Why do we have such fear of failure? We are wired to keep ourselves away from the unknown. Essentially our reptilian brain is imposing its will to prevent us from the unknown so we don’t experience the bitterness of failure. As a result, we do not get to create what we really want for our lives and that generates frustration. Changing this circle is not an easy task since we have to act on a subconscious level to do so.
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Most people, including myself, have experienced the immobilizing feeling that fear of failure (also called “atychiphobia”) causes: the paralyzing sensation that leads us to resistance or avoidance, and consequently we never really get anywhere or move forward. I know what you are thinking and it is correct: we do sabotage ourselves. It is actually our brain calling freeze every time we would like to do things differently and it does it out of preservation. It is a rational process that tells us to postpone that decision because we don’t have enough money, or the skills, or even the knowledge to perform it.
We can and we probably already have been missing out on some amazing opportunities and experiences by letting fear of failure take over. Can you stop this apparently inevitable circle? I’m not going to lie becoming who we want to be is a process that requires deep reflection and we are going to start by taking a trip to the root of the cause of this fear and how we can change it to reach incredible levels of success and freedom.
Getting to the other side in 3 steps
1.- Understand the parts of the brain and how they cause fear of failure:
Understanding more in detail the parts of the brain and how they function can better help you sort why you have such a fear of failure and continue stay in your comfort zones.
There are three parts of the brain: the prefrontal cortex, the limbic brain, and the reptilian brain.
- The prefrontal cortex is the largest part of the brain, which is where we do our thinking and generate our thoughts. It’s the part that is analyzing and reading this right now.
- The limbic brain is the emotional part of the brain. This part of the brain controls our physical and emotional responses. I’m sure you have heard a song that took you back to that memorable summer weekend with your friends or have smelled something that instantly reminded you of your grandma. That’s the limbic brain in action. It also helps the body respond to the intense emotions of fear and anger by helping to activate the fight or flight response (which we find in the next part of the brain).
- The reptilian part of the brain contains the fight or flight response. This part of the brain does not think. It does not like change. It is responsible for our survival. The reptilian part of the brain works from predictability. Remember that friend who always is against going to a new restaurant when you suggest so? That is their reptilian brain at work desiring predictability. This is a survival mechanism because it can predict based on behaviors how to respond. What’s going to happen tomorrow? Will I be laid off? How long is this going to last? Take a moment and reflect about what inner dialogue has your reptilian brain been creating for you in this 2020?
2.-Accept certainty is just an illusion
There is no such thing as certainty in our lives. I’m sure you all have heard that mantra before so why do so many of us crave certainty and control? In reality we are wired not to act unless we have some certainty. As a result of not acting we live our lives in homeostasis also known as in the same spot in which I don’t want to be in but I have accepted as my place on earth. Remember when we don’t take the action to start a new business, or change jobs, or get divorced we are living in homeostasis. Not having this perceived certainty makes the fear of failure impose its will over the possibility of achieving new goals
Does this sounds familiar to you?
..and the dialogue continues until you most likely have talked yourself out of it and convinced yourself it is better to stay right where you are. This is a classic example of the reptilian brain (working from survival) battling the prefrontal cortex (which creates new thoughts). Unfortunately for us the reptilian brain holds a great record over the prefrontal cortex.
Essentially, your reptilian part of the brain creates the inner dialogue to keep you where you are. What is the problem here? We don’t create what we want in our lives. Let me repeat it because this is monumental: WE DO NOT CREATE WHAT WE WANT IN OUR LIVES!!!!
3.- Rise above and break the cycle of fear of failure
So what to do if we are essentially built to sabotage ourselves? The way to overcome the fear of failure is simple: jump and take the leap of faith…if your first reaction to this sentence was an eye roll then stay with me please! I know you have probably heard this cliché countless times. It sounds so simple, yet why is it so difficult to just jump?
I remember reading those inspirational Instagram posts, “you just have to take that leap of faith and your wings will appear.” I double liked it and thought it was a great quote, but what was wrong with my wings??? Why was I never actually taking the leap of faith if it was so easy? Then, I fully understood why I was so paralyzed by fear. The answer was in my identity.
My identity is the part of me that creates my way of being. For example, did you wake up and take care of your kids today? If you identify as a mom you most likely answered yes, and if you didn’t it’s because it’s not part of your identity. Your identity consists of your values, beliefs, and personality. It is who you are and consequently controls what you do (or don’t do).
Once I understood more of who I actually was at the core and where my beliefs and behaviors stemmed from, it was so much easier to take the leap.
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