When you feel like a failure it feels bad. We can feel it physically in our bodies, it plays havoc with our motivation and our bitchy brain uses it as an excuse to chastise us for not being perfect AGAIN!
Just the thought of someone pointing to out our failure to others makes us want to hide under the duvet like we’re back in our teenage years when the world felt too intense. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to fail.
When you are forced to deal with failure, you feel the need to distance yourself from it because only “bad” people fail and according to public opinion they were doing something underhand so it serves them right.
Getting a good sense of why failure feels bad?
And that’s only part of the reason, while these issues tend to play below our awareness, there are plenty we are aware off, but continue to allow to drive our behaviours anyway.
A few more obvious reasons why failure feels so icky is because of our upbringing, from the minute we’re born, we’re tested. We either pass or fail, that’s reinforced all the way through school. Those who constantly fail were looked down on by their peers unless they were the class clown. Those who passed the tests were praised. No wonder we see failing as bad. That’s all we’ve been taught.
And if you’re anything like me, who excelled in school with good grades spent my late teens priding myself that I never failed anything in my life – the threat of your first big failure is enough to keep you playing small.
So how can we change things to deal with failure in a healthy productive way rather than avoiding it at all costs?
You might think the key is to protect yourself from failure by never being outspoken, trying anything new or stretching your comfort zone and I bet your comfort zone is in need of a good stretch! Mine is…
But I tried that, in my late teens early 20’s I made a vow never to do anything that would mean people would be able to criticise me publicly. As you can imagine my life was boring and my personal growth stagnant. I shied away from trying new things because I was completely freaked out by the thought of failure.
So I’m speaking from experience when I say if you want to live even a half full life, you can’t hide from failure.
Do I still struggle with the fear of failure, damn right I do, fear is an innate response to what we perceive as danger, can I suppress the feeling (tried, not a good idea). I’ve come to realise that fear is pretty reasonable once you recognise it for what it is, thank it for trying to protect you, but understand it’s over reacting and let it know the rest of your brain can take it from here.
If you think I’m joking, I’m not, you can have an intentional conversation with yourself and you don’t have to accept every thought as true just because it fleeting popped into your brain.
Here are a few tips that I use when the fear of failure is stopping my moving forward in any area of my life.
Since it’s much easier to change ourselves from the inside out than it is to change the worlds perception of failure, if you feel the need to watch or read the news be aware of how they perceive people who fail and the messages they are reinforcing.
Remind yourself the people who will likely take enjoyment of seeing you fail are people who are too scared to try, you are automatically living a fuller life than they are.
If you find yourself asking the question, “but what if I fail?” rephrase it as “if i fail at this and pick myself back up it will be as amazing springboard to my personal growth and confidence”
Remind yourself that you have failed and survived many times before, you failed at walking hundreds of times before you got it, that didn’t stop you did it?
Failure is only ever a problem if you can’t find a way to dust yourself off and try again, it’s a important part of life, expect it, in fact welcome it with open arms (well at least the same way you welcome that annoying relative you wish you didn’t have to play nice with).
By using your self talk (the voice in your head that’s can be a right mean bitch) to focus on what you learnt from failing and picking yourself back up, you can feel more confident with the process of failing.
You don’t get to practise failing like you do with many other skills, but like the rest of them, the more you practise failing, the better and easier it will become and you’ll have one less fear to stop you living the life that you want.
Remember, if you’re not failing, then you’re not growing.
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Remember as a kid you could write your “I want” list for Christmas? It was easy. You didn’t restrict yourself. You didn’t judge your desires on whether it would make you happy for more than 5 minutes or whether it was value for money. it didn’t matter whether it would last or not. And I highly doubt you put much effort into convincing yourself that you don’t “really” need it.
But if I asked you to write an “I want” list now, you’d restrict yourself by the above and you’d throw whether it was socially acceptable, whether its appropriate at your age and whether it was high on your list of priorities.
With all these restrictions, we’ve taught ourselves to not dream too big, not to have any big desires. We lost the ability to daydream about the future. We’re taught to be realistic, to work hard, pay the bills and now we believe that you don’t always get what you want. We worry about the future and often prepare ourselves for the worst.
When I started my personal growth path, I really struggled because I keep being told to set goals and focus all of my energy towards them. I didn’t struggle because I didn’t understand the concept, I couldn’t set any goals because I hadn’t thought about what I wanted in such a long time. I had absolutely no idea of what I wanted.
