The Paralyzing Fear of Making a Mistake: How to Cope and Move Past It

Is the fear of making a mistake keeping you from trying something new? Is the fear of failing standing in the way of your dreams?

 

If so, you are not alone. The fear of making a mistake often stands in the way of vulnerability, risk, and courage, and in my opinion, it’s the biggest contributor to our feeling stuck in life. For many of us, the fear of messing up, of not doing it right, of not having the answers, is a giant red stop sign.

 

 

I can totally relate. As an overachiever and a recovering perfectionist (a humorous but accurate term I coined), I hate making mistakes. I hate not knowing. I hate trying when I’m not certain I’ll succeed.

 

Example: I am in the midst of an exciting yet totally terrifying career step. I’ve passively dreamed of it for years, and when I had the chance to start making it happen, I found myself shrinking back. “I’m not ready, I don’t know everything. What if I mess up? What if I make a mistake?” The fear of making a mistake was paralyzing. Then one day in the car, a simple but profound statement popped in my head.

 

I will make mistakes.

 

I said it again, this time slower. I will make mistakes.

 

While it might seem like this thought should terrify me, it didn’t. Because I went from being afraid I’d make a mistake to realizing I will make a mistake. I’ll make several of them. And you know what I realized? I’ve made mistakes before. And I’ve gotten through them. I’ve handled them. I’ve totally dealt with them and moved forward. Why would this be any different?

 

Later that day, I jotted down the phrase in my planner. I will make mistakes. And I will get through them.

 

This phrase has been a game changer for me. I’ve decided to take this big career step, not wondering if I’ll make mistakes, but knowing I will make mistakes. And just like every other time in my life, I will deal with them. I’ll problem solve, bob and weave, and use my coping skills. I’ll figure it out.  I always do.

 

What step, big or small, are you thinking about taking, but shrinking away from because you’re afraid you’ll mess up, not know it all, or get stuck?  What thing would you do if you knew you’d get through whatever mistakes you made?

 

If you are afraid of making a mistake, I encourage you to embrace this mantra. I will make mistakes. And I will get through them.

 

You’ve totally got this.  Now go make a mistake.

4 Comments

  1. One thing that always helps me is a quote I heard once that basically says, “If you’re not failing occasionally, you’re not dreaming big enough.” Normalizes mistakes and is so very true! If we always do everything right, we’re not attempting anything very difficult!

    1. Dr. Allison

      Yes; I love that! I once heard an entrepreneur talk about “increasing your failure quotient,” essentially saying the same thing. If you’re not failing enough, it means you’re not risking enough. I love that, and you’re so right; it’s pretty freeing! Thanks for the comment, Brady!

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