I have never been competitive. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have never been competitive with others but I have always been very competitive with myself.
What exactly does that mean?
I truly believe that I was never meant to copy someone else or mimic their style. Instead, I was meant to run my own race. I think to be genuine and authentic... and happy - even with my "faults" or "less-than-perfect" parts - I have always just had to be "ME". There will always be someone better than me... a better dancer, better singer, stronger, prettier, smarter, thinner... so being competitive with others would not get me anywhere.
Being competitive with myself helps me become better than I was before... it helps me identify and correct my dislikes, and keeps me genuine. Most importantly, it has helped me conquer my fear of failure.
Let me ask you two personal questions…
(1) Have you ever been so afraid of failing at something that you decided not to try at all?
(2) Has a fear of failure meant that, subconsciously, you undermined your own efforts to avoid the possibility of a larger failure?
If you answered “yes” to one or both of those questions then you know how immobilizing the fear can be. In one of my neuropsychology classes, the professor stated that “the human mind can typically only handle being given 3 choices. If it receives more options it tends to shut down and choose none”.
Therefore, since life (especially after the internet was born) has so many options, it is easy for us to not only compare ourselves to others but also to allow fear to paralyze us so we do nothing. Unfortunately this causes us to miss some great opportunities along the way.
What causes the fear of failure anyway?
Like anything we try to explain or rationalize, we need to first identify the main item – in this case “failure”. We are only born with two fears: falling and loud noises, all other fears are made up in our mind via life experiences.
So, while a failure to one person may actually be a learning experience for someone else, the issue that often prohibits our happiness and success is that of allowing our fear to stop us from doing the things that are needed to reach our goals.
Many people have consciously blocked the root cause of their fear of failure. However I can very consciously link my own to having very critical and unsupportive parents and also being bullied and teased horrendously in school for over a decade. Because I was routinely undermined or humiliated in childhood, I ended up believing their statements and carried those negative feelings with me well into my adulthood.What are some of the signs of fear of failure?
Well they vary but can include a reluctance to even try new things - where just the mere thought of something new creates inner terror. Other signs include self-sabotage, procrastination to follow through with projects, low self esteem or self-confidence, and even perfectionism. Perfectionism? Yep – which is when you only are willing to try things that guarantee your success.
While I have pretty much conquered mine, I can think of an example where this perfectionism was true for me. Since the age four I have played piano and can easily read piano music. When I was 21, a friend came to visit and handed me a piece of sheet music for a new song and asked if I could play it. I willing grabbed it and sat down to play. Even if I stumbled a bit through it, I knew it would still sound mostly good so I had very little risk involved. Three months later, for my birthday, this same friend gave me a birthday gift – a free guitar lesson which included the use of her "special" guitar. I turned it down because I knew that the risk of feeling foolish or failing was way too high. If I failed (and I was certain that I would have), I knew that my self worth would take a hit and it was already low enough.
It is pretty impossible to never experience failure in life but, if we allow the fear of failure to prevent us from living life… are we really living at all?
If our mind can come up the fear of failure it can certainly come up with our perspective of failure (with your help). We have the power to see failure as the "the end of the world," and as proof of just how crappy we are something or we can view failure as the exceptional learning experience it usually is. We just have to be willing to search out the lesson we were to learn.
By acknowledging our lessons we can grow and, more importantly, likely never make that same mistake again.
It is easy to find successful people who have failed. I think Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb is over-used so let’s consider Richard Branson – a high school dropout who owns Virgin Group which controls more than 400 companies or Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time who was cut from his high school team because his coach said he lacked skill.
Have you ever heard the saying, “I found out who my true friends are?” Well, when we fail at something, true friends stick around and often are a source of inspiration and motivation to keep us keepin’ on.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we want to invite failure into our lives so, how do we overcome it so we can progress?Now, as promised, here are my 7 tips for conquering your fear of failure...
(1) It is important to realize that with everything we opt to do there is always a chance we will fail. Become courageous… face and embrace that chance and you may be surprised at the end result. Taking the mind and welcoming the opportunity to grow takes the pressure and expectation off of yourself.
(2) Analyze potential outcomes – many people expect to fail because they do not have all the details or the fear the unknown. So list all the potential outcomes you can think of so you can be better prepared.
(3) Now, of that list, what is the worst-case scenario? Is it really that bad? Is it fear of failure or fear of embarrassment? For me, it was both.
(4) Think positive (or at least more so) – it is incredibly powerful to do so because it can help neutralize self-sabotage.
(5) Have a back up plan. I have pretty much never done anything without a back up plan. It really helps me feel more self confidence – enough that it increased the likelihood of trying something new.
(6) Set goals – setting goals can be fearful but start by setting small goals to build your confidence. For example, maybe your goal is to Google something for more information. Write that on your goal sheet and, when you do so, cross it off the list. Perhaps it is walking into the place that you really want to work at and asking if there are any open positions. When you do it, even if the answer is “no”, cross it off the list. Each time you cross something off, visually seeing those check marks or lines through the goals builds up your confidence just a bit more.
Please do not discount baby steps – they are very powerful. When we were toddlers, we started to walk. Had we not, we would not be able to run today. Goals are no different - it requires our body and mind work together.
(7) If the fear of failure seemed nearly impossible to get rid of and none of the other tips help, consider attending a "Shattered to Shining" event.
Ready to eliminate this fear of failure? It also works with fear of success so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Click graphic below to start erasing it today....
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