There are days I live for the sound of comforting words, hugs, thoughts, and just feeling good. These feelings usually hit me the hardest on the days I’ve risked something followed by the fear of failure. “What did I do now” type of feeling. What I found is that when fear arrives, even strong resistance, doesn’t always assure me – but positive action in areas not connected to the fear does. Like cleaning the garage!
The fear of failure incites a run for cover feeling – but it also assures us of completion when we face it – like we just created a world that connects missing pieces of ourselves.
In this article, I give examples of the fear failure, what influences the fear, and also, the side effects the fear has on us. It’s more of a case study review kind of thing, where we can decide for ourselves how we want to take it.
Just to set the definition, the fear of failure is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals. Examples of those goals might be, that novel we want to finish, singing that solo, entering that contest, submitting for a raise, committing to a relationship, admitting we are sorry, learning to play and instrument, and so on.
And I’m not a doctor, just a person who’s lived through the fear of failure and found back doors to solving problems. This fear though does operate on an unconscious level, so you can imagine how many side effects, triggers and such there might be? So, if you have your own stories, I’d love hear them.
Feeling the side effects of avoiding things we love, hate, need and want. It’s a kind of a stuck feeling of bad luck. And usually, it’s the “I need to change something” reality. “But I’m not good enough.” You know, change your life in one way or another.
THE SIDE EFFECTS FROM THE FEAR OF FAILURE EQUAL THE FEAR
Do you ever feel like you don’t get enough, but you’re not sure what you’re missing?
It was only a few years ago that I felt this way. These feelings are like surfacing bubbles from the deep. That is to say, procrastination coupled with hopes and dreams wait to surface.
And the fear of failure is not to fear alone. Side effects build up like a silent disease. Sadness and awareness of what we could and want to be, how close our goals really are, as well, the anxiety, low self-esteem, and out of whack confidence topped off with twists of perfectionism, basically add more chaos. They become roadblock and excuses that keep us from finishing or doing that thing we fear. But worse, is the web of convoluted feelings leads us so far from the actual root of the problem we sometimes miss the point.
This is why fear is so dangerous it takes a foothold and digs so deep we lose track – and yes— you guessed it, the fear is focused on while the side effects eat more of our life away. Chaos contributed absolutely nothing to our daily life. Yet when we are ruled by the fear of failure, it is the blasted plague mutating even when we think it’s contained.
So, the next time you say, it’s just fear, know there is a lot more. I’ve found in my life to notice and face small things we sometimes like to ignore. If you’re out of character and someone you love mentions it, resist the temptation to deny it. Those closest to us see what we don’t and it’s better to face what we are most afraid of than let it weave its web deeper and deeper.
Remember, when something is missing, things just don’t work right. Pull one of the sparkplugs wires loose in your car engine – and it will still run, but it will let you know something amiss sooner or later. Fear doesn’t always incapacitate us, but it leaves us running on one less spark plug.
When my son denies any strange actions, usually with an offensive reply, I usually get him to help me cook dinner or clean the garage. That positive action not related to the fear helps solve the fear.
DYNAMIC PEOPLE AND THE FEAR OF FAILURE
Dynamic people have a positive and strong self-concept. With that, they work hard, train and have enough motivation and willpower, which are two opposites that drive our behavior. Motivation is our desire to do something and willpower is our ability to force ourselves – together they are the dynamics that fuel the actions in our lives.
Think about it, with motivation and willpower combined, you have a personal desire and a drill sergeant. You’ve garnered an army when combined correctly. Then add some fundamental dynamics to it and voila, you’ve developed a strong force that stimulates change or progress. That’s the math behind dynamic people. That’s a force, however, don’t stop the fear of failure, but it forces you through to the finish line regardless.
The glitch with people who are less dynamic, comes with self-doubt. A dynamic person believes they can and will. They fight through the fear of failure. It’s almost innate in them. A less dynamic person questions their habitually bad habits of disbelief. And then webs of side effects begin.
It’s tough to follow the side effects because the big picture, The Fear of X, is in the spotlight – but imagine this example of a guy named Mark. He feared failure as an intellectual. He graduated top in his class, has a high IQ, was respected, but he played video games every waking hour of his spare time, rather than focusing on his graduate degree while everyone around him studied endlessly. The side effects left him not sleeping, eating emotionally, hence the video games. Everyone knew he was brilliant and he was forthright about the fear of failure. Ultimately, he did land on top, with an amazing career and endless potential because he conquered the fear of failure. But the side effects created habits of not sleeping, and not believing in himself which led to obesity and a struggle in his personal life. Or I should say, I believe these were side effects, others might disagree. Side effects are very important. As I said I’m not a doctor, but we all know what I’m talking about.
