By Jenny Peterson
The subconscious can be tricky and if you don’t know how to connect with it, all of your conscious efforts to heal or reach any goal can be squashed.
People often don’t walk around saying "I have a fear of failure, that’s why I’m not doing this." Instead, their actions or lack of actions are an indication of that.
In the case of chronic illness, your subconscious’ will to heal is directly connected to your fears. If there is something on the other side of taking action or healing that feels like a threat to survival, you will not heal.
That threat to survival can be failure.
In today's blog, I discuss how the fear of failure can show up subconsciously, where it stems from, how it affects your health and how to no longer let this fear stop you from living your best life and reaching your health goals.
Do any of these sound like you?
You hesitate to try new things
You worry about what people will think of you
You want something for yourself but never take the action to pursue it
You worry about how smart or capable you are.
You worry about disappointing people whose opinions you value.
You often get last-minute headaches, stomach aches, or other physical symptoms that prevent you from completing something.
You often get distracted by tasks that prevent you from completing what you want.
You get overwhelmed easily
You tend to procrastinate and "run out of time" to complete something.
These are all signs of the fear of failure. Depending on your specific patterns, the fear of failure can range from mild to severe, and usually go hand in hand with anxiety and perfectionism.
I recently took a survey and discovered that 85% of people have this fear. And based on what I see working with students in my program, this is spot on. This fear is so strong among many people.
Now before you start beating yourself up for being like this, let's talk about where it comes from, because it's not something that you just woke up with yesterday.
Whenever you have an experience in your life, you perceive it a certain way. You give it a meaning.
Whatever your perception was, your subconscious stores it. It does this so that it doesn’t have to keep relearning with each experience, which would be a waste of its energy. Each one of those memories/perceptions has an emotion. Emotions are the end product of past experiences. So If there was any “pain” that came with that experience, it flags it. It doesn’t want to feel that again.
Feeling that pain is going to affect your survival and its going to take energy to deal with that pain.
The subconscious is all about survival and streamlining its efforts to maintain energy.
AN IF-THEN BELIEF
The fear of failure is what I call an if-then belief.
If-then beliefs are any beliefs that come in the “if-then” form. They can be beliefs such as “If I touch fire, then it’ll get hurt” or “If I make a wrong turn, then I’ll get lost.”
A person who fears failure may believe “If I fail, then I’ll be rejected” or “If I fail, then it means I’m not capable.” Many people fear rejection so if failing leads to rejection that would be scary. Discovering proof that you’re not capable would produce fear because how can we make it in the world if we’re lacking crucial abilities required to survive?
Again its all about survival.
FEAR OF FAILURE SHOWS UP IN SNEAKY WAYS
I’m going to give you an example of how the fear of failure showed up for one of our students. I’m going to call her Liz.
When having a secondary gains session with students, I will ask them in what ways does being sick, keep you safe? Basically it (a secondary gain) is the subconscious' way of staying safe. If something on the other side of getting well is too scary for the subconscious, you will stay sick. It doesn’t mean that consciously you want to stay sick. This has nothing to do with the conscious and everything to do with the subconscious.
So when I ask this question to students, sometimes the answer comes easy or sometimes we need to do a little detective work. In the case of Liz, she was able to tell me 3 things right away.
If Liz got well:
She would get overwhelmed with everything she would have to do
She wouldn’t be able to take time for herself, to relax.
She would have to spend more time with her kids,
Now these reasons may not sound big enough to get in the way of wanting to get well, but remember this isn’t about consciously wanting to do something. This is about the subconscious and it's in the driver's seat of 90% of what we do.
These things that Liz was saying she was scared of were really not what she was scared of. They are surface level. There are much deeper connections to these.
So I became a detective and asked her some questions, which are necessary to find the deeper connections for each of these.
Starting with the first one, fearing that she would get overwhelmed with everything she would have to do if she got well. I asked her where she felt for the first time in her life, like she was overwhelmed with trying to do something. She mentioned that it was when her mom was trying to teach her something and she was getting frustrated that she wasn’t getting it. She feared failing at it because she would feel not good enough for her mom and feel rejected. Her mom held very high expectations for her.
Here we can see the if-then belief show up. If I fail then I will be rejected by mom. So this overwhelm that Liz is trying to avoid feeling is actually about rejection. Her subconscious doesn’t want to feel rejected. Its painful and it also means that if i’m rejected from the pack, I risk survival.
Lets look at the second reason. I won’t be able to take time for me, relax if I get well. I then asked her why she wouldn’t deserve to take time for herself if she was “normal”. She said because she wouldn’t feel like she achieved anything in order to deserve time for herself. She needed to earn being able to relax and since she didn’t feel like she earned it, she was a failure. I asked her where this came from and she mentioned that her mom was always yelling and saying that you can’t just sit there, you need to do something.
As you can see here, the fear of failure is showing up in how Liz would choose to take time to relax if she got well.
