Fear and dandelions
Dandelions have a purpose, even though they bother most gardeners here in the UK (I say here in the UK because in Panama, my home country, I know some people that keep dandelions in pots as precious plants!). According to research, they are highly nutritious, good for the bees, and, in my opinion, they are really pretty!
The thing with dandelions, for the people that are unfamiliar with them, is that the roots are really strong. In fact, I've seen when baby dandelions start germinating, their leaves might not look like a big deal but once you plug them out of the soil you can see their formidable roots trying to go deeper and deeper.
Fear is like a dandelion plant: really hard to exterminate but also inevitable and sometimes necessary for other purposes. According to different sources, this fear of failure refers to persistent and irrational anxiety about failing to measure up to the standards and goals set by ourselves and/or others. This includes anxiety around academic expectations, losing a job, sexual inadequacy, loss of a loved one or self-esteem, and other situations.
Before I get into how to overcome this fear of failure, I want to talk about phobias and how they are irrational fears related to specific objects or situations. A phobia related to fear of failure is known as 'atychiphobia'. Not everyone experiencing atychiphobia experiences it the same way. Some physical and emotional symptoms include:
- Insomnia or sleepless nights related to overthinking and severe anxiety.
- Stress causing chest pains.
- Feelings of constant fatigue and tardiness due to lack of motivation.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Unusually fast heart rate.
- Tightness or pain in your chest.
- Trembling or shaking sensations.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Digestive distress.
- Difficulty regulating your body temperature.
- An intense feeling of panic or anxiety.
- Overwhelming need to escape a situation that produces the fear.
- Procrastination to avoid work or task assigned that triggered their anxiety.
- Unnecessary rationalisation of how something goes wrong.
- Feeling like you’ve lost control over a situation.
- Thinking that you may die or pass out.
- Generally feeling powerless over your fear.
- Self-handicapping to sabotage your effort.
Regardless of the type of fear you are experiencing, in order to break free from it you will need to:
- Get to know your fear and understand what makes you afraid and why.
- Assess what are you currently doing to help you and if there’s anything else you can do.
- Find professional support to help you slowly face your fears.
After ending a very toxic relationship with an ex-partner, I started to experience atychiphobia, but what helped me to start overcoming fear and break free from its claws was hope. Hope that life had much more to offer than this dark place, and hope can arrive from unexpected places.
For me, it was right after my youngest cat died. It was an unexpected departure. It shocked me and reminded me that I was still alive. There was hope for me. And if you have participated in my live workshops, read my posts, or worked one on one with me, I might have already told you what happened next…
Now, fear might not leave completely. In the same way it's hard to get rid of dandelions, it's also difficult to get rid of fear completely. We can live with our dandelions, we can live with fear. I now see fear as a sign.
If something scares me I try to think, "what is this fear trying to tell me?" "How can I use the trail of fear as an opportunity for my own growth?" "How can I work around these dandelions to keep my garden, the bees and myself happy?" In fact, I recommend that the next time you feel scared about something try to ask yourself these same questions. You might find your way closer to understanding and overcoming this fear.
How to overcome a fear of failure:
You can practice some 'freehand journaling'. wich is basically just writing what comes to your mind when you notice these feelings of self-doubt arise. You can also use the following prompts that will trigger very special thinking patterns to help you reflect on this feeling:
- When you experience failure what does your inner dialogue sounds like?
- What emotions are attached to this fear of failure?
- I don’t suppose you know exactly the answer, but if you knew, what does this fear help you with?
- What does failure in this area reveal something about you as a person?
- What behaviour comes along with the feeling of failure?
- How do the coping behaviours impact other areas of your life?
- Describe a time when someone you love failed at something and how you showed encouragement and kindness to them. How do you think they felt after? How can you show yourself kindness the next time you fail at something?
2. Somatic awareness
"Somatic" means "relating to the body", especially as distinct from the mind.
According to experts, somatic awareness is when a person acknowledges their own self within their environment and uses sensations to identify the psychological, physiological, and social factors to promote healing and self-regulation.
Somatic awareness can also be called "body awareness" which helps us to understand how to relate to objects and people at home, at school, and outdoors. In fact, a raised body awareness tells us how far to reach for objects or how close to stand next to a person.
This body awareness represents our mind and body as one and the responses and behaviour we have through it.
Studies have shown the strong relationship between trauma and our bodies. Having body awareness is very beneficial during therapy because our bodies hold on to past memories and experiences. By learning about our body awareness (including our body language, posture, and our expressions) we can also learn about the physical manifestations of trauma. These physical manifestations might include digestive issues, skin rashes, migraines, hormone imbalances, and other medical conditions.
These activities might help you build somatic awareness:
- Yoga is one of the tools that helped me to learn how to inhabit my body again. There are a lot of YouTube videos and YouTube channels dedicated to teaching yoga to new yogis and more experienced ones. I would also recommend trying 1:1 yoga to learn some of the basics or if you want more specific help.
- Some guided meditations can help us to practice body awareness including relaxation guided meditations or breath-led guided meditations.
- Conscious movement practices like dancing, swimming, or barefoot walking.
Use the next journaling prompts to help you reflect on your somatic awareness:
- Do you know what happens in your body when you feel anxious or sad?
- When something or someone annoys you, how connected are you to your body in that moment?
- What signals does your body give you when you feel happy or grateful?
- What can you do today to increase your body awareness?
You can also try working with an NLP practitioner (like me)
Defined as being "kind to oneself and being able to use self-confidence and calm in times of adversity", this includes not judging ourselves and, at the same time, acknowledging uncomfortable experiences and emotions as part of the human condition.
It implicates treating yourself with the same compassion that we would treat a loved friend going through a difficult time, even if this person made a mistake, or feels inadequate, or is simply facing a difficult challenge in life.
3 key elements:
- Kindness towards oneself
- The recognition that we all make mistakes and feel pain
A simple and powerful way to start practicing self-compassion, is to wait for the next time you find something to criticise about yourself, and then I invite you to imagine that someone you love unconditionally (a family member, a friend, or your pet) feels that way too. By imagining this I want you to write a letter full of compassion to this person going through this situation.
So these are the first three things you can do that might help you a little bit if you or someone you know are experiencing fear of failure.
But perhaps, more importantly, you and only you can define your concept of failure and success. Sometimes I find myself and clients holding a definition of success and failure that are valid for others (family, society, co-workers) but not necessarily for myself. Maybe explore if the failure you fear is your definition or someone else’s definition of failure.
But what if you actually fail? What if no matter how much we work on our fear of failure we end up right where we feared to be? Well, failure is inevitable. I taught my husband how to play chess a few years ago. I am a pretty decent player, but he studied, practiced, and now beats me almost every single time we play! And I could decide to hate the game (and the player!) but after a defeat, all I can and want to do is ask for a rematch, because I know my time to win will come again. Plus, it's really fun to play with a worthy opponent!
So next time you fail, because you will, remember you can choose to stand up, clean off the dust, see what you can improve, keep going and enjoy the journey, and eventually, you will get to where you want to be.
If you are looking to get some help overcoming the fear of failure and my words resonate with you, I can help! I am accepting new clients so feel free to send me a message or book a free exploration call to learn more about my approach and how to move forwards.