Fear of Failure (and how to get over it)

"Just stop now.  You're never going to go anywhere with this.  You aren't good enough.  Just give up.  This will be just like all the other things you've failed at."

These thoughts creep into my head in the darkness of night.  They are insidious, relentless, and contain truths that I can't deny.  And because of that, they are working.

I feel it.  The lure of quitting.  It feels good.  It feels right.  But that's what I've done with most things in my life.  I just walk away when the newness wears off.  I have always wondered why and blamed it on my ADHD, but I think I've come to a more deeper conclusion: I fear failure.  I have failed many times at many things in my life.  And so I've learned to quit before I fail.  Then you mix that with parents who always told me I was never good enough and a father who always said "you quit at everything in life", so I just kept on doing it.  Never mind when I did win, dad never cared.  And mom always found a way to bring me down a notch, so I didn't feel "too good" about myself.  We can't have that, right?  Getting straight A's and one B and hearing only "You could have done better in math."  Never mind that I always got D's in math, so a B was quite an amazing feat. 

So I learned at a very young age: when you try hard, and you do well, it's still not good enough, so why even try?  And besides, getting bad grades was easier and more fun.

And so is quitting and giving up.  You say to yourself "Well, nobody cares, so why even try?"  But the truth really is the only person that matters is you, not your haters.  But I saw that failure of a B in math and never tried hard again.

Well, I did: once.  I tried hard with my relationship with my ex-boyfriend when I was fifteen.  He beat me and I thought if we stayed together, that he would eventually stop.  I stayed with him for a year and nine months.  Longest relationship I ever had (besides my two marriages).  When I left him, I learned that no matter how much you love someone or how hard you try, you can't win.  So why try?  After that, I never had a relationship last more than three months. 

And then we have the career side of my life.  I have had a total of fifteen jobs from the age of sixteen until twenty (when I got pregnant with my oldest son).  My longest job was for nine months at the grocery store where my abusive boyfriend worked with me.  When we broke up, I quit my job to get away from him.  After that, I never had a job last more than three months (what is it with this three month thing??).

After I became a mom, I stayed home with my kids and tried working from home instead.  Yeah, I have failed at more business ideas than I can count.  And 99% of them didn't get out of the planning stage.  I am a dreamer: one who loves to dream up plans for something, but follow through?  Ha!  No way.  That's booooring.  Snooze.  Now let's move on to another thing to start.

I mean, you can't fail when you never finish, right?  The same goes for paintings and other art projects.  Sometimes it's because I am waiting on new supplies and then I wander off to go do something else.  But most of the time, it's because I freeze up and don't know what to do next, because deep down I know I will probably make it look stupid or as with a business, I know I will fail anyways, so why try?

Can any of you see yourselves in this post?  Can you relate?  Because I think there are a huge amount of us out there who know exactly what this feels like.  Those of us whose fear of failure and self doubt are so severe, that we're perpetually stuck is a state of suspension.  We use our limiting beliefs to hold us back.  But whether it's due to our parents' psychological abuse or something else, it doesn't matter.

Because no matter what is causing it, it's up to us to fix it.

There's a question that all life coaches will ask their clients: "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?"  Holy crap.  I don't even know how to understand that question most days.  "Knew you couldn't fail?"  I mean, most days, I know I will fail, so that's just an incomprehensible thing to think about.  But when I really push myself to break through all those limiting beliefs about myself, I find that there is an answer to that question.  And it has to do with you, dear reader.

If you're reading this, I didn't fail.  And if you're reading this and can relate to what I am talking about?  I really didn't fail.

My answer is that I would help others to believe in their own self worth so they know they aren't alone and so they don't feel like I feel sometimes.  I can see your worth, I just can't always can't see my own, though I am slowly changing that.  Because here I am, after a night of negative self doubt and having that little voice tell me walk away, and here I am, still writing.

So, how do you push past that self doubt to finish what you've started and excel at it?  Well, there really is no winning formula to use.  You just have to fake it 'til you make it.  You have to pretend you're not an imposter in a world of people who are already killing it.  You have to pretend you are winning, too.  Because deep down, you really are.  Because all of those people around you that are doing well with what you're trying to do?  They all started where you are at.  You have the ability to keep going and make something great out of your work (I would say out of yourself, but you are already great 😏)  You just aren't going to always feel like doing it.  Some days, you are going to feel like a joke, an phony, a pretender.  "I don't belong at the big people table, I'm still a kid in all this...."  

You need to tell yourself "So what if I am not at their level yet?  So what if my clientele/readers/fans are only 2 people right now?  So what?"  When that voice creeps in and tells you all the negative things it wants you to hear and give into, YELL at it: "SO WHAT??!"  You do what you do because you love doing it, not so you'll become famous.  What if you fail?  SO WHAT!  What if you try for years and never get any further than you are are now?  SO WHAT!  What if you paint something and it looks stupid?  SO WHAT!  The same goes for our anxious thoughts.  What if I embarrass myself in public?  SO WHAT!  (once a woman at Walgreens pharmacy got hot and wanted to take her sweatshirt off and accidentally took off both her shirts and ended up in her bra...nobody cared, we all were women or had women in our lives who wear them...so she put her shirt back and said "I'm so sorry!" to everyone, looking flushed.  I replied to her "No worries, we've all been there."  She may remember that as a humiliating moment, but nobody else who saw it thought it was a big deal.  We've all seen more skin at a beach 😀)

We need to push past our fear of failure by screaming SO WHAT! at all the negative thoughts we have about ourselves.  Let the voices say what they want.  Let them call you names.  Let them tell you that you'll fail.  Just yell back SO WHAT!

Because if you push long enough?  And never give up?  You will make it.  You will do exactly what you set out to in the beginning.  It may take a long time.  SO WHAT!  It may take a really long time.  SO WHAT!  Or it may take no time at all.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is that when you continuously stop caring whether or not you'll fail, eventually, you'll never think about failing again.  You'll have a proven track record of what it takes to get to where you want to be. 

And that, my friends, is what we call perseverance.  We ignore our inner critics and forge ahead anyways.  We know we may fail, but we scream SO WHAT! and keep trudging along.  Sometimes it will feel like trudging, and sometimes it will feel like gliding.  We have to take those times that are hard, when late at night our brains tell us we're not enough and we never will be and just keep on doing it anyways.  We have to pretend that we'll sell a million copies of our books or someone will pay a million dollars for our paintings or that we'll get a million readers on our blogs or that we'll become whatever it is that we want to become (an astronaut maybe?) and be the best at it.  Fake 'til you make it.  Visualize what it will be like when you've achieved what you wanted to.  Then pretend you already have.  That'll shut up your inner critics.

The fear of failure can hold us back from our true purposes, so why let it?  Why give in to those voices that say you can't do it?  Don't let them win.  I'm not going to.  Not anymore.

Let's do this together.  I'll keep writing this blog, and you keep moving forward on your goals, okay?  Is that a deal?

And ask yourself, what would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Also let me know below what you want to quit right now due to fear of failure.  And together we'll scream SO WHAT!! into the face if your inner critics!!!

And while you're thinking about it, watch this video clip:

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