Tag Archives: fear of failure

One Creative Way to Conquer Fear of Rejection or Failure

“Swing” — Ernie Els by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

I failed my way to success.

~Thomas Edison

People often lack the courage to take initiative because they fear failure or rejection. Yet to pursue friendships, romantic relationships, and work aspirations, we need to face potential failure and rejection without being constricted by the choke-hold of trepidation.

When you go out and pursue something you want, you are going to be rejected and make mistakes. You might as well expect rejection and mistakes and learn to handle them better.

In Coach John Wooden’s second to last game, UCLA was down 2 points with a few seconds to go. After the game, a reporter asked him why he chose to set up a play for Richard Washington. He replied,

Because he’s not afraid to make a mistake. He thinks he’s a pretty good shooter—and he is—but if he misses he’ll think, “Well, you can’t make them all.” He won’t be devastated. Therefore, he’s harnessed his fears. The others might be thinking, “I’ve got to make it.” If that’s their thinking, they’ll be fearful about missing. I didn’t want that.

Rejection Therapy

How do we harness our fear?

In a desire to desensitize himself from the pain of rejection and overcome his fear, entrepreneur Jia Jiang developed his own so-called “Rejection Therapy.” For 100 days, he set forth to make one rejection attempt a day, making sure his requests were legal, ethical, physically safe, and likely to be rejected.

For instance, he asked to borrow $100 from a stranger, he asked for a burger re-fill, he asked to play soccer in someone’s backyard, and he asked to dance with his waitress. Not only did he stop dreading rejection, he learned that if he accepted rejection gracefully or asked “Why” or “Why not?”, often the rejection had nothing to do with him, or it would turn into acceptance. What surprised him most was that he was not rejected 42 times out of 100, despite his weird requests.

We are all human. So rather than worrying about being perfect, we can embrace the opportunity to learn from our blunders and miscalculations. Accepting that we are going to get rejected and make mistakes can free us to move forward in a more relaxed and confident way and to live our journey more fully rather than agonize about reaching or failing to reach the destination.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

~William Shakespeare

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Reference: Jia Jiang’s Tedtalk

Self-doubt: “I’m afraid of looking like a fool.”

"Courage" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Courage” by Mimi Stuart ©

Perfectionism is an imperfect way to live

The desire to excel encourages achievement. However, when aspiring for excellence turns into the pursuit of perfectionism, then you are creating unnecessary anxiety in your life. Perfectionism is an attitude often fueled by a fear of failure or criticism. In contrast, willingness to make mistakes and look a little foolish will help you improve your skills, accomplish excellence and enjoy your life. Most successful people have “failed” their way to success.

Note that avoiding perfectionism doesn’t entail becoming careless. There is a happy medium between perfectionism and being carefree. Too little attention to external feedback can lead to thoughtless, reckless and offensive behavior.

The benefits of handling a little discomfort

People who are not afraid of being a novice or making mistakes tend to get good at many things quickly because they are not held back by their doubts and a lack of confidence. Think of the possibilities you miss out on if you avoid the following situations because of your fear of failure:

• Striking up a conversation with someone despite the possibility of being rejected.
• Asking for a job despite potential for disappointment.
• Telling a loved one how you feel.
• Requesting that someone treat you differently.
• Asking someone for help.
• Talking to your children about awkward subjects.
• Starting a business venture.
• Participating in a sport or class when you are a newcomer.
• Practicing a foreign language.
• Singing and dancing.

The benefit of making mistakes

We should welcome mistakes because they show us how we need to make adjustments to improve our life. If we look objectively at the feedback we get from others, we will speed up our learning curve about how to execute tasks and interact with the world around us.

Socializing and dating

Think about dating and making friends. If you avoid the risk of looking foolish, you will have a hard time socializing. How can you learn interpersonal skills unless you put yourself out there? How would you learn to read body language and to hone your communication skills? No one is a master at making friends or reading the hidden meaning generated by body language without having some experience of engaging with people. You need to make mistakes and make adjustments in your behavior, desires, and expectations. You learn to modify your style of communicating, your openness, the topics of conversation you engage in by learning to be sensitive to feedback from others.

So it’s important to accept and even embrace discomfort and mistakes and to risk failure. Making mistakes is part of the human experience. That is how we learn and evolve – and succeed! By embracing the risk of failure you will be rewarded by a reduction in the negative anxiety associated with fear of failure, leaving only the healthy and normal anxiety associated with the excitement about future possibilities. A whole world of opportunities opens up to you.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Perfectionism: ‘I’d like to have people over more often, but I rarely do, because it’s so much work to cook a great meal.’”

Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”

Read “Fear of Making a Mistake: ‘I’m deathly afraid of investing more time, money and energy in something that could be doomed no matter how hard I try.’”

Guest Author SAM VAKNIN, PhD:
“I Hate to Fail, but I also Dread Success. What Gives?”

"Personality"—Alec Baldwyn by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Personality”—Alec Baldwin by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin, PhD writes:

Some people rarely fail, but they are no roaring successes, either. They linger in a limbo, somewhere between minimal attainment and mediocrity. They pass, but never quite make it. They seem to fear and avoid failure and success in equal measures. How can this be explained?

We can define “succeeding” as “realizing one’s full potential.”
“Not failing” can be defined as “not realizing one’s full potential, but only some of it.”

So, “not failing” is the opposite, the antonym of “succeeding.” Not failing=not succeeding=failing to succeed. Most people who fear failure try hard to not fail. Since, as we have shown, not failing amounts to failing to succeed, such people equally dread success and, therefore, try to not succeed. They opt for mediocrity.

