Fear has becomes such a buzz word, I think we no longer understand where it resides in our own lives. Our auto-pilot is engaged and we may not even recognize when fear steps in to drive. But unless we’ve done tremendous amounts of self-work, it’s definitely in us, sometimes making our choices or causing depression or a creating a number of other dysfunctional outcomes. Fear blankets our vision, it knows everything we know and so we aren’t always aware it’s always ready to intervene on our behalf.

My Fear of Failure on Shalavee.com

I am someone who embraces self-knowledge (obviously) and yet, until someone describes specific behavior to me that is fear-based, I’d never know that it’s my ghost driver. In a recent online class I took, the instructor/coach Rhonda Britten describes all the symptoms of fear of failure. And I thought I’d share the ones that struck truest for me.

Present Symptoms/untruths of my Fear of Failure include :

  1. A reluctance to try new things.
  2. I absolutely figure out ways to distract myself and not follow through with my goals, sometimes using my children as an excuse.
  3. I definitely say “I’ll never be able to”do such and such.
  4. I believe that success determines my value and my worth is based on my accomplishments.
  5. I choose to get distracted by busy work to avoid the work that I need to do to move forward.

Former Symptoms I exhibited but have found my way away from include:

  1. I used to outright procrastinate but not so much these days.
  2. I don’t have deep of anxiety spells where I feel like I was falling down a hole inside myself.
  3. I mostly let go of my perfectionism at 50 but I used to get wound up over getting things “right”, although by whose standards I’ll never know.
  4. I am caring less and less what people think as I figure out that sometimes the effort is more than half of how impressive you are.

The tricky thing that fear does is that it makes you think there’s something wrong with you. You feel you can’t control the outcome you think you should have. No you aren’t in control because you are giving all the perspective and senses over to the fear brain which makes no sense whatsoever. Truthfully, you are no more incapable than so many other people. Your pre-written stories of imminent failure are just stories to keep you “safe” from failing which somehow will be your demise. Except that everything we do we’ve failed at before we’ve succeeded. Failure is a necessity.

But what really got my attention is this fact:

Fear of failure harbors the fantasy that somehow there is a formula for guaranteed success.

There are a lot of online thought leaders who are selling the perfect ways to do everything. To start a business online, to brand yourself, to build community, and to publish that great American novel. And the hook is that perfect formula. If you were just savvy enough or skinny enough or had enough friends, you would be a “success”. They pray on your fear with this fallacy.

Seems what we really need is practice at failing. And a whole heaping lot of love for ourselves and everyone in the world who has fear guiding their choices. Everywhere you see people not acting right, it’s usually fear that is to blame. And when we panic or become depressed, number one thing we need is our own self-compassion. To recognize ourselves as humans who sometimes fail. Heap some loving kindness on those perceived wounds and go right back in and prove that we certainly can do that which we have yet to figure out how to do. We only need to start.

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  1. It does seem that getting older eats away at that perfectionist bullshit but it does occasionally jump in. However, the older I get, the easier it is to accept “the best I can do at this point in my life.”

    • I have felt the dwindling of my give a shit over the past years. This was a quote I came across recently that got me. “20 things that women should stop wearing after becoming a mom or turning 30. #1 – 20 : The weight of other people’s expectations and judgments.”

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