My Greatest Fear


“I have a dream. I will be famous. I will sing or I will die trying.”
“You may never be famous. Most people don’t make it.”
“You’re not listening to me. I will make it or I will die trying.”

The dreams of a 17 year old girl. The determination you can’t argue with, the determination you can’t deny.

So what happened? Where did that 17 year old go? This time, this time I’ll tell you the truth.

I had a plan. I knew how many people make it in singing so I knew I’d need to find another way. I was going to start out in modelling, get connections, transition to acting if I needed to, but hopefully through modelling I would meet the right people and make it into singing. All I needed to do was sing in front of the right person.

I could take a turn at this point and tell you my boyfriend influenced me. Tell you he was controlling, abusive, and told me I wasn’t allowed to model because it was “too sexual” and “my wife is not to be seen by others in a sexual way” – note there the use of “my wife” even though we weren’t married. And all of that would be true. But I don’t think that’s really it.

I could tell you a doctor’s appointment one day told me I had PCOS and would possibly have trouble having children if I didn’t have them young, and it changed my priorities. And that would be true too. But that isn’t it either.

The truth is: I was afraid.

I had an opportunity. In my parents house my brother hosted a jam. He was a great guitar player. There were people there, MGF, Angela Bishop, people who knew people. And I didn’t take the mic. Not until later in the evening. Not until everyone was drunk. Then I took the mic, and Angela Bishop smiled at me, nodded, and said “Not bad”.

I could have sung earlier. I could have taken the opportunity. I didn’t.

I had a modelling portfolio done, I called all the agencies to find out when I needed to be there and what I needed to do to audition for them. I never went.

It’s the same reason I never played any sport, never rode a bike, never pursued anything I really cared about (except in love, where all logic left me for reasons I never quite understood).


What if I actually wasn’t any good? What if I ended up on the Australian Idol blooper reel? (I auditioned for Australian Idol, I didn’t). What if people had been humouring me and I actually can’t sing?

The fear of failure.

What if I didn’t make it? What if people said no? What if I was turned away, turned down, time after time after time and ended up working as a waitress in a bar at 38, a washed up shoulda-coulda-woulda.

The fear that if you can’t do something perfectly the first time, you’ll never be able to do it. The fear that something bad will happen if you fail. The fear that you might get hurt, laughed at, humiliated, something.

The fear that if you do something you care about, it can be taken away from you.

The fear I’d be struggling for the rest of my life.

I’ve lived my whole life in fear, waiting for life to hand me things on a silver platter. And now I’m confronted with the greatest fear I’ve ever faced – the decision of whether or not to have children. And the new fear – what if I’m not a good mother? Maybe it’s safer not to try.

For the greatest fear is fear itself.

What are you afraid of? What’s your greatest fear? Were you afraid of becoming a mother?


  • Gaz

    It’s sad someone so possessive and controlling hampered your dreams.
    It reminds me that in Sunday school as a 9 year old I was told to mouth and not sing because I hurt the ears of others.
    Be who you want to be. Listen to what others say, but be who you want to be.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I don’t think he really did, not really. He was an excuse. I hampered my own dreams.

  • iamevilcupcake

    I also have a fear of failure. Massive super all consuming fear. I completely lose my shit if I fail I’ve broken down before because I couldn’t peel boiled eggs properly and knew I would get judged by my husband (and I did).

    Things like that and the feeling of being judged by my mum has made me almost lazy. I could have done so many awesome things with my life, and now at the ripe old age of 36, I’ve finally thought fuck it, I’m going to do what I want!

    But it’s soooooo incredibly difficult to get out of the “I’m a failure” mindset. Really hard. You go all gung-ho and it’s awesome and then a little niggling doubt appears.

    You and I should start a girl group T. As long as our first single is the Duck Tales theme. And we call ourselves something super nerdy.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I’ve had a breakdown because I can’t slice bread in a straight line. No one even judged me on it.

  • melinka

    It saddens me a bit to read that T. You’re in a loving relationship, you have employment … if you & your husband want kids, all they need is a lot of love & stability. I don’t think you’d have any trouble providing that. There’s more than 1 road to what you believe you want – at 38, I’m not a roaring success either but I hope that I would do is still of some value. It’s better than not trying at all.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I have another post in the pipeline that may shed a little more light on the reasons why. I’m just working up the courage to run it.