In order to not succeed, one needs to not apply oneself to one’s tasks, or to not embark on new ventures or undertakings. Often, such avoidant, constricted behaviours are not a matter of choice, but the outcome of inner psychological dynamics that compels them.

These character traits and behaviors are narcissistic.

Narcissists cannot tell the difference between free-will choices and irresistible compulsions because they regard themselves as omnipotent and, therefore, not subject to any forces, external or internal, greater than their willpower. They tend to claim that both their successes and failures are exclusively the inevitable and predictable outcomes of their choices and decisions.

The preference to not fail is trivial – but, why the propensity to not succeed?

Not succeeding assuages the fear of failure. After all, a one-time success calls for increasingly more unattainable repeat performances. Success just means that one has got more to lose, more ways to fail. Deliberately not succeeding also buttresses the narcissist’s sense of omnipotence: “I – and only I – choose to what extent and whether I succeed or fail.” Similarly, the narcissist grandiose conviction that he is perfect is supported by his self-inflicted lack of success. He tells himself: “I could have succeeded had I only chose to and applied myself to it. I am perfect, but I elect to not manifest my perfection via success.”

Indeed, as the philosopher Spinoza observed, perfect beings have no wants or needs. They don’t have to try and prove anything. In an imperfect world, such as ours is, the mere continued existence of a perfect being constitutes its success. “I cannot fail as long as I merely survive” – is the perfect entity’s motto.

Many narcissistic defences, traits, and behaviours revolve around the compulsive need to sustain a grandiose self-image of perfection (“perfectionism”.) Paradoxically, deficient impulse control helps achieve this crucial goal. Impulsive actions and addictive behaviours render failure impossible as they suggest a lack of premeditation and planning.

Moreover: to the narcissistic patient, these kinds of decisions and deeds feel immanent and intuitive, an emanation or his core self, the true expression of his quiddity, haecceity, and being. This association of the patient’s implied uniqueness with the exuberance and elation often involved in impulsive and addictive acts is intoxicating. It also offers support to the patient’s view of himself as superior, invincible, and immune to the consequences of his actions. When he gambles, shops, drives recklessly, or abuses substances he is “godlike” and thoroughly happy, at least for a fraction of a second.

Instant gratification – the infinitesimal delay between volition or desire and fulfillment – enhance this overpowering sense of omnipotence. The patient inhabits a sempiternal present, actively suppressing the reasoned anticipation the future consequences of his choices. Failure is an artifact of a future tense and, in the absence of such a horizon,success is invariably guaranteed or at least implied.

Some patients are ego-dystonic: they loathe their lack of self-control and berate themselves for their self-defeating profligacy and self-destructive immaturity. But even then, their very ability to carry out the impulsive or addictive feat is, by definition, a success: the patient is accomplished at behaving irresponsibly and erratically, his labile self-ruination is his forte as he masterfully navigates his own apocalyptic path. Only by failing to control his irresistible impulses and by succumbing to his addictions, is this kind of narcissistic patient able to act at all. His submission to these internal “higher powers” provides him with a perfect substitute to a constructive, productive, stable, and truly satisfactory engagement with the world.

Thus, even when angry at himself, the patient castigates the ominous success of his dissolute ways, not their failure. His rage is displaced: rather than confront his avoidant misconduct, he tries to cope with the symptoms of his underlying, all-pervasive, and pernicious psychodynamics. Ironically, it is this ineluctable failure of his life as a whole that endows him with a feeling of self-control: he is the one who brings about his own demise, inexorably, but knowingly.

by Sam Vaknin, PhD, the excellent Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited.”

Read Dr. Sam Vaknin’s “I Can Achieve and Do Anything If I Only Put My Mind to It.”

Read “Self-control: ‘I really want to get this new ipod today Mom.’”

Fear of Making a Mistake:
“I’m deathly afraid of investing more time, money and energy in something that could be doomed no matter how hard I try.”

"Determination" — Nick Watney by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Errors, mistakes, and failures are part of the life experience. Without them we will never achieve success. Spending inordinate time and energy avoiding mistakes, covering up failures, and avoiding changing course prevents people from moving along in their journey of life. There is no such thing as a risk-free life. Often, failure to act is a failure to live and can be the biggest mistake of all.

People who have made the most mistakes also have enjoyed the greatest successes.

However, all mistakes and failures are not equal. We want to avoid failure that stems from poor preparation, carelessness, or failure to be objective about the situation. Yet we don’t want to live in fear of making mistakes and end up running away from uncertainty.

Making the right kind of mistakes and avoiding the wrong kind involve the following:

1. Being objective about ourselves, others, and the situation,

2. Developing and practicing needed skills (whether in relationship, business, or sports), and

3. Assessing the risk to us and others of our actions.

The water ski legend Andy Mapple teaches that you never make a perfect slalom pass. Moreover, the goal is not to make a perfect pass. The goal is to be able to know what mistake you’re making while you’re making it, so that you can quickly adjust and compensate for it while skiing.

This is a great analogy for most aspects of life, such as relationships. No relationship is perfect. By eliminating the expectation that a relationship is either perfect or doomed and a waste of time, you can focus on improving your ability to better a relationship through practice. You can develop the ability to see more quickly how you are being triggered and to appropriately adjust your responses, OR to change your entire course regarding the relationship.

Relationships are a series of experiences and adjustments. The more we look at the relationship objectively, improve relationship skills, and consider the potential outcome of our choices, the more enriched our relationships become.

If we expect mistakes, but practice to reduce them, we end up making more interesting and less painful mistakes, and we will enjoy many rewarding successes along the way.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Recommended: Walt Disney’s Biography.

Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”

Read “Sports Psychology: ‘I’m terrible at this sport. I can never get it right.’”