I have worked with many women over the years in therapy who will outright avoid failure at all costs.
Women for whom failure is simply not an option.
It leads them on a path of non-existent perfection, and then to deep shame when failure shows up very much unwanted and unplanned. When we are unprepared for that failure experience, it further feeds the negative inside story of ‘not good enough’.
And I’ve discovered a correlation between avoiding failure at all costs and losing faith in our own decision-making ability.
This makes sense – of course we would connect failure with bad judgment, and therefore seek to avoid failure. But when we have zero faith in our ability to even make a decision, or when we start to believe that we are the kind of person who makes bad decisions, we stop making them.
This is the epitome of us standing in our own way, and less about procrastination than complete paralysis. It is our evolutionary ‘freeze’, coded in response in what we perceive as danger.
And that danger is failure.
And then there is the kind of fear of failure that makes everything a constant stumbling block. We pontificate over whether we are capable, whether we can do it. We put off applying for the job, the promotion, starting the business, or finding love and we instead go through a prolonged inner process of self-doubt.
The not ‘quite’ good enough.
It’s an exhausting cognitive process.
Often, what happens is we do it eventually, whatever ‘it’ is – but our efforts are half-hearted because we have already convinced ourselves we will most likely fail. And that half-heartedness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It shows up as lack of confidence and a lack of belief.
But how do we know we will fail?
How can we possibly predict something that is yet to happen? I have yet to meet anyone who has the ability to predict the future.
Our brains are not pre-programmed for failure – they have evolved over millions of years to ensure our survival. In fact, the human brain has grown to accommodate that survival – it is around six times bigger than it should be for the size of the average human body – and it’s for that very reason that we are the only species born with a brain that isn’t fully developed. Because, put simply, our brains would not be able to fit through the birth canal if they were to fully develop in the womb.
From the moment we are conceived, our brain is developing – defying the idea we are born a tabula rasa. We then learn more in our first five years of life than we do in our entire remaining lifetime, and we continue to learn ‘on the job’ until the day we die.
We are a constant work in progress.
Read that again.
Our brains are not fixed.
Daring to fail is the very platform on which we grow, learn and cultivate resilience, and some of the fundamental lessons we need to learn are indeed wrapped up as epic failures.
All those things you keep putting off and outright avoiding?
For fear of failure.
For fear of getting it wrong.
For fear of rejection.
For fear of shame.
For fear of humilation.
Go do them – because lived experience is everything.
We will all experience failures and setbacks and hitting bumps in the road, but we don’t get off the road.
We keep on our journey of self-discovery, of creating our version of self-success. Every single part of our journey and story so far is what is helping us to navigate the road ahead.
Learn the lessons, apply the rich knowledge it has gifted you and keep moving forwards.
Failure is always an option.
Dare to fail, and fail gloriously in the process.