Have you ever made a mistake and then immediately fell into a dark pit of self-doubt?
Reliving the experience in your mind, wondering how you could have (woulda, shoulda) handled the situation so that things didn’t take a turn for the worse?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Mistakes happen all the time. No big deal. We’re only human . . .
The real bummer is the aftermath of failure: What our emotional reactions do to our self-confidence, sleep patterns, and overall well-being. For most of us, the repercussions of failing can be a self-fulfilling cycle of doom and gloom.
We’ve all been affected by sleepless nights—tossing and turning—reliving the “terrible” mistakes we’ve made. The negativity that comes with messing up is pretty much the same for everyone. The result brings anxiety, negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, fear of failing again, fear of rejection, fear of being judged . . . The list goes on.
Everyone from first responders to fashion designers to freelance writers, we all feel the emotional sting when we fail miserably. Our calmness, confidence, certainty, and self-compassion can take a fearful turn when something threatens our ego.
But do not fret because there’s good news: You can overcome the fear of failure and fear of rejection by retraining your brain to notice the difference between justifiable fear and False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR).
So How Do We Overcome False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR)?
Overcoming FEAR boils down to learning how to upgrade your mindset and retrain your brain to respond gracefully to any given situation.
We all know self-confidence is necessary for success. Ready to step out of the “woe is me” zone and get back to being your amazing self again?
Below are three action steps to help you face your inner battles and start to overcome your fear of failure and rejection . . . so you can restore your self-confidence and get back on track.
1. Understand the inner workings of the human brain.
To harness the power of your brain, you have to understand how it’s wired and programmed. A human brain is a masterful machine with a powerful operating system; it works in wonderful ways.
Brain science conceptualizes the brain into three different brains (or parts). And, in fact, the brain that controls conscious and non-conscious activity and behavior has evolved and multiplied its capabilities over time.
The earliest brain to develop was the “reptilian brain,” which is responsible for our survival instincts. This brain function was followed by the “mammalian brain” with its ability to feel and remember. Lastly, was the development of the neocortex—the thinking brain.
So how does the brain deal with fear?
It’s fairly simple. Fear is part of our neural circuitry. It warns us of an immediate threat by flooding the body with adrenaline, which enables us to respond immediately to an emergency situation.
Fear is regulated by a part of the brain within the temporal lobes known as the amygdala. When stress activates the amygdala, it temporarily overrides conscious thought so that the body can divert all of its energy to facing a threat—whatever that might be.
This area of the brain is made up of a collection of nuclei along with some other distinct cell groups. The nuclei of the amygdala include the basal nucleus, accessory basal nucleus, central nucleus, lateral nucleus, medial nucleus, and cortical nucleus. Each of these nuclei can also partition into a collection of subnuclei.
The temporal lobes of the brain are involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival.
When the senses detect a source of stress that might pose a threat, the brain activates a cascade of reactions that prime us either to battle for our lives or to escape as quickly as possible—a response known as the “fight-or-flight” response.
Fear manifests itself in many ways, but all fall into one of three categories: fight, flight, or freeze. But the important thing to remember is that real fear is, first and foremost, a survival mechanism that has to do with a physical threat while false fear is an emotional response that appears when the ego feels threatened.
If fear is essential to our survival, why does it keep us from evolving?
Here’s the deal. There’s a big difference between real fear (being chased by a bear) and an irrational one (fear of public speaking). Both types of fears may include intense feelings of anxiety and worry, but false fear only subconsciously keeps you from branching out to explore what’s outside the comfort zone.
The thing most people don’t understand is that you can use your fear of failure as fuel for success.
If you learn how to retrain your brain, you can actually wield it to help you achieve your goals and dreams. When fear isn’t there, you tap into the motivation part of your brain.
2. Be Aware of Your Emotions and Feelings
If we’re self-aware, we begin to understand why we have the emotional reactions we have. And acknowledging the way we feel and understanding the difference between real and imaginary threats, helps us to move onward and forward.