I realised that I had lost my ability to daydream. At some point in my adult life, I’d started listening to the people around me. I’d focused solely on my outer world, being busy doing the “mum thing”, the “entrepreneur thing” As far as I was aware my aim was simple. Work hard, give all your energy to running the house, sort out the kids and try to grow a business.
People would ask me what I wanted for my birthday and Christmas and I replied “no idea!”. Honestly, I didn’t know because I’d never allowed myself to take the time to dream and discover what I want.
So back in June, I started my first ever “I want” list. I really struggled at first, my brain automatically censored itself. But eventually, I was writing about the most trivial things. I wrote 4 A5 sides of paper in my notebook. Do I have everything I wanted from last June – nope. And that’s not the I want
Do I have everything I wanted from last June – nope. And that’s not the I want list is for. Sure pull something off it when someone wants to buy you something or you want to spend some spare cash. But the most powerful thing I want list does for you is it allows you to dream. It gives you a better sense of yourself. It becomes clear what’s important to you and what you only thought was important to you.
I do my “i want” list at the beginning of each month and I’ll add to it throughout the month. If I got something off the list, then I’d tick it off but I prefer to see it as an ever-evolving wish list that shows you with increasing precision what you want from life, from your physical spaces, your relationships and how to find fulfilment.
I hope you find your own list useful, even if you just do it the once, you might surprise yourself what you write down.
While I don’t walk around with low-level anxiety anymore (there was a time when I was anxious about everything) I do have my days when I feel very anxious for what seems like no reason at all.
Sometimes it’s because I feel overwhelmed at all the little jobs that I needed to get done for the family and work. Other times it’s because I’m over-thinking situations and imagining what could go wrong. You know what that feels like, don’t you?
So what do I need?
I prefer to do my journaling old school style with a cheap pen and a note pad. Nothing fancy, I did spend some time using a note taking app on my iPad but I found this didn’t work as well for me.
The other thing you need is no censorship, so before you write anything down, decide how you will keep your thought to yourself. Whether you’ll burn the paper, paint over it, glue the pages together or just rip it up and put it in the bin. You need to feel able to write whatever comes to mind without the fear of offending someone or people finding out your closely guarded secrets. Journaling doesn’t work anywhere near as well if you feel the need to censor yourself.
You need to feel able to write whatever comes to mind without the fear of offending someone or people finding out your closely guarded secrets. Journaling doesn’t work anywhere near as well if you feel the need to censor yourself.
How do I start?
If you’re not sure what’s actually bugging you, then start with the obvious. I’ve once started a journaling session with “I hate his pen, it writes crap” and the rest just flowed out. You’ll find that what you write from an irritated standpoint, is usually the thing that’s making you feel most anxious. It doesn’t really matter what you write, there are no prizes for correct spelling or grammar. You need to get it out of your head and on to the paper.
You’ll find that what you write from an irritated standpoint, is usually the thing that’s making you feel most anxious. It doesn’t really matter what you write, there are no prizes for correct spelling or grammar. You need to get it out of your head and on to the paper.
If you need a more structured approach, I find the following questions work really well
Write until you find that aha moment. It’s when certain things will click into place and you see the bigger picture. For example, if I was feeling anxious about lots of little things, I wouldn’t stop until I felt that I had a handle on everything that needed to be done. Often these type of journaling sessions ends with a list of things to be done. Getting to a realistic to do list really does elevate my anxiety.
Another aha moment might be that you realise that you have no control over a certain outcome and it’s pointless to waste more mental energy worrying about it.
Sometimes just getting it out onto paper is enough to clear much-needed space in your head for you to focus on something else.
In reality, you can stop whenever you want to but the aim of this type of journaling is to feel better, so if you’re still feeling anxious you haven’t uncovered the real reason why.
How often should I journal?
This depends on you. If you’re feeling anxious most of the time, then journal every day, see what recurrent themes pop up. This is a simple way of watching how your mind works. With time you’ll be able to intervene and stop that feeling of anxiety before it snow balls.
If you’re only anxious occasionally, then do it when you feel the need.
I’ve created a list of questions for you to download. Feel free to answer all or some of the questions. Like I said there’s no right or wrong way to do this, just do what works for you.
We are taught from childhood that it’s kind to put others first, and as a child, it gives us a sense of purpose and makes up happy. But at some point putting others first causes us to feel resentment. Here are my 5 damn good reasons you should give yourself permission to make yourself a priority.
