Fear of failure...is it actually fear of success??
I asked a friend today if he was excited about his recent success, he responded with I don’t do that, I prefer to have low expectations of the outcome… Why I asked? His answer made me remember how I used to be…. He said because that way I wont be disappointed…
Do you relate to this experience? Most of us some way or other of coping with failure but whats interesting is it isn’t really about coping its often about preventing. Now we cant actually prevent failure but we have elaborate mental tricks we use to help ourselves be ready and prepared for it… now I want to ask you- what if the failure you were preparing yourself actually didn’t exist????
I used to do this thing where I’d try hard for something and right up till the moment I found out about the outcome id downplay it, saying its not important, it doesn’t matter but actually more than that id tell myself it wont work, I wont do well. For example, waiting on exam results, going in for an interview, even playing a competitive game. I did this because it made me ‘ ready’ for the disappointment of a failure and I thought it’d make it so much sweeter if I did succeed because id been ready for a disappointment.
Well I can tell you it didn’t help, it did prepare me for disappointment yes but when the outcome was good id been so busy preparing for it to be bad I almost couldn’t get out of that mindset enough to enjoy it, instead it was a feeling of relief- phew I didn’t fail rather than a celebration of my success. How does that sound for a way of coping with failure???? If you cannot even celebrate your success really what was the point in even trying the thing?!!
I understand how tough it is to let go of these strategies, whether its saying you wont do well, saying it doesn’t matter either way or perhaps not trying that hard you are ultimately already failing. You are robbing yourself of the enjoyment of the outcome and does it really help you cope if the outcome is disappointing? Or could you be underestimating your ability to get up and try again.
You are also focusing on the outcome only, what about the experience? The fact that you DID it? That in itself is an achievement – if we are always looking to the outcome we are valuing ourselves by the opinions of others. Gaining worth by other peoples opinion is a slippery slope and outcomes are just that- acknowledgement from other people, whether it be a professional body, exam board, referee, friends, family approval.
Instead id like you to try these 5 things.
1) Close your eyes and focus on what you are trying to achieve at the moment- whether its working to a deadline, recognition for hard work, a long to do list…
2) Once you have that in mind go inward, explore your body – how does thinking about that thing make you feel – anxious? Apprehensive? Already down?
3) Notice that feeling and now imagine the outcome is positive- how does the feeling change for you? Imagine with all your mind and heart.. its ok to do this. For most people this will in itself be a challenge but id like you to give it a go. Let your mind go to what it would look like to achieve the outcome you want, what would it feel like?
4) Now let that feeling spread throughout your body, really hold on to it. Don’t worry if you don’t feel much- with practice this will come and just recognise how difficult this is for you, it’s a block an emotional block and one you can change if you start to let go of the fear.
5) Open your eyes and remember that feeling, everytime you think about the thing you are working toward I want you to bring back that feeling.
Even if the outcome is not the same as the one in your mind that feeling will allow you to enjoy what does happen, it may be less than you expected but itll still FEEL better than it would have if you had stayed with preventing disappointment. Id like you to savour the experience of being on your journey, that means being fully open to the process of trying and the process of working toward something, There is joy to be had in the experience rather than focusing solely on the outcome and I want you to learn what its actually like to do that and see if it changes your whole idea of failure… afterall aren’t we here to explore, live and be.