Anytime you feel freaked out or super stressed, remember to reframe your reaction for a more positive response next time. When the negative thoughts begin, in your mind’s eye, see them pop up as thought bubbles or balloons.
It’s important to recognize your reactions and thoughts as separate from you . . . rather than as part of you.
You can also label the thought bubbles with the different emotions and feelings you’re having, too.
Recognize and acknowledge the negative voice in your head (created in the right prefrontal cortex of your brain) that’s directing you to enter the dark side of fear. Notice what your inner critic says and that it’s lying to you.
Notice what that sounds like. Notice how the more you notice the weaker and weaker the voice of your inner critic becomes. This is how to eliminate negative self-talk.
When we practice self-awareness around our fear, a profound shift occurs.
Knowledge of our emotions helps us override our conditioned thought patterns. And once the awareness of the fear is present, we begin to notice how fear is merely a thing that exists in the human mind—something that exists in our brain that can be rewired for positive neural pathways.
Clinical psychologist and author, Dr. Tara Brach, tells us that when we meet and accept our fears as they are, the anxiety trance begins to lose its power over us.
Most of your illusory fears are based on memories you’ve pulled up from the past and are now projecting into the future. The emotions you feel are not based on who you really are, your skill set, or your potential. Nor are your emotions grounded in what’s happening in the present moment.
Making the fear conscious, practicing with the awareness of false fear, and recognizing the difference between what’s real and what’s not, are all steps toward change and victory over our emotions and the way we respond to any given situation—even if it’s a failure.
We can take back control and manage our emotions.
3. Reframe Your Fear of Failure for a New Response
Even though we’re programmed to react in a certain way, we can shift the power and paradigm by reframing any negative experiences that muster up the inner critic with its system of limiting beliefs, leaving you with a lack of confidence and a bunch of self-doubt.
A new outlook and perspective on failure is a crucial step for turning fear into fuel for success. Think of the failure as nothing more than a minor setback.
Give failure a new name to make it less severe and harsh sounding. For example, Oh that? That was just a blunder; a silly mistake; a learning experience; a gentle reminder of what not to do . . .
Now take six deep breaths—in through the nose and out through the mouth—and in a calm state of mind, reframe your experience by noting what you learned and what you’ll do differently next time.
Continue with the reframing technique by focusing on the positive aspects of your experiences to ensure you’ll make better, more confident decisions the next time around. Keep practicing self-awareness, self-compassion, and positive affirmation. Keep focusing on the positive.
During your transformation from fearful to fearless, it’s essential to repeat positive affirmations to yourself and mentally rehearse how things will unfold next time.
Practice creative visualization and see yourself as a successful person!
So what have we learned here?
The world can be a worrisome place. And when worry turns into anxiety, a false alarm sounds in the brain creating a distorted fear of a future outcome. False fears paralyze our growth as human beings. And remember, irrational fears are nothing more than a mean trick the mind does to make us believe we’re in world of danger.
But there’s hope.
You have the power to conquer all this False Evidence Appearing Real.
All it takes is a little determination, discipline, and practice. And by further exploring the latest brain research and advances in neuroscience, it’s possible for you to learn how to overcome your fears.
Recognizing and acknowledging the emotional life of the brain opens us to our felt, human experience. If we can have a more aware, compassionate, accepting relationship with the feelings that arise within us as a result of failure and rejection, then we can transform our fears into fuel for our visions, goals, and dreams.
Once you fully commit to releasing your deep-rooted fears, you begin to remember what it’s like to be self-confident and brave. And as you incorporate the right tools and techniques to train your brain for success, you can do anything.
To move farther along the path to success, sign-up for our free training on Winning the Game of FEAR with John Assaraf.
Do you want to learn more about how to transform your fear of failure into fuel for your success? Watch the Q&A session with John Assaraf, founder and CEO of NeuroGym, and Susan Golliheair, first responder and flight attendant.