1. You can not serve from an empty vessel
You’ve probably heard this phrase before, but not really give it any thought. Basically, it means while you have been tending to the needs of others, your energy has been depleting and you’ve not had a chance to recharge. There’s only so much you can do when your batteries are running low. Guess what happens when they run out – you flip, you throw a paddy on how you are sick of looking after everyone else, feeding the kids, cleaning the house. You resent anyone who asks you to do anything. The longer it goes on, the more you despise people and the more you crave alone time. Prioritising yourself isn’t selfish, it’s the same as plugging in your phone to charge after you’ve battered the battery.
Guess what happens when they run out – you flip, you throw a paddy, start shouting how you are sick of looking after everyone else, feeding the kids, cleaning the house. You resent anyone who asks you to do anything. The longer it goes on, the more you despise people and the more you crave alone time. Prioritising yourself isn’t selfish, it’s the same as plugging in your phone to charge after you’ve battered the battery.
2. You will inspire others to take better care of themselves
As a kid I watched my mum serve from that empty vessel, she spent her days looking after us, cleaning the house, biting her teeth with her husband and making lists of all the things she needed to do. She spent her entire day doing something for the family. This manic activity seemed honourable on the surface, but deep down she was run down and very unhappy. She felt guilty about lying in the bath with a book or spending money on herself and I took on those same beliefs in my early 20’s when I became a mum. It took me til my mid 30’s to start to change them. So I don’t want my own daughter growing up to think that she should put everyone else first, or that time spent in self-care such as looking after her body and her sanity isn’t as important as everyone else needs. I do this by teaching by example. Such as making my daily meditation practice a normal thing, practising mindfulness while we walk to school. I’ve even shown her EFT (emotional freedom technique) and stressed the importance of loving and excepting herself just as she is.
3. It’s good for your mental health and self-esteem.
We focus so much on our physical health, but I believe that our mental health is much more important. Afterall all our choices about food and diet come from our brain, so improving mental health can only improve our physical health. For me, my mental health takes a steep nose dive when I don’t prioritise my own needs. I need quality time with my thoughts, or I can slip into depression even when I’m taking anti depressants. I get mean, I dislike people, I avoid social interactions and I have the shortest temper known to man! Self-care, particularly meditation and journaling have been a life saver for me, and it means there have been no dead bodies for me to bury.
4. It forces you to focus on yourself
This goes back to the putting everyone else before yourself mentality being the right thing to do. For some actually spending time focusing on themselves will be scary, I have been known in the past to focus on all the stuff I need to do to avoid dealing with my slip back into depression. But by focusing on yourself, you get to understand yourself more, you begin to see your wants and desires, find your talents, you find you again.
5. It gives you time to really think
We all think, all of the time, but prioritising you and particular your self-care gives you the permission to slow your thinking brain down and feel less overwhelmed with everything that’s going on. By slowing down your thoughts you’ll see patterns, easier ways to achieve things, ideas flow and you’ll feel less like you’re putting out fires.
Understand the need to put yourself first, but still struggling with justifying it to yourself?
Download my free affirmations (they’re just things to tell yourself every day) to move past that ickiness start putting yourself first.
Sometimes it’s ok if the only thing you managed to do today is breathe! honestly, it really is. We all need days to regroup, find our strength just to face the normal day to day stuff. Don’t beat yourself up about the 100s of things that still haven’t been done. Take the time out, you’ll be in a better headspace to tackle them after.
2. Your thoughts shape your vision, you can choose what you want to see. The information that is received through our eyes is very different from the information we process in our brains. The visual information is filtered by your expectations, beliefs and your current mood. Change any of those and you’ll change what you see.
3. I’m not sure about you, but as a kid, I was always told that it’s polite to put others first if you prioritised yourself it was seen as unfair and selfish and no one wants those kinds of labels thrown at them. But in reality when most of our adult lives are spent taking care of others. We really do need to put our own needs first. Check out this blog post – why being selfish is good for others. If we don’t we simply don’t have the energy to continue.
4. EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE falls down, whether it’s in public or private, we all have setbacks, failures, moments of self-doubt. That’s ok, it’s normal, but the real progress comes from when we decide to look for the lessons and use it.
5. Sometimes you need the validation of others so here it is. You are and have always been capable of amazing things. Your brain does so many things without you consciously giving instructions, your skin repairs itself, over your lifetime you have unknowingly inspired others. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I challenge you to think of 5 more things that are amazing about you.
