Why Feeling Terrible Might Be Good For You

Fear of failure can keep us from reaching our most sought-after goals, but taking the time to examine what’s behind the fear can help you move past it.

History is replete with stories of failure: from Thomas Edison’s 10,000 attempts before successfully creating the lightbulb, to Stephen King, who famously hung his rejection letters above his desk. Instead of becoming disillusioned or deterred, Edison and King persevered and achieved success.

Constructive wallowing, or allowing yourself to feel unpleasant emotions and move past them, is all about self-compassion, says Tina Gilbertson, an Oregon-based psychotherapist and author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings By Letting Yourself Have Them.

Gilbertson recently examined the fear of failure phenomenon for Psychology Today, and says failure is a step in the process of creating success. "The psychological toll of trying something new that might not work out has more to do with one’s personal demons than the prospect of measurable losses [like time or money]," she says.

Gilbertson offers three suggestions to help you overcome your fear of failure:

1. Identify your fear.

Ask yourself what you risk when you try something new. What’s holding you back? Are you worried people will think you’re a fraud? Your boss will think you’re incompetent? Are you afraid of being embarrassed in front of your colleagues?

If you’re having trouble identifying what it is you’re afraid of and why, Gilbertson suggests looking to your childhood. Are there certain themes that were embraced by your family like security, being satisfied with what you have, selflessness, or perfectionism?

2. Write it down.

Allow yourself to explore these thoughts and feelings by writing them down, without censoring yourself. "The more you accept these feelings, the less they’ll control your behavior," Gilbertson says.

3. Take baby steps.

"You don’t explore the Grand Canyon by leaping off the edge," Gilbertson says. Instead, take steps to move forward at a pace that’s right for you.

Hat tip: Psychology Today

[Image: Flickr user Aditya Doshi]

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2 Comments

  • I think that once your biggest fear becomes the fear of having regrets is when you start doing everything else that scares you. This should be everyone's biggest fear because the fear of having regrets compels us to do that which challenges and scares us... http://madelienerose.com/

  • The first step the most daunting one, requires you to have the courage to be honest with yourself, after that you usually find that either you are big enough to face the fear or the fear isn't as big as you originally thought