  • John James

    I think working on the Olympics for 3 years cured my fear of failure… because failure wasn’t an option… there were times when I felt completely overwhelmed with everything I was responsible for, but I just kept going because I had to keep going… and then the Olympics came and I had nothing to do… because everything I was worried about was working according to plan – I had done it…

    I’ve never felt scared by anything ever since… there’s stuff I still don’t like doing, like public speaking, but it doesn’t scare me anymore…

    T – one thing I will say to you – if you love to sing, just sing. You don’t have to be a professional singer, you don’t need to audition for the voice… just sing because you like to and want to. If you want an audience, sing for your friends, or upload songs to YouTube… sing to your cats! Just SING! :)

    • Tamsin Howse

      Oh I already sing to my cats! That’s why Bella’s name is Isobel – when she was born she’d purr when I sung her Isobel by Dido (Dear Isobel, I hope you’re well…)

    • Catherine RodieBlagg


      T – you could join a choir or similar. I can’t sing to save my life but I joined a gospel choir (this was 6 years ago back in London) and loved it! I sang my heart out – the high was amazing. I’m planning on doing the same thing here when the girls are older.

  • Catherine RodieBlagg

    I was lucky to have the mantra ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ instilled from a young age. I’ve been crazy scared of doing different things but force myself to do them anyway.

    Fears around motherhood are a whole different thing though – being responsible for another human being is a pretty daunting prospect – but really, all you need to do is love them. If you want to talk about it more I’m totally here for you. Personally, I think you will be a wonderful mother.

    • Tamsin Howse

      You are lucky!

      Thank you for the vote of confidence :)

  • Monique Fischle

    That was so honest, beautiful and heartbreaking T. I grew up wanting to be an actress but I was terrified of failing, of saying the wrong lines, of never getting anywhere and the anxiety got me to the point where my nerves would no longer allow that.

    Fear is awful and it consumes us all. There are so many fears that I have but I don’t think I have the courage to say them out loud in case they come true.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I have found saying them out loud takes the power out of them. Even if it’s just to yourself.

  • Tash Hughes

    That’s a very brave post, T. Use that bravery and you will truly accomplish anything you set your mind to!

    • Tamsin Howse

      Thanks Tash :)

  • katesaysstuff

    Oh yes. My only regrets are for things not done. And those things have always, at the very core, been left undone due to fear. I wish I could shake my 20yo self and say be brave. I wish I had even a third of the self understanding and confidence then that I have finally found in my thirties.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I have a few regrets about things I did do as well, but overall I accept it as it led me here. But I’m with you. I wish I could go back to 15 year old me and say “Start now! You have your dream, just do it!”

  • Melissa Savage

    Oh this hits close to home. I’m not a singer but an actress, and I never took those steps probably because I was too scared and it was too hard, and now it really is too hard :(

    • Tamsin Howse

      I know what you mean. Now I kind of look back and say “Oh crap, I should have just tried, shouldn’t i?”

  • Jessica Chapman

    This really resonated with me, thanks for sharing. You see I’m afraid too. I have this horrible fear that I won’t make it as a writer, I’ll never finish a book or I will and no one will want to publish it. I’m afraid because I don’t have a normal job, I have no savings and live with my parents. What if I’m still living with them and still have no career at 30, at 40? The thought freaks me out.

    I often wish that I wanted to be a dentist or a teacher, or something where you did a degree and then started work, but I don’t, I want to be a writer and that probably means I’ll have to vaguely avoid answering questions because people are supposed to have started work by 25. But I don’t want to be a dentist, I want to write, and I have to confront the fear that no one will think my writing will be worth publishing every day. But there’s another fear, the fear that I’ll wake up one day in my socially acceptable job and wish that I had tried harder. That all the money and the security wouldn’t be worth it. That’s the feat that keeps me writing.

    However, I hope my order for a set of thicker skin comes before I start trying to get my book published. Because I know I’m going to be rejected a lot, and I know I’m going to have to keep trying.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I admire you


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  • maree Talidu

    I hear you loud and clear. XX

  • louisebassett

    My greatest fear was not measuring up as a mother. Failing as a mother. This was before I had my child. Through my twenties I told myself that it was irresponsible to have children as I was unable to guarantee their future. I was also fearful of choosing the wrong father (how you safeguard your choice – I don’t know). It wasn’t until I met my partner that my thinking started to change. He already had children. I could see his parenting – in plain view. This changed my mind totally about the whole issue.

    I still have fears about my success as a mother. Every day. It’s a terrifying ride.
    It is the best thing I have ever done.

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