The point is, that part of the reason why fear gets the upper hand is that it mixes in and begins to affect regular things you take for granted in daily life. Like poor eating, not sleeping, poor relationships. And not doing your homework when your 15, while not cleaning the garage when your 40. Spark plugs, my friends, when something is amiss everything is affected.
THINK BACK TO THE ORIGINAL GOAL BEFORE IT WAS A FEAR
Are you one of those whose biggest fear is getting to the end of your life and feeling like you haven’t reached your full potential. Why would you think that?
We are in an awareness age, everyone and their dog is learning something. It’s cool! And of course, every evaluation we give ourselves has more to it than the answers might reveal. Most successful people who fear “not living up to their potential” feel it because no matter how successful they are, the world says it’s not enough.
But if you ask a successful person how their dreams began, they most likely will have no memory of exaggerated fear; the kind that disables you as does the fear of failure. In fact, watch their face reminisce, followed by that story you’ve heard a million times. “When I was such and such…..”
So, another thing to think about when evaluating the fear of failure is:
- How did you feel and what was the original goal?
- Where did the desire for the goal originate?
- Was the goal scary when it began?
- Why was it important?
- Can you return to the original goal?
And I bet you will remember that your original goal had a very humble beginning that grew into that mountain that became hard to climb.
It was like this for me. In the days when I went nowhere without my guitar on my back, I had a huge fear of performing. I was able to force myself to sing for crowds but was barely able to utter the first notes during the initial part of my performance. So, one-day, anxiety coaxed me to put my guitar aside. My fears had grown into questions like:
- Was I like others,
- Was I of the right age,
- Would people make fun of my unique ways?
I asked myself a few questions had a talk with people I trusted. It was then I realized I didn’t doubt my talent as a vocalist or songwriter, so what was it. My humble beginning to enjoy talent had turned into, did I look like Lady Gaga! Could I have smoke coming out of my boobs or fly upside down while singing an operetta in perfect key?
Fuck no, it wasn’t me, and it was that day that I remembered my original goal.
- How did you feel and what was the original goal? Happy, and the goal was to give hope to other people.
- Where did the desire for the goal originate? As a kid playing the guitar.
- Was the goal scary when it began? No, it was fun.
- Why was it important? Because I loved music like a fish to water.
- Can you return to the original goal? Yeah, I have nothing to lose.
That very day, I took my guitar to the streets of Tel-Aviv and sat on a corner and just played. I raised quite a lot that day and had more fun than I’d had in a long time. I began sitting by the water at times and just playing, while people labeled me Joan Baez. Okay, so I was a mediocre Gaga, but I was a great Baez.
The fear of failure sometimes is not related to our actual ability, and defining it can change the end game. In my case, the side effect for me resulted in an inability to listen to the radio for years and no one caught it. Music was the first thing in my life I ever understood and it will always the closest thing to who I am for the rest of my life. But in some delusion, I thought my likes had changed. I thought I just needed a quiet atmosphere. And it was tricky, I regularly saw live performances, jamming with other musicians, but never spoke about how radio made me feel.
Our fears are not always that we can’t do it, but more can I be someone else who is popular, that alone will give your subconscious stress and anxiety. And even this area has side effects. Remember to keep the real goal, you can’t be who you are not.
LOOK FOR ANSWERS EVERYWHERE
If you practice for a singing solo, that’s dynamic behavior. If you clean your garage after years of disorder, that’s dynamic too. Both take motivation and willpower, and both are moments that matter. We don’t usually have the fear of failure to clean a garage, but if you want to understand fears, like that of performing, then start with understanding the need to clean the garage, and you might find a backdoor past the fear of the solo.
For the vast majority of our modern world, “fear” has been labeled a controllable enemy – all you had to do was face it, and the demon would vanish. If you weren’t afraid, you could walk over it like Jesus and water – yet I’ve known few in this life that just pointed the Harry Potter wand and walked over fear’s face. Unless you’re at the bottom of a pit and must get out where failure isn’t an option, then you are subject to procrastination in every creative form that keeps you in that pit!
I think that trying the magic wand is worth an effort, but the moment it doesn’t work, you need to face the facts and face the fear. Nothing is less attractive than that person who doesn’t shut up and try. So, if you’re claiming that believing will save you, then prove it, or move forward.
Why clean the garage? One successful task leads to another. After the garage will come cleaning out the studio where you used to practice your songs. Brush on brush off, don’t challenge the master, just clean the fucking garage and then argue. Worst case, your garage is clean.
