Helping Our Children (and Ourselves) Overcome The Fear of Failure
By Aesha Adams-Roberts
The other day on Facebook, a mom wrote me and said:
How do you handle a child who is so extremely scared of failure that he refuses to try anything new?
This child is not alone. Pyschology Today says fear of failure is an epidemic among children. Pressures to measure up to impossible standards in our culture can make kids avoid failure by staying away from the activity which they fear, coming up with excuses, staying average or striving to be perfect.
Talking to women and men about dating, marriage, parenting, and life in general, I know for a fact that the fear of failure also affects adults in dramatic ways.
- Women who sabotage a relationship with the man of their dreams as soon as things get serious
- Parents who promise to be better than their own mother or father only to repeat the same mistakes
- Men who have been hurt by a woman and swear they'll never have another serious relationship again
The fear is less about the activity and more about the consequences of the failure–how they'll view themselves or how others will view them. Shame, embarrassment, humiliation, feeling like "I'm not good enough," or "something's wrong with me" can cause us to avoid failure like the plague.
That's why the solutions offered by psychologists and self-help gurus are quick fixes: "redefine" failure as an opportunity to learn something new; tell your kids (or yourself) that failure is neccessary if you're going to succeed in life. Encourage them and build their self esteem. If you've ever tried to overcome the fear of failure yourself, you know these solutions fall short of really fixing anything.
Why? Because the fear is illogical. It's a belief in your heart, not in your head. As Dr. Alexander Loyd, author of The Healing Code shows,"When the heart and the head conflict, the winner is the heart." In other words, it won't matter how much you reassure your child he has nothing to fear. His fear is rooted in a painful memory or belief in his heart and it's shaping how he thinks, what he feels, and what he does. It'll be just like trying to tell him that the boogey man doesn't live under his bed if he's convinced that it does!
For example, when I was in high school, I was excited to learn how to swim. We had a swimming unit in PE class and I was fully confident that by the end of the unit, I'd be a floating, kicking, swimming machine.
Our teacher separated the swimmers from the non-swimmers and handed those of us who couldn't swim what I thought was a floatation device. I found out the hard way that it was a kick board. Instead of laying on it like I did, I was supposed to hold it out in front of me and kick my feet. I went straight to the bottom of the pool. Panicked, I jumped out the water and spent the rest of the day watching everyone else. My confidence was gone. I no longer trusted my teacher or the water and I barely passed the class.
I'm a pretty logical person and I know in my head that I wouldn't drown if I took a swim class with a good instructor. But in my heart, I hold a painful memory about swimming. All of the encouragement, reasoning, or positive thinking in the world won't change the fear in my heart. I have to heal the belief that people can't be trusted, that I'll accidently drown, that people will laugh at me if I make mistakes, etc.
Heal the painful memory in the heart and you'll change what you believe, and more importantly, what you do.
To start the healing process, I recommend you get the book The Healing Code: 6 Minutes to Heal the Source of Your Health, Success, or Relationship Issue by Dr. Alexander Loyd. I'm reading it and I've had many "aha" moments!
The fear of failure can keep you from living the life you really want. Let's lead by example and overcome this fear so we can help our children live free!