The Fear of Making a Mistake

beeflowerThe fear of making a mistake and the fear of failure live at the heart of what keeps many people stuck. Whether you’re struggling with relationship anxiety, career stagnation, depression, or generalized anxiety, the fear of making a mistake creates a debilitating and frustrating state of paralysis where you simply can’t move forward and express the longings in your heart.

I’ve often received emails like the following, one of which sparked my initial inspiration to create the Trust Yourself program years ago:

I’ve been able to work through my relationship anxiety, but now I’m suffering from career anxiety. I long to move my career to the next level and start my own business, but my fear of failure and making a mistake get in the way. Every time I start to move forward, the chorus of negative voices start chattering in my ear about all the reasons why it won’t work, why I’m not good enough, why I don’t have enough experience or enough to offer, how it’s already been done. These voices stop me in my tracks every time.

This email echoes hundreds of posts on the Conscious Weddings E-Course forum, and over the years it has become increasingly evident to me that one of the spokes of the relationship anxiety wheel – one of the key components that keeps people trapped behind the barricade of doubt and fear – is the addiction to perfection and the fear of failure.

When we unravel the fear of making a mistake, we find the addiction to perfection at the center. And when we break open the addiction to perfection, we find a desperate need for other people’s approval and for certainty, as if our worthiness for being alive is hinged on receiving positive accolades from others. This can manifest around your relationship, your work, your friendships, or just your own, individual self. When we don’t value who we are, the fear of making a mistake becomes intolerable.

Conversely, when we shift our mindset and instead view life as an opportunity to learn and grow, we find true freedom. Suddenly the clarity we’ve been longing for around major life decisions arrives, and we’re able to act on this clarity with a firm sense of resolve. We may still fear making a mistake, but we don’t allow that fear to make our decisions for us. We recognize that each situation in life – a romantic relationship, a career change, parenting our children – is an opportunity learn and give.

Everything shifts when you reverse your mindset from, “What can I get?” to “What can I offer?” But in order to offer your intrinsic gifts you need to trust and value what those intrinsic are. You need to be able to look inside and honestly be able to reflect your own inviolable essence.    You need to shift your value system from one that places high premium on externals achievements – or externals in any way (looks, income, house, what your partner looks like, degree of eduction) – and learn to connect to the inner realm of heart and soul.

Then you will know your gifts and you will be ready to offer them to to world whether or not anyone takes notice. And, in case you’re wondering, everyone has gifts to offer. They may not be the skills that we learn to value in our rationalist-materialist culture, but they are gifts that our world needs: your kindness, your love of animals, your emotional sensitivity, your creativity, your connection to worlds unseen, your loyalty, your devotion to those you love. How will embracing these qualities translate into a career path? It’s not a linear formula that I can enumerate here, but what I know to be true is that passionate careers begin from the inside out, from a deep desire to express and share, from a need to help in some way. Your offering will not speak to everyone, but when you give from this place, you find the people who long to hear your message, and you land in your place in the world.

I’ll end with an email I recently received from a Trust Yourself participant several months after she participated in the program (shared here with her permission). It brought me to tears when I read it, as it illustrates so powerfully what can happen when you reclaim your self-trust and make decisions from that place of inner clarity and freedom. We do this for ourselves, first, and then, with a natural rippling effect, we do it for the healing of the world:

I have to tell you that my life changed because of your 30-day Trust Yourself program.  Not only did I quit my hospital job to go on my Buddhist Pilgrimage to India and Nepal, I have begun the work of becoming a Humitarian Relief worker – a lifelong dream.  My work as a Hospice Nurse, which I returned to after quitting the hospital, is per diem status which gives me the freedom to be gone for chunks of time.  I have let fear go and stepped into courage to follow my passion.  My first mission is in September, when I will join a small group of committed clinicians to trek into the Upper Dolpo Region of Nepal for 30 days where we will offer 5 clinics along the way.  We will be visiting some of the highest settlements on the planet (hiking between 10K and 18K ft) and moving through terrain on the Tibetan Plateau of the Himalaya that has only been open to foreigners since 1992.  I cannot begin to imagine what I will learn.  I pray (and trust) that I am of service to those we endeavor to help.
I read once if you follow your passion, you will find your purpose. I needed to Trust Myself to do this, and I often have to remind myself things you taught me, so I still listen to your MP3s -so wonderfully supportive – and I continue to trust and KNOW that I am on my path.
In gratitude,
Namaste,
Rhiana 
This will be the last time that I offer Trust Yourself as a live program where I’m moderating the forum and leading weekly group coaching calls. If you would like to join me, please click here.

The Imposter Syndrome

When I do something well and have success, I feel like it’s a fluke.”

“I walk around feeling like a fraud. I don’t trust that I’m honestly capable of doing the things that I do.”

“I have this nagging sense that I’m going to be found out, like I’m a fake.” 

A fluke. A fraud. A fake. The imposter syndrome. Thanks to the Internet, most people have heard of this insidious and demoralizing way of walking through the world, but few people know how it forms and what to do about it. Moving through life feeling like we’re going to be “found out” leads a subtle but chronic sense of anxiety. As such, it’s worth spending some time unraveling the elements that comprise this painful way of regarding oneself.

These are the common personality traits of those who suffer from the imposter syndrome:… Click here to continue reading…

Highly sensitive High achieving Perfectionist . . . → Read More: The Imposter Syndrome

The Call to Turn Inward

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Jung observed that the Aboriginal people of Australia spend two-thirds of their waking lives in some form of inner work… We modern people can scarcely find a few hours free in an entire week to devote to the inner world.

- Robert Johnson, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

The time comes when life as you’ve been living it is no longer working. Perhaps you’ve been taken down by illness. Perhaps insomnia is punctuating your sleep night after night, week after week, year after year. Perhaps you’ve reached your breaking point with the incessant barrage of worry and intrusive thoughts that parade across your brain every hour of the day. Perhaps you’re exhausted by your lifelong tendency to absorb other people’s lives and care so much about what others think.

Guided by an extroverted culture that teaches us to externally-reference our sense of Self, … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: The Call to Turn Inward

Sex Begets Sex

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One might think, given how much I write about relationships, that I would write more about sex. I’ve touched on the subject sporadically – here and here and here – but I haven’t delved into the topic in depth for a variety of reasons, the primary being that it’s such a vast and complicated realm that it’s difficult to do it justice in a single article. Still, because the topic arises so frequently with my clients and on my forums, it’s worth diving in a bit more, even if we only scratch the surface.

I’ve written about what’s “normal” and hopefully have shed some light on the connection between anxiety and sex. A large part of my work consists of debunking the pernicious “shoulds” that weigh heavily into psyches and mutate into shame. When we’re up against an externally derived barometer of what a healthy relationship should look like, we … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: Sex Begets Sex

The Uncorked Heart

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At the center of ourselves, at the very center of our body and our soul, lives the heart. When we allow ourselves to stay in the flow of the feelings of life –  feeling sadness when it reaches out like a child in the dark, feeling jealousy when it pricks the side of the eyes, feeling anger when it scalds like lava, feeling joy when it hums and laughs – the heart remains open and fully alive. In this openhearted state we’re more attuned to gratitude, we feel excited by life, we’re open to creative inspiration, we inhabit our bodies, and we’re more open to giving and receiving love with our loved ones.

But so often we plunge up our hearts like a cork in a bottle. We do this because we learned early in life, from a culture that doesn’t have the faintest clue how to guide its members … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: The Uncorked Heart