Somehow we have forgotten that, so my work is dedicated to pulling us in the other direction, in to embracing our Feminine-Energy Power (this has nothing to do with gender identity), so that we can bring the much-needed balance to our planet — to save it.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Clarissa Pinkola Estés because I was scared to go “full court press” on my discovery of the power of menstrual alignment and how it is just the beginning of our work, it’s not the “be all and end all”. I was afraid that this information that I had channeled and discerned, and first intuited but then followed up with research was impossibly wrong. Very similar to my Test-Prep work, I thought that I was too stupid to have struck gold, so I had to keep testing to make ensure that what I had discerned was right. Her book, Women Who Run with the Wolves indirectly confirmed my findings. Also, her willingness to stand up and speak out and to express that the woman is a sacred and different creature at a time when women were being pressured to be everything to everyone or to choose career over home, no “and” matters to me because I expect that there will be some blow back around my position. Lastly, I am struck by how beautifully and gracefully she aged. When women ask me why Menstrual Alignment matters, sometimes I just tell them to google Clarissa Pinkola Estés and to look at her pictures of how she looks today. She is stunning, she shines because she lives in alignment with herself. How do we find that alignment? It’s a blueprint that we are born with — our menstrual alignment. I don’t know that I could really say anything if I met her; her presence, would be a joy to behold.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Through my website: sparrowholistic.com where you can also access my Membership Program: https://sparrowholistic.com/membership/
On Facebook: facebook.com/sparrowCQ
On Instagram: instagram.com/sparrowthrive
On TikTok: TikTok.com/sparrowthrive
On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christinequigless/
By email: [email protected]
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.