Do the smallest amount possible to start the task, it’s the starting that’s the problem, once you get started you should find yourself on a role.
Work out what it is you’re afraid of, do you think it’s a waste of your time, the work won’t be good enough, you won’t be happy with the result – then make peace with that, aim for progress, not perfection
Look at the task in terms of smaller chunks, this helps with the overwhelm. You don’t need to plan everything out at once, just the next few steps. Take baby steps, focus on moving forward, not the speed that you’re progressing.
Plan treats. For example, If I write 500 words I can go and throw some paint on some paper for half hour. I can read a chapter in my book, I can knit 10 more rows of my project. I can watch the latest youtube video from (insert your favourite you tuber here)
Can I get someone else to do it for me? Handing over jobs that you don’t want to do to someone else isn’t lazy, it’s a good use of your time. Is it worth the stress and anxiety doing it yourself or would you be happier if you could pay someone else to do it? Sure you’ve got the skills to do it, but do you have the desire?
Write a list of things that will happen if it’s not done
Take notice of your frame of mind or mood and deal with that first, feeling down or depressed has an effect on our brains motivational centre. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything and you’re going to procrastinate forever, it just means that you need to deal with the feelings first. My favourite way to do this is to write in locked notepad. This way I can write uncensored without worrying about other people’s judgements and whether I’m hurting anyone’s feelings.
Give yourself the treat first and wake up the pleasure centres in your brain to help motivate you to action. For example, sit down with a hot drink and watch half of your favourite tv programme. Once you’ve finished your task, you can watch the remaining half.
Get accountable, find someone who will kick your arse for not getting your stuff done. I’ve personally found this a bit tricky, you need someone who will be brutally honest with you, call you out for not acting on your intentions and still be supportive when you need it.
Understand the way your brain works better, a great book is the chimp paradox, the child-like illustrations (reminds me of something my husband would draw) should give you a giggle.
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It’s instinctual to look after yourself first, society has turned this instinct into something we should ignore, but how can we take care of others, if we’re low on energy, passionate and lust for life?
We are taught that we should be community orientated, family orientated, that we should sacrifice our own needs to serve the needs of others. Yes, these are worthy traits, they have built us into a progressive supportive species, but these are the things that should only be focused on when we have cared for our self first.
So many of us see the word selfish as a negative thing, it suggests that we don’t care about others, that we put our own need first at the expense of everyone else.
But what if by being selfish, you are more willing to help others, you are happy to dedicate your free time to a community project. What does the term selfish mean? It means putting your health and wellbeing first before everything and everyone else. Does that seem so unreasonable? If you’re a mother, then you know how draining that role can be, without being selfish how will you find the energy and mental stamina to deal with screaming kids, to meet their constant demands and still be a loving parent. If you don’t take time for yourself, to remind yourself that being a mother is not your only role then you’ll lose your sense of self and start to resent the life you have (whether you admit it or not).
How about if we interchange the word selfish with self-care? That seems logical, it seems a no-brainer.
It is selfish to spend time creating something that makes you feel satisfied and accomplished? Or is it self-care?
Want to take up a new creative hobby? Your brain goes, “I’m not imaginative enough”. Want to feel great in your new jeans? Brain pops in waving, hey we’re not thin enough.
It’s so bloody damaging
“I’m not enough”.
It’s probably the most destructive thought you’ve ever had. It’s a tricky monster, as it disguises itself every way it possibly can. Very rarely will it ever appear in its simplest form.
The belief “I’m not (insert whatever here) enough”, will tie you up in a straight jacket, forever limiting you.
These thoughts don’t serve you. They limit you, more than you will ever realise. You might be surprised to know that they affect everyone, including those who have the world at their feet.
Want to know how this belief affects people who you would consider super successful, check out this youtube video.
But I’ve carried this thought for decades, can I really change it?
The great things about beliefs are that they’re just thoughts you’ve practised. You’ve practised this one for a while but that doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it. Instead, you need to practise the new belief that you want to have. I am creative enough, I am clever enough, I am ENOUGH.
Will your thinking change overnight? no,
Will it be hard? No,
Will it be a lot of effort? god no!
Do you need to know why or when this belief began? Noooooooo
All you need to do is remind yourself that you are enough, just as you are. It took many experiences over decades to create the belief that you’re not enough. You don’t need to wait decades to make a change. Little reminders in your daily life goes a long way, so here are a few printables to get you started.
These are A4 size but you can resize them to fit your needs.