Fear of Failure...

There is currently a commercial ad for an insurance agency that asks, “What’s holding you back?”.   The implication being that nothing should ‘hold you back’ from changing insurance companies and enjoying the savings/coverage that their company offers.  A good marketing campaign – I can even hear the announcer’s baritone voice booming in my ear, “What’s holding you back?”.

Independent of the insurance commercial, I have found myself pondering the question of “What’s holding me back?”  What IS holding me back from living the life that I envision?

After much contemplation I keep coming back to a simple answer…fear of failure.

My avoidance of failure currently exceeds my motivation to succeed… and that realization, for me, is a bitter pill to swallow.

You may be able to relate.

As I see it, a few causes of fear of failure are: patterned behavior, perfectionism, our egos and a lack of self confidence.

Some of us carry patterns from childhood into our adult lives.  Patterns that were established because we dealt with hyper-critical adults.  A mind-set, a pattern, was created because of the fear of letting others down – of being a disappointment.  As children we felt the need to constantly ask for permission as well as reassurance.  We bring a lack of self-confidence with us into adulthood. 

Not attempting a new project, job, life path because the fear of “not getting it right” or “perfect” stops us before we even begin. (This resonates with me personally)

Our egos get involved… we won’t even try because of the fear of failure.  Sub-consciously (or our other than conscious state – our “protector”) has us convinced that we are better off exactly where we are…that failure would be terrible and humiliating – so why try?

Our fragile self-confidence has us avoiding risks…frozen in place, in a life that is not fulfilling.

We should be able to view outcomes objectively, without over-identifying, without making the result a personal testament to who we are.   Failure is not who we are!  When viewed objectively, failure is just the outcome of what hasn’t worked out exactly how we expected.

How do we begin to move beyond our fear of failure and into the realm of possibility?

I believe the first step is being able to recognize patterns of behavior that are holding us back from the success that we so richly deserve.

Some patterns have been brought with us from childhood and adolescence.  Patterns of behavior that benefited us at one point in our lives, but no longer work towards helping us obtain success in adulthood. 

Maybe we are the ‘fixer’ for family and friends.   Continuously doing for others in order to receive recognition and accolades... all the while judging those we are helping for being unable to ‘do for themselves’… and avoiding our own lives in the process. 

Maybe we were defined early on as helpless or hapless, always needing to be tended to, growing into adulthood and still leaning heavily on family and friends for almost everything…thus avoiding the pitfalls and failures associated with ‘growing up’.

These patterns we carry with us…”I was the weak one”, “I was the protector”, “I was the problem solver” are patterns that define us only to the extent that we allow them.  

There are also behavior patterns that we have learned as adults, ways to cope  (like avoidance or addiction) with daily trials and tribulations.  Patterns that on the surface serve us – but are really holding us back from experiencing all the good that life holds for us.

The second step is to clearly define what success looks like in whatever endeavor we wish to undertake.  (We must learn not to have an all or nothing attitude – that attitude can leave you with nothing).  Being able to judge what success looks like objectively is key.

The next step would be to do our utmost to have a positive attitude.

Your internal dialogue truly does affect how you react and behave – impacting your success and failure.

Notice your negative self-talk and identify triggers that have you filling with doubt about your capabilities.  Replace less than positive thoughts with honest facts about yourself and the situation.  Remember your inner voice has a great effect on what you do.

By acknowledging that uncertainty and fear of the unknown is terrifying we take the ‘sting’ out of our fear of failure.  Take the time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision/endeavor - this will prepare you mentally for what could happen.  Weighing the pros and cons, imagining potential successes and failures may help you get unstuck.

Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

Stay positive and learn from whatever happens.  Failures can be sources of education and inspiration…just keep everything in the proper perspective.

In the end, it is not the failures that fill us with regret, it is the choices we made to not even try.

Make the choice to try… you deserve success!

May God Bless Your Journey -

Natalie