Are you afraid of trying new things or completing tasks due to fear of failure? If you said, “yes” then stop allowing the fear of failure from ruining your life! To help understand where fear of failure stems from and how you can eliminate your fears of failure, I have interviewed therapist Karen Turner, LMFT, DAPA.
Tell me a little about yourself.
“Having been in the field of psychotherapy and teaching for over 40 years, I have had the great privilege of working with thousands of people who have taught me that the human spirit within us is amazing, awe-inspiring, courageous, and enduring. I taught Transpersonal Psychology for many years, working with students who were having direct experiences of Spirit moving within their lives, and were just looking for guidance on how to direct that energy.”
“I’m a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Colorado and work with individuals who are seeking to heal themselves from contact with their deep inner soul. My focus is mostly Jungian and Psychosynthesis, with a good deal from many other traditions as well. Currently, I work primarily with people in the mid-life and aging process who are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. Many of these people have encountered very serious abuse and wounding and want to understand what this means for them.”
From where does the fear of failure stem?
“The fear of failure stems mostly from childhood and the beliefs with which a person is raised. Fears of failure are common to all of us because, as humans, we want to succeed and be recognized as successful. However, failure is an important part of living and the learning process.”
“If we are taught to learn from our failures and use them as a way to make corrections to our endeavors, then the “fear” of failure is lessened a great deal. It is this “fear” that is the problem, not the failure itself. Parents can have a very powerful influence and positive effect in a child’s life by helping him/her learn not to be afraid of failure, but rather to learn from making mistakes.”
“Having said this, let me point out that many parents do teach their children that it is wrong to fail and punish children ‘” usually verbally and through shame, although physical abuse is not uncommon. When this happens, the child becomes afraid of failing and this can become so severe that the child can give up trying and risking doing anything that is new that would require trial and error learning. Or such a child can become so fearful that they come to believe that they must be perfect in everything they do, thus creating someone who is rigid, driven and anxious.”
What type of impact can fear of failing have?
“As I’ve said, some fear of failing is normal for everyone. However, there is a continuum with one end holding so little fear that a kind of inflation can occur where people risk foolishly without thought of consequences and may endanger themselves and others.”
“The other end of the spectrum is being so afraid of failure that a person’s life becomes a virtual prison where no risk of failure is allowed. Such a person’s internal experience is usually one of anxiety, fear and chaos.”
“For the person who sees this fear as a part of all worthwhile undertakings, the fear dissolves into learning experiences and part of the adventure of life. This approach then creates self-esteem within a person. Looked at this way, taking the risk of failing is a way to help people create more self-confidence and trust of themselves.”
What can someone do to eliminate his or her fear of failure?
“Well, the really good news is that through self-acceptance of one’s failures as well as one’s successes, true authenticity and self-esteem can be achieved.”
“For those people for whom this fear of failure is keeping them from life and/or going after doing things they really want to do, there is lots of help available ‘” from joining support groups with like-minded people examining the same things in their lives, to in-depth psychotherapy that can help delve deeply inside the root causes of such fears. Through these approaches, a person can be helped to overcome their fears and shame-filled places and gain the confidence to risk new relationships and new endeavors.”
“I’d also like to put in a few words about the usefulness of various “spiritual practices” such as mindfulness, meditation, and centering prayer, as being really helpful for discovering the root beliefs and attachments a person might have around this “fear of failure.” There are many practices in the various spiritual disciplines that can help in becoming aware of and letting go of beliefs and attachments that do not serve us.”
What last advice would you like to leave for someone who fears failure?
“Yes, primarily I would like to support and encourage people to take a look at what they experience and believe about their own fear of failing. If you see that these fears have kept you from attempting involvement in either relationships or any sort of thing that you have felt was too risky, seek help ‘” either through friends or professionals. Life is simply too short and too filled with wondrous things to allow these fears to rule your life.”
“Don’t wait until there is no feelings of fear before you engage. If you ask people who have done what looks like really courageous things, you will discover that they did not (usually) do those things without this fear of failing; rather, they simply did them anyway, in spite of the fear.”
“For a simple exercise in learning about your own fears, imagine yourself at the end of your life, looking back over what you have done with it. If you see from this perspective that you have often not gotten involved with someone or something that you wanted to do, take this information to heart ‘” and reaching way down inside of yourself, decide that you will no longer allow this fear of failing (or succeeding) rule your actions and your life.”
Thank you Karen for doing the interview on how someone can eliminate his or her fears of failure. For more information on Karen Turner or her work you can check out her website at: www.ElderWisdom.com or write to her at KarenTurner@ElderWisdom.com.
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