Joanna Gaines admits to fearing failure in new essay for Magnolia Journal

The former HGTV star shares a relatable fear with readers.
Joanna and Chip Gaines' summer magazine
Joanna Gaines appears on the cover of their quarterly magazine wearing a bright red dress and a wide smile.Courtesy Magnolia Journal

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By Chrissy Callahan

Joanna Gaines is known for her masterful interior design skills now, but before becoming a "Fixer Upper" star, she wasn't always so confident in her own abilities.

When Gaines first started flipping houses in Waco, Texas, with husband Chip, she played things safe and soon found herself painting every home with the same interior, semigloss shade of green.

"At the time, choosing the right paint colors seemed to be the scariest decision of an entire renovation. So, of course, I wanted to play it safe," Gaines wrote in an essay for the summer issue of the couple's magazine, Magnolia Journal.

In the essay titled "Free to Evolve," the mother of five admits she was so afraid of "messing up" that she let didn't take a chance on her own skills in those early days.

"I feared failure in general, but this hit on something deeper and more personal. There was this continual, underlying dread that any one of these decisions that I was trying to pull out of thin air could be the one that proved once and for all that I was no good at this work," the former HGTV star wrote.

When the designing couple started flipping houses they actually lived in, Gaines got fresh perspective that fueled her creative juices.

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"Each home began to feel like a blank canvas where I wanted to create something specific to that place and time. Within the safety of those walls, I felt free to try different design elements to see what was a good fit for our family. It was an education by trial and error, and it was during this time that I really fell in love with the process of design," Gaines wrote.

Gaines poses in a field for the summer issue of the magazine.Magnolia Journal

Soon, Gaines began to focus more on having fun than chasing perfection, and she honed the signature farmhouse style she's now known for. Even so, the 41-year-old decided she'd continue to push herself and evolve her abilities on a regular basis.

"More than keeping to any specific aesthetic, our homes should evolve — just as our families do. As long as I’m on this earth, I want to continue to grow and risk both personally and creatively. But growth by its very nature requires change; I don’t get to have one without the other. These two things are wisely and intricately woven together," Gaines wrote.

Gaines' other half, Chip, also discusses his own views on the term "failure" in an essay titled "A Glorious Failure." The 44-year-old details the experience of running his first marathon, the Silo District Marathon, last month and shares the fears that plagued him while training.

"I had no plan, no hunch for how this would all play out. I mean, realistically, I hadn’t worked out in about a decade, and I was easily 20 pounds overweight. That’s really not the ideal starting place for a budding marathoner," he wrote.

Although his training got off to a great start, Gaines experienced a serious setback when his doctor diagnosed him with tendonitis in the ankle.

"This injury shook my confidence," he wrote. "I think to a lot of people around me at the time, failure seemed inevitable. At times I wondered the same thing — if maybe I’d set myself up to completely bomb."

Ultimately, the former HGTV star decided to give it his all, even if it took him a little longer to complete the race.

"See, failure was every bit a part of the journey. Without each wave of fatigue or defeat that washed over me, I don’t believe I would have had the opportunity to rise stronger than I thought possible," he wrote.

And for the novice runner, true success was in the journey.

“'Glory' for me has always been found on the way to the finish line. On this day, it was certainly slow and drawn out. And in every step of every mile. Even when it felt like failure at times, on this day, on this particular run, it was all just really glorious," he wrote.

Want to read Joanna and Chip's essays in full? Pick up the summer issue of Magnolia Journal now.