Fear of Public Failure

I’ve been weird. Undependable.

In recent years, I’ve realized that I’ve been driven through many things in life by my fear of criticism. 

I didn’t think of myself as being worried about criticism because I was weird. I had weird interests, a weird career, weird social behaviors, weird ways of living, weird friends. I didn’t want to be normal or boring. It seemed to me if I was so weird, I must be impervious to criticism. I must be brave. I must not GAF about the judgement of others.

While many people try to avoid criticism by complying with society and or being high achievers, my strategy ( kinda unbeknownst to me ) was to be confusing. If other people didn’t know my goals, they couldn’t tell if I was succeeding. If I wasn’t trying to do what others were doing, they couldn’t compare myself to them. If was doing stuff that other people hadn’t heard of before, they couldn’t tell me I was doing it wrong. I didn’t play the sports my dad was interested in. I studied magic instead of getting good grades. I flipped a pancake.

The good of this is drive to avoid criticism is I created a lot. I explored a lot. I learned a lot. I built a career and a personality on it that gave joy to a lot of people. I made entertainment that was very much about being bulletproof in society. I motivated and inspired people who felt weird but didn’t know if they were safe to express it. I became a vicarious avatar for people — even if just for a few minutes on stage.

The bad side of this drive is that rebellion is not the opposite of compliance. If I was a rebel, I didn’t have a chance to go with the flow when it would be helpful to me. A die-hard rebel is just as controlled by the status quo as a total sheep – we must rebel no matter what. I was constantly reinventing the wheel. I was constantly swimming upstream. I pursued confusion in my relationships. 


When I felt that I was facing criticism in my life I would get very defensive and defensive actions are not good for people around me. It prevented me from listening to others and responding with my highest intention. When people looked to me and wanted to depend on me, I wasn’t there to do it. That wasn’t who I was.

In my career, I was impacted by not trying to outwardly build a fanbase (because that success could be measured by others) or trying to be financially successful (because that would have been another clear metric of my failure). It held me back a lot.

As I’ve realized that this criticism-avoidance was a major power in my life, I started to change. I started to listen to people and realize that most of the stuff they say is not criticism. I started to see how much I judged others and saw the world thru a lens of everyone being non-stop judgmental. I started trying to determine what I actually wanted in life – not just what I wanted to fight against.

I started being more of who I wanted to be in relationships. I started taking on more responsibility and standing behind that responsibility. Then, I started seeing what I could do with responsibility! If I took responsibility for entertaining an audience, I could take them to another level. I could say, I’m going to be your leader. I’m going to guide you through a good time. Then, I could deliver on that.

Now, I’m taking responsibility for earning a living for my family. I’m taking responsibility to deliver to the performers who hire me to make websites for them. I’m not flaking. I’m not making it weird. I’m not defensive. 

I’m still a recovering rebel. I’m not quitting being weird, but I wanna do it when I wanna do it. I’m still getting better at aligning with my intention. Being a husband and father has escalated my fear of public failure and my drive to be more responsible at the same time. I am not driven by the fear 24/7 anymore. I’m driven by love and generosity. 

It’s not that I’m a totally transformed man, but it is an exciting new chapter in my life. I’m okay with being seen as a failure sometimes. I’m okay with being seen as normal sometimes. I’m way better than okay with my life. Life is so good!

Here I am, publicly stating that if you are in my life, I will try to stick to my commitments to you and give to you from my heart. I prefer if you don’t criticize me when I fail, but I’d rather fail at that than succeed at pushing away responsibility.

Written for folks who want to attract and energize groups

Scot Nery is an emcee who has helped some of the biggest companies in the world achieve entertainment success. He's on an infinite misson to figure out what draws people in and engages them with powerful moments.

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