Face Your Fear of Failure

The start of the new year is often promoted as a time to be optimistic, to make a fresh start, and to get excited about our goals. So why am I bringing up the other f word? Failure? First off, I am a big believer in positive thinking. Becoming aware of negative self-talk and replacing it with positive affirmations is a great way to improve your mood. But let’s face it – we often have nagging fears about the future and whether things in our lives will go as planned. Because often they don’t.

Here is the second of five tips to boost your self-confidence in 2018:

Tip #2 – Cope Ahead of Time with Failure 

This skill is adapted from Dr. Marsha M. Linehan’s 2015 DBT Skills Training curriculum. It is a written exercise that you will need to schedule some time for. I recommend that you do it alone,  in a quiet place, where you are not likely to be interrupted for at least two to three hours. Timing is important. If you are emotionally overwhelmed, exhausted, or feeling  anxious or depressed, then you should wait until your mood is more positive, or at least neutral, before launching into this exercise. Follow these simple steps:

A.  Write down the worst possible failures that could stop you from achieving your goals for the future. Chose the big ones – the ones that keep you up at night. Be specific when describing these situations. Identify the uncomfortable emotions and/or ineffective actions that are likely to occur as a result of these issues.

B.  Decide what specific actions you will take in order to cope effectively with each of these potential failures. Write them down in as much detail as possible. Identify the resources you will need, how you plan to obtain them, and who will support you emotionally as you are going through these events. Note – If this part is too difficult for you right now, then stop the exercise and take a break. Come back to it after a day or two and see if it is easier.

C.  Imagine yourself experiencing these failures right now. Not in the future. Not like you’re watching a bad movie. You are going through it RIGHT NOW.  And yes, your anxiety level may rise if you’ve doing this exercise correctly.

D.  Rehearse the plan you laid out in B to cope effectively with each situation. Mentally run through exactly what you will do,  and imagine yourself being successful. New problems may come up in your mind as you do this. If so, then imagine yourself coping effectively with those as well. Imagine yourself dealing competently with your worst failures.

E.  Relax. This is the most important step.  And I don’t mean lay down in front of the television and zone out. It is important to do something deeply relaxing. Go get a massage. Go for a run or a hike. Meditate for 30 minutes. Do a Yoga or Pilates class. Soak in a hot tub under the stars. Do whatever relaxes your entire being.

When we pursue our goals, we are going out on a limb and taking risks. When we take risks, we often experience a vague, nagging fear of failure whispering persistently “what if…”. The Cope Ahead exercise allows you to sit down, face those fears head on, and essentially shut down those persistent fears, which contribute to feelings of low self-confidence. You must allow yourself to feel anxious during this exercise. You may not experience immediate relief after you rehearse your plans for coping effectively. Self-doubt might creep in.

Be willing to accept that success does not always arrive according to your time frame, or in the form that you envision. Find that sweet spot where you are capitalizing on your strengths but also stretching outside of your comfort zone. Know that failure does not symbolize the end, but rather a new beginning. Your self-confidence will soar once you have tamed your fear of failure.

Disclaimer- The information contained in this blog does not represent medical or mental health advice, treatment or diagnosis. This blog was created for educational purposes only.