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The Fear of Failure

The fear of failure can impede progress in almost every aspect of our lives. Our relationships, our careers and our journey of self-discovery. Extreme fear of failure is acknowledged as a medical condition known as Atychiphobia.

But what is it all about? We all know the saying. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” and yet many of us deny ourselves the opportunity of success and personal growth; electing instead, to remain stagnant and dissatisfied.

The fear of failure is, of course, perfectly natural. Chemicals produced by the limbic system (The area of our brain involved in our emotional and behavioural responses as well as our fight or flight reactions) hoodwink us into thinking that trying something new is an unnecessary risk and that failure will result in us being ousted by our tribe or worst still certain death! Despite 200,000 years of human existence the limbic system remains relatively unchanged.

So we self -sabotage by talking ourselves out of even attempting a new challenge. However, that does not have to remain the case. We can re-train our brain by reviewing our thought processes and turning negatives into positives. Afterall, any teacher will tell you we learn far more from failure than we do from success! In fact, some of the most ground-breaking advances of modern-day living are thanks to those who tried and failed and tried again.

Start Small! Think of something you have wanted to do or try for a while…For example. write an article for an insightful publication! List all the things you hope to gain from your new venture. Then list all the negative effects which may come from the failure. From both lists you can calculate the risk. If you stand to lose nothing more than a bit of pride, which can be restored by knowing that you broke the barrier of fear, then, overall you stand to gain far more than you risk to lose. You have also reinforced the notion that failure is not so bad after all. You can then focus on your next challenge with a positive mindset. The voice that once said. “Is it worth the deflating feeling of rejection?” Will say. “Well it didn’t work out the way you hoped, what can we learn for next time?”

Changing our inner monologue takes time and practice. Analysing our thoughts in order to gain an understanding of them will help us view our thought processes more objectively. Instead of reacting to the physical feelings of fear by automatically shutting down the cause of them, explore whether they are well founded fears or just a chemical response that can be changed with cognitive re-programming. We are designed to seek experiences that result in the release of “positive” chemicals (dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin) and avoid anything that may inhibit their release. By looking at the challenge as a positive opportunity to learn and develop, we may just find ourselves progressing towardsachievements beyond our wildest expectations!


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