IN AN HONOR-BASED SOCIETY, FEAR IS INCREASED BY DEFAULT
It’s like this, America is an honor-based society that defends the stupidest things. In an honor-based society, “a person is what he or she is in the eyes of other people.” And that means if you say my mamma is fat, I need to fight you for it, regardless, that’s she’s thin, and the whole knows it.
Yet, you hear on every corner that “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” These, are the people that get beat up all the time, and it’s insane to think that words don’t hurt. Especially in an honor-based society.
Does it make sense where all our fears come from? Status in life is a sought-after accomplishment along with money, sex, a room full of trophies, and I’m bigger than you pretty much rule our motivation for validation. Tell me that it doesn’t boost the fear of failure in this country? When we chase external validation to fill our missing voids in life, we never find it regardless of how much we stuff in the void!
Again, cleaning the garage is a symbol of natural need, life, commonality to necessary goals. But it’s also a serious check OFF on the goal list. Success builds success. And if your garage isn’t messy, I’m sure you have something else on the list.
If you’re running in circles of any kind, or life has thrown bad luck on your plate, the family is in an uproar, work is not productive, your fucking tired, and so on, then cleaning the garage can make you feel like a million dollars. As well, it kicks starts a positive motion that leads to productivity elsewhere.
BRAVERY DOES HELP FIGHT THE FEAR OF FAILURE
Science has a name for the fear of failure “atychiphobia” it’s the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure – and stops us from even the small things that move us towards achieving goals that bring happiness. Not everyone is totally controlled by this level of fear, but we all have at one time or another been here.
Believing in something is half the battle. I’ve seen this over and over. Our mind is powerful when it’s turned on by the emotion of believing in something, someone or ourselves. And by all rights, each of us is capable of doing things to be proud of.
FEAR TO MOVE FORWARD CAN BE CAUSED BY INEXPLICABLE DEAD ENDS
I knew a woman who worked in an abusive environment, but the fear of failure prevented her from sending out resumes. So, she was told. But what if the fear was not a failure, but the inexplicable dead-end she found herself in.
When we cannot define or solve problems, we sometimes can’t move forward. It wasn’t finding a new job that she feared; it was leaving one she felt a failure in. The fear became her reality because she never had a moment long enough to feel competent. An abusive job never produces a solution for anyone. And leaving it, would not typically solve the fear it creates. Ironically, only success outside of the abusive environment soothed her fear – and that started with doing things that made her feel successful like a silly cleaning of the garage that was long overdue. Volunteering, learning more about herself to build up herself.
I’ve said this to clients many times and in my articles. If you ever wonder why some people clean when they are upset, under stress, angry, or sad, it’s because you must keep moving to stop obsessing, cleaning is an accomplishment. That little voice in your head tells you that at least, you’ll have a clean kitchen, at least your laundry will be done. And between the movement, the energy, and success, positive thought takes place even if you’re crying the whole time.
It’s like this, when a person faces abuse, they feel trapped. You’d think the moment the cage door opened they’d fly away, but sometimes, they can’t leave the environment they don’t understand before entering a new one – as if to say they might bring that same environment with them. The fear of failure is essentially the cage but all your stuff is inside it? How do you leave it? One item at a time.
Again, I’ll remind you, if you are living in any kind of fear, everything around you is messed up. Fear is a growth that clutters your productivity to organize your garage, to get the resume out, to meet with the girls or guys, to bake the cake on the weekend or fix your kitchen cabinets, or to read that book we’ve put off a year.
The fear of failure to present your painting at the art studio can be the reason why you don’t commit to that perfect person you are dating. The ongoing adventure doesn’t give time for the next adventure until the first one ends. That’s why great relationship advice says to get your shit together first, before trying to something one with another.
Okay, one more thing on the garage thing. Make a list of every silly, big, small, ridiculous unfinished goal you need to do. That’s your garage. Line up the tasks -but first, tell yourself you’re on a hunt seeking to find witch spark plug wire is loose. The quest will unveil many things if you really do it. Brush on brush off in an honest effort.
Cheers, my friends, life is good,
- NCBI, Celeste Kidd and Benjamin Y. Hayden, The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity
- PsychCentral, By Margarita Tartakovsky, Therapists Spill: What I’ve Learned About Fear
- PsychCentral, By Therese J. Borchard, 7 Ways to Stop Obsessing
- Pennington, McLoughlin, Smithson, Robinson, Boswell (2003) Advanced Psychology – Child Development, Perspectives and Methods: Hodder Arnold, The use of case studies in Psychology