The Fear of Making Mistakes – How to Transcend Above It?
As a natural process of learning and growing, we were, are, and will make mistakes. But mistakes have never been the problem, really. It’s the fear of making mistakes that make you miserable.
We all want to thrive and succeed in whatever we do in the first attempt. But wishful thinking aside, life simply doesn’t work like that.
This debilitating fear to make mistakes takes a huge toll on you when it comes to experience life to the fullest.
You might be avoiding taking the necessary steps to grow your business. In theory, you know what you should be doing. But you just can’t handle the possibility of deciding wrong.
Perhaps you passed on promotion opportunities because you didn’t want to let yourself and your team down.
Or maybe you’re the one who’s always quiet in a work meeting, refraining from saying anything “stupid” that will turn all heads towards you.
We mostly experience the fear of making mistakes in our professional life, but also in our personal experiences. For example – holding ourselves from expressing excitement on a date to not scare away the potential partner.
Now, I’m not saying we should do things that will hurt our chances to progress and succeed.
But the fear of making the wrong decision is the reason we’re not progressing anywhere.
Mistakes Teach You Valuable Lessons
Mistakes can be an amazing thing for your overall growth if you take the time to analyze where you were wrong.
You might know that in theory, but in practice, you’re losing sleep every time you fail at something. Perhaps you feel paralyzed from taking further actions to not make things worse.
The sad fact is that most people repeat the same mistakes over and over again, so this fear even builds up stronger.
Or, they make different mistakes consistently without taking the necessary time to observe and evaluate their responsibility for why things didn’t work as they planned.
Instead, they might be blaming themselves or others, beating themselves up for their “stupidity” and talk down to themselves.
But what if you focus your energy to analyze and learn your lessons? What if you utilized the mistakes you made to boost performance?
The Psychology Behind Fear of Making Mistakes
Before I share with you my own personal tips on how to get rid of the fear of making mistakes, I want you to understand why you’re so afraid of them in the first place.
If you’re honest with yourself for a second, you’ll see that you don’t actually fear making mistakes. You fear the interpretation and the meaning you give mistakes.
In your catastrophic type of thinking, you’re convinced that if you make mistakes you will be ridiculed. By yourself and others.
- You believe that your self-worth is determined by how many wins you can get and that failing diminishes your value as a human being.
- You believe that learning and growing must be easy and automatic and that perfection is the only goal, no matter how unrealistic that sounds.
- In addition, you believe that your self-worth depends on how others perceive you, and so you avoid making mistakes to prevent others see your “flaws” and then think less of you.
For a long time, I was afraid to make mistakes because I didn’t want to feel like a failure. It was easier to play it safe, so my ego could go on without having to endure painful bruises.
But playing it safe and sticking to my comfort zone came at an emotional price. I lost my peace of mind and passion for life. So in the end, I wasn’t gaining much safety and security as I intended.
I felt stuck and pretty much useless.
The status quo kept me safe, so I believed, but it also hindered me from evolving and succeeding. And when you don’t take risks to grow – you wilt.
I tried to figure out what is it about making mistakes that’s so intimidating to me… and as usual, this fear leads to one direction – our childhood.
Here’s What Happened In The Past When I Made Mistakes
When my mom checked my homework and discovered the wrong answers, I got yelled at badly. Trust me, you didn’t want to be around when that happened.
I remember it so clearly, and then the fear of making mistakes started creeping in when I made my homework before these were checked.
That didn’t help me come up with the right answers because when your limbic system is activated, there is no blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that’s responsible for rational thinking.
So my child’s brain gathered all of these pieces of painful experiences to a toxic paradigm that says:
“It is not safe for me to make mistakes, so I must avoid them at all costs”.
That is usually how fear of making mistakes is formed – from negative reactions of our environment to our mistakes.
As a child, I couldn’t understand the complexity of life and realize that the behavior of my mom wasn’t about me, but about her – her traumas, insecurities, anxieties and etc.
Even though as an adult I rationally understood that mistakes open the door for learning and improving, back then I couldn’t move past the fear attached to making mistakes.
Because, if my mom thought these things about me (she didn’t obviously, but that’s the message I interpreted as a child), then the entire world is going to treat me the same!
