Is fear of failure holding you back in your life?
During the first 2.5 decades of my life I haven’t really experienced big crippling failures, at least not ones I can recall. However, this wasn't because I was good at everything. It was because I only took action when my results were predictable, aka I was positive I’d succeed.
Back then I didn’t really have the awareness that that was going on, I actually thought it was sensible - I mean why would I put myself in a vulnerable position in the first place?
Looking back I can see how whenever I sensed the possibility of failure, I either over-prepared or avoided. And how much opportunities, joy and growth it has stolen from me.
Why was failure so excruciating for me?
I was the child who always came home with good grades. My parents (with the best of their intentions) praised me for being smart. And as much as it may sound counter intuitive, being valued for your intelligence as a child can actually make you grow up feeling really insecure.
You see, my self-worth depended on marks and achievements. I wasn't equipped to deal with the shame and self-criticism that would come up should I not meet my expectations.
This was, as you can probably imagine, paralysing. I was in a constant state of overthinking, overanalysing, seeking approval and validation, and second guessing myself. A disordered relationship with food and exercise was my coping mechanism; which quickly became my rock bottom. And like what often happens with rock bottoms -- it was my turning point...
To heal my relationship with food and my body, I had to heal my relationship with myself. On this healing journey I learned to heal myself from those chronic thought patterns. I discovered yoga, meditation, mindfulness, Buddhism, and how to be kind to myself. And ultimately learned how to take risks, grow, and achieve from a place of love rather than fear (skills I honed and still continue to hone).
I learned how to listen to my intuitive wisdom, instead of my fear instincts. I learned how to trust myself.
No one likes to experience failure, it’s perhaps one of the most uncomfortable experiences. But for some of us it can be really paralysing (whether we're aware of it or not) and that’s when it really robs us of happiness, connection, and opportunity.
Perceived failure is met with intense self-criticism and stressful emotions, all so we stay within our comfort zones and only act when we're absolutely 100% certain we will succeed.
Yet taking risks is how we grow, learn, develop, and create new opportunities for ourselves.
So we block ourselves from experiencing success in our careers, relationships and personal goals (not signing up for that course, not asking for the pay raise, not launching that new career, not searching for a new job, not dating again, not joining a running club, not starting that blog you've been talking about for ages... I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture here)
Here are some of the ways we might be sabotaging ourselves:
We procrastinate and postpone so we can stay in the realm of potential, where failure doesn't exist
We waste precious time because we hyper focus on unimportant details
We overthink and overanalyse, we make long pros and cons lists
We avoid putting ourselves out there, whether it’s socialising, going on dates, presenting or public speaking (thus never giving ourselves the opportunity to improve)
We struggle receiving negative feedback (because we make it mean something about our worth)
We don’t admit errors, deficits or shortcomings (which means we never really get to learn from our mistakes)
We avoid taking risks because there's potential for failure
We micromanage others because of our need for certainty and control
We avoid trying or learning new things because we can't promise success
We feel like we're on an 'emotional roller coaster' - when we do well, we feel great, but when we don’t, we feel unworthy
We're unable to have unstructured alone time, because we believe we should constantly be 'doing’
We overcommit and fill up our calendar so we always have a good reason behind not taking the steps
So what do we do about it? How do we manage it better? We give ourselves permission to be flawed, to be human, to be imperfect. We recognise that the mean voices that tell us that we aren’t good enough or tell us not to do something for the fear of failure, are just old protective mechanisms that need updating. We create space to connect with ourselves and nourish ourselves (outside of work, family, relationships, obligations). We learn to relate to ourselves using love rather than fear. We reframe the way we see failure, from something means we are worthless to evidence that we had the courage to step outside our comfort zone. To own and stand for our truest desires. We recognise that self worth is inherent and learn to associate it with internal factors, such as -- values, meaning and connection, rather than milestones, outcomes and achievements. We learn how to surrender to discomfort and find adventure in uncertainty. We learn how to listen to our intuition and be comfortable with failure.
If you want to experience a more trusting and intuitive relationship with yourself, if you want to stop holding yourself back from fully expressing yourself in your life and if you want to cultivate deep inner confidence, I'd strongly encourage you to check out my coaching programs - these are the transformations my clients experience when they invest in themselves and commit to 'do the work'.