I have no scientific research to base this on but I honestly believe that if you did a study on what people in the western world were most afraid of it would be one simple thing.
So many of us are terrified of it that we never ever take risks and never really give ourselves the chance to succeed because we are so afraid of it going wrong.
For some of us the response can be a little more extreme than that….. some of us almost actively run away from things when we can sense that there is even a minute chance of us failing. After all, as the though process goes……If we never engaged with it and never actually tried then we can never be said to have failed can we?
But does that really matter?
Alas in our psyches I fear that it does, some of us are so damaged in our own little ways that we would do anything to avoid being seen as a failure or being seen as having made a mistake. Alas in my own childhood home if you made a mistake a shit storm was imminent and so we became terrified of making mistakes and did everything that we could to avoid them. Kept our heads down constantly to try and do something right to help maintain smooth seas ahead. I say we, I know that is what I did but I can’t vouch as to whether my siblings responded in the same way.
I never really grew out of it. To this day I am terrified of failure. It often takes me several attempts to build up to trying something that could end in failure. The most obvious example is writing. I love the process of writing and I would give anything to be able to shift careers to do that as a living. I’ve dipped my toes in again and again; I have 4 completed first drafts of novels and a non fiction book hidden away deep in my laptops filing system because I have always been too scared to take steps to do anything with them. Well that and it turns out I don’t enjoy the editing process as much as the writing process……
Even this blog has taken months and months longer than it should have done to launch. Not because of the amount of work involved but quite simply because I was so excited about it that I was terrified that it would be a disaster. And you know what? It still could be, realistically some of you will love it and some of you will hate it. I know that. I accept is as a fact. And that’s ok! No one in the world likes everything!
I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of writing these posts and it feels amazing to have taken that leap. And that is actually all that matters. Enjoying the process of what you’re doing and letting it come authentically from you is rewarding enough to make that risk worth it. I’ve won even if I fail.
I think you do need to have strength to take steps towards overcoming those fears but I think that it is also about putting things into perspective and understanding what you are truly thinking.
I’ve mentioned before how much of a mental lifter I am. I genuinely believe that my over developed fear of failure plays into this.
Time and again in my training I fail to hit dept in my squat, don’t pause the bar long enough on my bench or never even get a deadlift started. Every time it is me bottling. It is me actively stopping myself from trying. I know when that’s happened because I can tell that I have expended no real effort in that moment. To date I haven’t yet failed a squat once I have tried to start it moving from the bottom of the squat (and I’m kind of hoping I manage to test that soon so that I can really feel it when I have to grind it out!), what I have done is decide mentally at the bottom of the lift that I don’t have it and been unable to persuade my body to try and come up. It’s a really surreal moment, the conscious part of my brain telling me I can do it but the unconscious part clearly disagreeing.
At the same time I think that one of the reasons that squat is my second favourite lift is because this fear of failure, of getting stuck at the bottom, of potentially getting hurt if it goes wrong, helps me tap further into my strength and energy stores. There’s a deep seated survival instinct hidden in there and my determination to get up without getting injured. A determination that it is much harder to tap into on a deadlift which if I need to I can just let go of and it will do nothing more than drop back on the floor albeit with a bang. Increasingly as I push my boundaries more in bench press and come to realise that failing a bench press isn’t the end of the world on any given day, that same instinct is fading.
I’ve often wondered if other lifters lift preferences are linked to the way that their mind works as well as their physical advantages or disadvantages. I would be really interested to hear what people think.
Some of the best advice that I have had for dealing with my mind when the fear of failure is there is to allow myself to wonder what might happen if I do fail. Would it really be a bad thing? Would anyone really notice? Would it have an impact past today? What am I afraid might happen if I fail?
If you interrogate that feeling you will often find that the stakes are actually much lower than you anticipated, and it might actually push you to take that step by making it seem that bit less daunting.
Are you afraid of failure? Is there something that you are putting off doing right now because it might not go right? Whats the worst that could happen if it does go wrong? What do you stand to gain if it goes right?
Is it really worth not trying? Are you strong enough to take that risk? Are you strong enough not to?
Go and find out.