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  • Writer's pictureMaija Tweeddale

Fear of failure: impassable hurdle or stepping stone to success?

winding road to success

Have you ever had the experience of trying to give something up / do something better / start something new and everywhere you look you see examples of people doing the same thing with ease, while you are completely struggling? 


Doesn’t that just send you into a vortex of self-doubt (maybe I’m not the kind of person who can do this), self-flagellation (why can’t I stick to it, I’m definitely not able for it, I’m pretty useless), before the inevitable descent into “that’s it, I give up”. And as if by magic, there it is, your comfy chair sitting at the bottom of the rut just waiting for you to fall into it again, maybe with a bag of crisps. Sigh.


All that is irrefutable proof that you are a failure.


Or is it?


Here’s the thing about embarking on something new:

Your brain is uncertain about it. It’s trying to keep you in the safe zone, because let’s face it, trying to change old or start new habits feels hard and prickly and it has a way of making you feel incompetent. It’s probably been a while since you had to learn anything new (I’ll tell you about my near tantrum-inducing journey into Sudoku another time). Learning new skills or changing habits that you’ve had for a while and are very convenient takes time and effort and can certainly feel hard.


It’s worth taking a pause to reflect on where the ‘hard’ bit lies for you. It’s possible that the hardest aspect of the change you want to make is the realisation that you are putting priority on yourself. This is something many of us feel very uncomfortable doing. When we’re juggling all the balls for others as well as ourselves we get pretty used to our own needs slipping into last place.


Another thing to consider is that the unpleasant, slightly panicky feeling that you might fail shows that you’ve got skin in the game. It’s you saying to yourself that this is important to you and that you really want to succeed. Getting comfortable with this discomfort is a huge step towards ultimately achieving the goal.


The final aspect to bring to the front of your consciousness is that life is what happens when you’re making other plans, as the saying goes. Setbacks and hurdles will occur. Stepping away from an “all or nothing” approach will definitely help to reduce the feeling of failure. Reframing the idea of “I can never” to “I can in time” and approaching the things that knock you off track with curiosity rather than a sense of inevitability keep you focused on moving forward, despite the setback. This is you being kind to yourself whilst still keeping your eye on the prize. It’s a subtle but powerful way of building the internal motivation you need to get to the goal.


Use fear of failure as a stepping stone

Taking that first step to really settle into the idea that you are worth the effort and easing through the discomfort by acknowledging small wins (lots of high fives to the mirror!) and knowing how you’ll negotiate around setbacks to reduce the impact of them or ensure they don’t happen again will take you, step by step, down the road to success. 


You’re important. You’re worthy of feeling good in your body.


Feel the fear, and do it anyway.


If you would value guidance, support and straight-talking advice on successfully moving towards your health goals click here to find out how to work with me


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