October 6, 2021
Do you believe that failure is an event or one that has failed?
Do you believe that you are a failure? You are not! You may have failed at something and felt the shame and embarrassment of that event, but you are not a failure. That is really the crux of it all isn’t it… shame and embarrassment.
I wasn’t there for my mom, when she needed me, and she fell, laying on the floor for three hours until she was found and helped by my uncle. The phrase “when she needed me” goes straight to the heart and the mind starts racing with all these thoughts. The “I shoulda.” “It would not have happened,” “I coulda.”
After this incident with my mom, I beat myself up for a long time (years, actually). The reality is that I was not supposed to be there that day. But in my mind, if she needed me for anything then I was supposed to be there. It did not have to be logical; this was my mama and I love her dearly and will do anything and everything that I can to help her.
What comes to mind for you when you think about a fear of failure? Now, go back and think about it logically and realistically. Was it an accident? Was it something that you did or did not do? Don’t even go to the “I should have predicted” place. Do you realize that it was an event and not you?
Go back and replay it in your mind and if you can make changes for the future, then go ahead and make changes.
Have you wondered what causes fear of failure? It is usually your own thoughts and feelings.
- You worry about what other people will think of you
- You worry that some people may not like you anymore
- You worry that you are not smart enough or capable enough
- You worry that you will never reach your goals
- You worry about disappointing people whose opinion matter to you
- You procrastinate
- You are reluctant to try new things
- Your perfectionistic tendencies arise
- You will be embarrassed
- You will be humiliated
- You feel shame
All of these things come up when we have a fear of failure. We never ever want to feel shame, embarrassment or humiliation. We are our own worst critics. We catastrophize.
Failing means we are trying to do better. To get better. To be better. Yes, we will mess up sometimes, but we are moving forward and trying again. We learn what did work and what did not work. Failure is a chance to learn.
- We learn that baseball players that bat 0.300 are stars. That means that seven out of ten times they strike out.
- Albert Einstein did not start reading until he was seven.
- Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected 27 times.
- Vincent Van Goh only sold one painting in his lifetime.
- Katy Perry’s first album sold 200 copies.
- Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job for being unfit for television.
- Vera Wang failed to make the 1968 Olympic figure skating team.
- Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was, “too stupid to learn anything.”
- Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.
All of these people, and many more, kept trying. They kept learning. They kept moving forward.
“Fear of failure is the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reaction to the negative consequences you anticipate for failing to achieve a goal. It is the intense worry, the negative thinking and the reluctance to take action you experience when you imagine all the horrible things that could happen if you failed to achieve a goal.” Theo Tsaousides, PhD.
There are things you can do if you have a fear of failure.
- Acknowledge that fear of failure makes you feel fear and shame. Explore those feelings, if it is safe to do so. What are those feelings trying to tell you? Remember, all feelings are trying to keep us safe. Is it your 5-year-old self that is trying to be in charge?
- Anxiety is not all bad. We need some anxiety to get us excited, or to move forward and to be aware of danger.
- Prepare, practice, learn new things
- Identify what you can control and focus on that
- Learn how to relax, take a break and recharge
- Go through the possible outcomes…all the way through
- Learn to think more positively. We are hard wired to go to negative consequences.
- Worst-case-scenario – it may really be a disaster and it may be a reason to fear failure…just know that this is a rare occurrence.
- What are two small goals that you can set and do, right now?
- Have a contingency plan, in case Plan A, B, or even C does not work out.
What negative self-talk do we say to ourselves when we mess up?
- I have let my loved one down.
- I have failed and now I am stuck.
- I have failed and so I must not have what it takes to succeed.
- I can’t learn new ways or new things.
- I have royally screwed up and now everyone knows about it. I am so embarrassed.
Stop it! All you have to acknowledge is that you messed up and what you will do to fix it…if it can be fixed. Do better next time.
Maybe the shame and embarrassment is causing the fear of failure. We like to learn and try new things. We do love our spouse and families. Remember when your kids began to learn how to play sports? Take T-ball, for example. They are 5 years old. They have the uniform, the glove, the cleats, the hat and yet, they still cannot run to first base without being told where to run. They are in the outfield and they are looking up at the plane flying by or the train that is passing through. Don’t forget about the butterfly that just lit on the grass and now the whole outfield is over there squatting down and watching it. Fast forward 4 years and now they are 9 years old and in Little League. It is all serious now. The hits, the strikeouts, the runs, the wins and the losses.
What happened during those 4 years? They got older, they grew and they practiced. They learned. They are still learning. They are perfecting their swing and their ability to see the ball as it is pitched. They are learning to get that glove on the ground and squeeze that ball in the glove. They are getting better at knowing where to throw the ball. By the time they are 12 years old, they have the basics mastered and now those functions are muscle memory. They have to put in the time, they have to be coachable, they have to be willing to learn new ways and new things.
The same thing happens to us as adults. We learn, we grow, we mess up and we learn some more. I have had folks that were very good at their jobs try to be a care giver. They have even said, “I can manage my company” or “I can do this and that.” But, I cannot understand why I cannot manage my mom’s needs. I smile and nod. It just so happens that this medical stuff is not your area of expertise. The other things at your job you can do in your sleep, but not this. There is a huge learning curve. That is why I do what I do, to help families like yours.
I know what it feels like to have your pride hurt. I know what it feels like when your ego gets bruised and beat up. I know what it feels like to feel shame and embarrassment. It sucks! It is hard to learn some lessons. It is hard to realize that you are causing your own suffering by believing the untrue negative self-talk. It is hard to move forward when you keep beating yourself up. It is in the past and all we can do is to move forward and be better than we were yesterday.
I found this paragraph on shame and want to share it with you.
“Shame is a psychologically toxic emotion because instead of feeling bad about our actions (guilt) or our efforts (regret), shame makes us feel bad who we are. Shame gets to the core of our egos, our identities, our self-esteem, and our feelings of emotional well-being. The damaging nature of shame makes it urgent for those who have a fear of failure to avoid the psychological threats associated with failing by finding unconscious ways to mitigate the implications of a potential failure—for example, by buying unnecessary new clothes for a job interview instead of reading up on the company—which allows them to use the excuse, “I just didn’t have time to fully prepare.” “Guy Winch PhD
You will not fail, you cannot fail. It is too important to you. Keep adjusting. Keep trying. Seek help when you need help. Are you smart enough to know when you don’t know?
Things that make you go, hmmm.