What If I Fail?

What if I fail?

How many times has that fear crossed your mind?

Your version may be, what if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t understand what I’m trying to say? What if I’m wrong? What if I look stupid?

This fear of failure kept me stuck in a negative cycle for years. On paper I was a success, continuing to check off the personal milestones, advance professionally and look the part. Internally though, I was a hot mess. I was living for other people and was more worried about what they wanted and what they thought, than about what I wanted and needed. So much so that after being fired from a job (that I initially believed to be my dream job) I stayed for an extra week and a half to wrap everything up because internally I was so driven and dedicated. I also stayed because I was mortified at what people would think and I was so afraid of disappointing others. Living my life rooted in fear and trying to appear externally perfect took a major toll on my confidence. I eventually recognized this and realized that taking risks and being authentic were much better ways to build confidence. 

Our confidence and self-worth are often tied to career titles, financial stability, relationship status, parenthood or advanced degrees. The challenge is when we achieve those goals and we still fear we’re not good enough or we keep moving the end line further away, so we never really reach it. Or perhaps worse, we don’t achieve those goals and then feel worthless. We create a construct where we’re never able to release our fears and enjoy our successes. We can never win. The challenge is that all of those metrics are external, it doesn’t positively serve us to define our worth or manage our fear through external circumstances because nothing is promised forever (we can be fired at a moment’s notice) and we’ve left our worth up to someone else (that person can always change her or his mind.) I’ve found such freedom in using my own metrics to define myself and my success, rather than adhering to someone else’s agenda.

When our baseline is that we should already know or that we should be an expert with everything we do, then failure cannot be a positive opportunity. This fixed mindset results in a narrative where failure is not a chance to learn or grow, rather failure is positioned as proof that we’re not good enough, we don’t know enough, we’re not an expert. We use failure as proof that our greatest insecurities have come to fruition. To avoid those insecurities, it seems safer to not even try because we’d rather not show up at all than show up and fail. We have so much more to offer though and when we live this way we limit our capabilities.

 I’ve explored failure personally and with my coaching clients and one of the most powerful things I’ve learned is that when we refuse to be vulnerable and let down the veil of know-it-all perfectionism then we’ve created a reality where it is nearly impossible to grow and failure of a different kind manifests, failure to progress or move forward. It is in our best interest to embrace curiosity as a means to learn and grow. Being curious doesn’t mean that we’re not good enough or that we don’t know enough. Rather it means that we’re interested in something we haven’t yet had much experience with. When we give ourselves permission to ask questions and be interested in new things, we’re setting the stage to develop and achieve even more goals. Some of the most successful and enjoyable people I’ve met are the ones who value learning and seek out opportunities to gain knowledge from others. 

I invite you to empower yourself and experiment with these new intentions to shift from a fixed to a growth mindset and to increase the ways you use your inherent strengths. Join me and embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow and start to feel more confident in your own skin today!

1.     Create a daily routine that includes reciting positive affirmations that are focused on a growth mindset. Your affirmations may include: “When I fail, I learn and grow.” “My effort and attitude determine my success.” “I am able to learn anything I want to.” “I am open to challenging myself.” “I cultivate curiosity and am willing to ask questions.” Set reminders for yourself in your phone and calendar to repeat your growth mindset affirmations multiple times throughout the day.

2.     Make a list of your top 10 strengths. Try not to overthink this, rather write down the first things that come to your mind that describe you. Some examples include: open-mindedness, gratitude, forgiveness, humor, persistence, spirituality, leadership or citizenship. These are things that come easily for you and that you already embody each day. Once you have your top 10, circle 4 of your favorite or strongest strengths and write down how you’re already using them. Now that it’s crystal clear that you’re good at using these traits, brainstorm the other areas of your life these strengths could be applied. Make a list of specific actions you’ll take to use your best strengths in new ways.

With every repetition of your growth mindset affirmations and with every new action using your inherent strengths, work on treating yourself with kindness and continuing to stretch and grow into your most authentic self. Every moment is an opportunity to make a conscious choice that gets us closer to achieving our goals. Let’s create an internal environment that supports that growth by being open to the benefits of failure and to the benefits of trying new things with old skills. We each have within us the capability of achieving our goals by resetting our mindset to one that values our experiences and strengths and uses all of those to learn and grow. 

This post originally appeared in Rochester Woman Online.