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Fear of failure: a driving force, or one that hinders?

Fear of failure: a driving force, or one that hinders?

Fear of failure: a driving force, or one that hinders?

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‘We have a saying in Greek: To dis examartein ouk andros sophou, to commit the same sin twice is not a sign of a wise man.’

So says Damian to Oriel in my book Aphrodite’s Tears. Both the hero and the heroine of my novel have been shaped by what they perceive as past mistakes, but in different ways.

Damian met Oriel years ago and fell for her, but lost her. Then they are reunited, because Oriel takes an archaeologist job on the Greek island of Helios, of which Damian is leader. Oriel does not realise her new employer will be the man with whom she once shared a heady night of passion, but Damian knows well that the new member of his underwater wreck exploration team is Oriel; that is why he has chosen her from the list of applicants.

From the moment Oriel arrives on the island, Damian is determined to win her over. He tells her: ‘I won’t commit the same mistake of letting you go without giving myself enough time to win you first. I’ve made mistakes with you that I have no intention of repeating.’

Damian only knew Oriel for a night all those years ago, but that was enough for him to know she was the woman for him. He has never forgotten her, and now he feels that fate has granted him a second chance, which he must take. He knows that losing Oriel the first time was a mistake, and he does not want to make the same mistake again: he wants to be the wise man.

Oriel has a different reaction to her perceived mistakes. The night that Damian met her, on a deserted beach, she was deeply wounded, because she had just discovered that her fiancé, Rob, and her best friend, Alicia, had had an affair and were expecting a child together. Her relationship was over, her dreams in tatters. Loving and trusting Rob was a mistake. Then along came Damian, striding out of the ocean like Poseidon himself, and she lost herself in him, in passion that forced out, for a little while, all the pain and fury. But come the morning, she awoke alone. Damian had left her, just as Rob had.

‘In one night,’ I write, ‘she’d been forced to grow up, her whole philosophy in life coloured by a determination never to be hurt again… She would never let any other man abandon her again.’

In fact, Damian had not abandoned, shunned, Oriel as she thought. As she slept, he had found a photograph lying on the beach of Oriel and Rob, on the back of which was written ‘Night of Rob’s proposal’. He had realised Oriel was engaged, and walked away, thinking she had used him.

Still, Damian has thought of Oriel over the years, and when he discovers she is unattached, he knows he must not fail to win her over again. But Oriel… she has not risen to the challenge of taking action to avoid a second mistake; instead, her fear of failure, of pain, has hindered her. She sees herself now, at twenty-eight and coming to work on Helios, as older and wiser than the young woman who had been hurt all those years ago. Her night with Damian was a mistake, she has decided, and she will not repeat that mistake with him.

But as Goethe wrote, ‘By seeking and blundering we learn.’ Damian has learned from his mistake, and if she is to have any chance of happiness, of togetherness, then Oriel must learn too. Rather than closing herself off in reaction to the mistake (essentially punishing herself), she must accept the mistake, embrace it. Know that life is all about the seeking and blundering, the learning. Perhaps letting Damian into her heart will be a mistake…

Or perhaps it will be the best, the wisest, the most defining and beautiful thing Oriel has ever done.

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