Fear of Failure

I am a perfectionist.  Blame it on my astrological sign (Virgo), the fact that I’m an only child, genetics or the environment which I grew up.  I like things just right.  In school, I would be upset if I missed ANY questions.  I put a healthy amount of pressure on myself and had great success during my academic years.  After receiving my first Bachelor’s degree from The University of Pittsburgh, I was off to obtain a second degree in nursing at Drexel University.

Then it happened.  I entered a program that awarded a second degree in a measly 11 months.  That meant the curriculum was twice as rigorous as what I was accustomed to half the amount of time.  I couldn’t perfectly comb through each chapter anymore.  I had much more work than I could comfortably accomplish.  For the first time in my life, failure loomed as a possibility.

Fail?! No.  I needed to get perfect grades.  If I wasn’t perfect, what was I? I used to think I was smart; now this apparently meant I was not.  Everything I thought about myself was wrong.  I could not believe I had been living a lie for 23 years! I figured I should avoid this possibility of failing altogether.  I must withdrawal! I should stop right now- stop before I have the chance to fail.  That makes sense.  Then I will preserve my untouched streak of perfect- ness and continue to be EXACTLY who I thought I was all along.  Yes! That’s the ticket!

What is wrong with this train of thought?

First, I was identifying myself completely as a trait.  I was smart, or I was not smart.  And that feeling I had toward myself could change at the drop of a hat.  One mistake- boom- not smart.  Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions.

Second, since I associated myself directly with a trait, I wanted to simply remove any circumstance that could shake my positive feeling about myself.  Fight or flight? Flight, baby! All day long!

Luckily (note sarcasm), I am not only a perfectionist, but a people pleaser at heart. I made the commitment to attend grad school, and I wasn’t about to let my family down.  So I stuck it out, I passed, and it was one of the greatest fears I had ever faced in my entire life.

How could my previous train of thought affect my life?

If I continued to avoid any pursuits where there was a possibility that I may come up short, I would lead a very unfulfilling life.  Competing? That would be out.  Powerlifting? No way.  Continuing education? What if I don’t understand a concept- nope, can’t do that either.  Any attempt to better myself would be left to the wayside so I could remain in my safe place where my previous life experiences made me feel smart and accomplished.

Where am I going with this?

This story 100 percent applies to body transformations, weight loss, and being conscious of the decisions that ultimately affect our health.

Looking back over my client list, and instances with myself, one of the leading causes of someone slamming the brakes on a transformation (this is inside and out, not just out) is because they hit one tiny little bump in the road and declare that was precisely what they KNEW would happen! They aren’t cut out for this.  The chance of failing is too much to handle. Similar to when I first was overwhelmed at school and became very uncomfortable.  Instead of sitting with those feelings, allowing myself to feel them and address them and making the conscious choice not to dwell on them or allow those uncomfortable feelings to cause me to change course, I would take the path of least resistance and turn the ship around and retreat.

Refusing to allow myself to feel uncomfortable was causing me to miss some wonderful opportunities to better myself.  Being scared to fail primarily came from labeling myself as a failure if I did not succeed and, in my mind, being stuck with that label for the rest of my life.

Recognizing when I was functioning under this train of thought helped me to change those thought patterns and ultimately my behavior when faced with a challenge.

I am not stuck forever being a certain quality.  I have the power to learn, to grow, and to change any quality or skill I do not find desirable about myself.  And you have that power too.  Believing that to be true is more than half the battle.

So let’s get out there, get uncomfortable, get our hands dirty, and be all that we were meant to be.