Tag Archives: mistakes

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.’”

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.’”

Good-enough Parenting:
“I feel so bad when I let my children down.”

“Fire ‘n Ice” — Mark Wood & Laura Kaye
by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Parental neglect or abuse can cause a child to toughen up, but often at the expense of the child shutting down feelings of empathy and love as well. Some parents never apologize to their children or admit to themselves that their actions have any impact on their kids, even if they knowingly mistreat or neglect them. Others cater to their children’s every whim causing them to become dependent and entitled.

Parents clearly have an impact on their children, but not every mistake they make has a profound negative effect on them. Children are very resilient.

It appears that the best parents are those who are conscientious about avoiding the extremes, but without being overly concerned about being perfect. There’s no way to avoid making mistakes. In fact, it turns out to be good for children if their parents make some mistakes, especially if they acknowledge the more significant mistakes.

Child psychologist Donald Winnicott coined the phrase “good-enough mothering,” which means that ordinary caring of a child by a devoted parent is healthiest for the child. Children who as infants were picked up and held when they were in distress thrive. Yet, some parental “mistakes” including moderate anger, mild neglect, and delays in response enable children to learn that they can handle the anxiety that accompanies uncertainty and difficulties in life.

Ideally, children learn to handle frustration and stress in their lives gradually. Obviously, infants need much more immediate love, care, and attention than older children. For example, while it’s all right to let a baby wait briefly before responding to his or her crying, teenagers should be able to handle waiting much longer to have their needs responded to.

Later in life, a person who has developed resiliency without losing access to feelings can handle people who are difficult, controlling, or unreliable with the confidence that comes with the ability to handle stress.

All children experience some pain as a result of their parents’ anger, lack of care, and other imperfections. Those experiences are in part what makes them capable of surviving in a world that is not a bed of roses. If we’re too careful as parents, children don’t learn to deal with life’s difficulties on their own. A little stress can be a good thing.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Dependent Young Adults: ‘We’ve given you every advantage! Don’t you want to do something with your life?’”

Read “‘My parent didn’t care about me.’ How we develop Defense Mechanisms (Part II)”

Watch “Authoritarian vs Permissive Parenting.”