Build Confidence in the Face of Fear of Failure

By Robyn Priebe on 02/06/2013
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Most of us have social situations or events that make us nervous or anxious:

  • going to a dinner party solo
  • day-one at a new gym
  • returning to school after years away
  • trying something for the first time with others around
  • public speaking
  • driving to unfamiliar towns (even with a GPS)

Everything on this list makes me nervous at times.  I’m reflecting on this because I just started a sign language class and despite the fact that I’m super excited to be taking the class, it’s also triggered a need to build confidence I need the confidence boost because I’m struggling with the fear of failure…..or at least that’s what I thought it was.

At first glance, I would say that’s the issue with any of the scenarios I listed above; the fear of failure:

  • solo dinner party – “what if no one talks to me and if they do, I say something stupid?” – Fail!
  • new gym – “what if I get on a machine backwards and a bunch of super-buff gym dudes make fun of me?” – Fail!
  • retuning to school – “what if I don’t know the material like the other students and every one gets annoyed with me for holding the class back?” – Fail!

You get the idea…..  However, what I thought was fear of failure is actually a fear that I won’t be perfect.  Saying something stupid at a dinner party, not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment, or not being the smartest in class is not failing.  Accidentally setting the gym on fire or dropping out of class…OK, I can call that a fail, but otherwise the rest is just life.

So how will I build confidence around this issues?  I will remind myself that:

  • No one is perfect, or the best, at everything they do.
  • Perfectionist thinking prevents me from trying new things in my life that, in the end, will likely bring me joy.
  • Practice, versus avoidance, builds skills and confidence.  I can certainly do that.
  • I don’t need to be the best, I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to “be” and I am confident I can do that.

What scares you but intrigues you?  What would you like to do, learn, try but have been holding off on because you were afraid you wouldn’t do it perfectly?

2 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Nicole says:

    Great article! I would often hold my self back with a fear of failure. Recently though I’ve realized that I have nothing to lose by trying or doing. Only I can make my self fail. Once you “jump” you’ve realized there is nothing to fear and you can keep moving.

  • Robyn says:

    Thanks, Nicole! It’s so true that stepping into something new for the first time is the most nerve-racking part, but after that, it’s never as bad as we expected.

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