So I must protect myself the best I can, and that means – I cannot afford to make mistakes. It’s too dangerous. And what’s our reaction to dangerous things? Fear.
Well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that fear of making mistakes is an unproductive, depressing way to live your life.
But I had lived that way and felt suffocated inside until I’ve had it.
One day, out of the blue, I also had this insight:
Just because my mom had the false programming that mistakes are bad for us, doesn’t mean I need to have the same distorted paradigms. I can choose my own beliefs. I can choose my own identity.
Here is how I did it:
Leave Your Fear of Making Mistakes Behind
Gradually, the new idea – “it is ok for me to make mistakes”- really sinks in. I developed the courage to take more calculated, smart risks to skyrocket my life to the next level.
This tool I created for myself was amazing in my transformation process! So I’ve decided to share it with others as well.
It can help you to feel strong enough to deal with obstacles and mistakes. But most importantly – detach your sense of self-worth from the mistakes you made.
Fear can wear many outfits and they’re all somewhat related.
The fear of failure, success, rejection, and the fear of making mistakes are intertwined in one another.
The great thing about it is that if you address one fear at its root cause, it has a domino effect on your other fears in life and these could be solved on their own later.
I believe this to be the case with the mistakes we make. As we put an end to it, other fears will subside as well.
I want to share with you 3 ways to overcome the fear of making mistakes that paralyzes you from taking action. It is time to move forward in life.
Face the fear of making a mistake that arises
When anxiety arises, most of us trying to escape it, instead of connecting with our emotional guidance system. It sucks to feel pain, whether it’s emotional or psychical.
It’s much nicer to feel the rewards and sense the dopamine spread all over our body.
But as you run away from your fears, you get addicted to avoidance.
You constantly send the message to your brain that you can’t take in any pressure, so your stress container gets smaller and smaller.
If you want to increase your ability to handle mistakes, you need to start facing them.
Face the anxiety that arises when you need to make important moves. Notice that you are afraid to make the wrong decision.
Let it be there, observe it, feel it, and then take action anyway.
The secret is to think greater than how you feel.
You are not a loser if you make mistakes
Fear of making mistakes is the belief that making a mistake will give you the “validation” that you are a loser. That you can’t win and succeed in the game of life.
But if you look at the entire situation beyond the narrow ego that got hurt, you will see the truth as it is.
The truth is – you are a winner for trying! You could have easily done nothing at all, but you chose to take action. And if that action was wrong, you will fix it next time, until you will get it right. Eventually you will if you stop calling yourself names.
Your voice doesn’t have to become your caretakers’ voice. You can choose to treat yourself like the parent you always wished you had – with compassion and understanding.
No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to re-parent your inner child.
It’s never too late to be ok with making mistakes and stop fearing them.
You can handle the consequences – know in advance that it will be hard for you if you make some mistakes. As you go through the possible outcomes in your head, prepare for the option that you might fail.
But you can also decide in advance that you will be there for you when you’re in pain after making mistakes. Commit to yourself that you will be there for you to pick up the pieces and contain your suffering with warmth, rather than self-blame.
Choose to be there for you to comfort yourself with compassion. Decide that you will allow yourself to cry, be sad, and upset for a little while, and that is absolutely ok.
You Were Not Born Into This World To Do Nothing
George Bernard Shaw said that “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”.
See, life is about trial and error.
Mistakes are inevitable.
We weren’t born into this world to fear every little thing. Over the years, our childhood traumas or past pain became our identity, so we got further away from our nature – which is to grow and expand.
The ongoing internal pain really shrank down our stress bucket, so now we can cope with fewer and fewer failures.
But we can reprogram ourselves to stretch the size of that bucket and control our emotional reactivity. We can become more courageous and daring! It’s possible. I know it was for me.
Check out my empowering recording that is designed to help you with shifting your mental perception of mistakes and see them as growth opportunities.
The difference between the brave and the cowards is that the brave take action, despite the fear of making mistakes.
But they also know that they are their own crutch and they will cut themselves some slack if they fall back.
As you experiment more in trial and error you will build your inner strength. Over time, the fear will subside as you will learn to handle mistakes better emotionally and make the most of them.
Your safety net now is avoidance. But you can turn it into courage and self-trust. Which net do you think will help you benefit more from life? In the end, the biggest risk in life is not taking risks.