Now lets look at the 3rd reason, She would have to spend more time with her kids. I asked her what was so bad about spending time with her kids. She said that she fears that she is not “doing it right.” That she fears failing them in some way. She has subconscious proof that she has failed them because she wasn’t able to breast feed with her first child.
Here again the fear of failure is showing up. Liz has plenty of subconscious proof to support this fear of failure with these 3 memories and most likely there are more to make this subconscious proof even stronger.
In fact this pathway is so strong, that her brain is looking for it in everything she does to continue supporting this pattern. No matter if its something small or not, her mind finds a reason to say “don’t try it you might fail or look, see you failed you shouldn’t have done that.”
Most people will have 1-3 main fears/beliefs that they are operating from and those are discovered through the secondary gain work. Just by recognizing these and bringing one's fear of failure to the surface can help prevent it from being expressed unconsciously. I like to say, once we see it, we can’t unsee it.
These secondary gains are crucial to unlocking blocks to healing. As you can see there are many layers to this, its not consciously seen by the common eye or on your own.
The surface level things are what is usually seen, but there is much more to where it came from. Like looking at an iceberg. You see part of it on top of the water but below there is so much more to it than you can’t see.
This student wants to heal, but there are plenty of subconscious proofs that say that healing is much too scary. In this person's case, fear of failure is one of them. The subconscious is not synchronized with the conscious. The goal is to make them be in alignment so there is no longer a struggle to heal.
Whenever we see a pattern of behavior, there is always something driving it
This is similar to what happens with fear of failure. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s driven by something.
Meanings created by the mind. Those meanings come from your experiences and perceptions.
WHERE IT COMES FROM
Fear of failure is usually formed in childhood. Most frequently it is the result of a demanding parent or parents who have very high expectations for the child. The child might feel that they are always failing and letting the parents down when not living up to these expectations. Instinctually, a child wants to please and make parents proud so they can be part of the pack. Avoid being rejected which would risk their survival. This constant reinforcement of failure from parents can create a phobia in the subconscious mind of the child around any form of failure.
The phobia could also stem from a traumatic event in childhood where the child perceived extreme consequences due to their own feelings of failure whether the reality of this is true or not.
Modern society also has high expectations and rigid constructs of what defines a 'successful' person. If someone is unable to conform to these ideals, they can then develop the phobia over their own anxiety of perceived failure. They might interoperate themselves as a rejected member of society.
Because of this, people with a fear of failure will often self sabotage to avoid being in any situation that might result in failure. They might be constantly making excuses for why they cannot go or do or try something and this in turn might result in them becoming very isolated. Someone with this fear usually is constantly worrying about almost everything.
So how is the fear of failure blocking your healing?
Well it may be stopping you from getting the right help even if its something you know you need. You are afraid to try something new in fear of failing. One of the biggest questions I get, is what if your program doesn’t work? While this may sound like this is about the program, what is usually underneath that is a fear of failure. Whether its my program or anyone else’s, if you are questioning if it will work, then fear of failure is most likely underneath it.
Its most likely sabotaging your conscious efforts to get well because there is too much of a risk to the subconscious if you get well, like the examples I gave of Liz. Everyone wants to consciously get well but that doesn’t matter if there is more proof in the subconscious that the fear of failure is too scary. People unconsciously sabotage themselves when their motivation to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed.
HOW IT SHOWS UP IN YOUR BODY
It all depends on your perception but some of the most common physical symptoms would be :
Insomnia- because a person with a fear of failure is often worrying about what might happen, the psyche goes into conflict and activates the sympathetic nervous system, never allowing the body to feel safe enough to sleep.
It could cause chronic fatigue due to the adrenals being affected. This would come from a situation where you felt like you went down the wrong path in life.
Anxiety and panic attacks because you feel powerless and fearful of the future. This puts your body on a heightened alert.
Digestive issues if there was something that happened that you were unable to digest that made you feel like a failure.
Joint and muscle issues due to not feeling good enough.
Headaches due to the pressure that you put on yourself from being perfect.
FINDING THE CONNECTIONS
One way is to use the “fill-in-the-blank” method. Try completing these sentences with the first words that come to mind.
“If I fail, then it means [blank] or
“If I fail, then [blank] will happen.”
You may end up with one or two words or with a longer list. Once you have that list, then try saying each sentence aloud to find which seems the strongest. You’ll then have found some beliefs that cause you to fear failure.
If I fail …
… then I’ll lose everyone’s respect
… then I’ll disappoint people
… then people won’t like me
From these you would determine which felt the strongest.
Next, you find the proof of where it came from, going back to childhood as far back as possible, the first time you felt this way. From there its about shifting that belief based on the perception/meaning of that experience and realizing that the meaning that you gave it isn’t true. This involves seeing the memory from a new view, the limitations of all of those in the memory and how those limitations affected that experience. making a clear distinction between the reality and the meaning. This will take away the original meaning that was given that was threatening our survival. The subconscious will then start to shift the way it feels about failure.
By repeatedly dissolving the meaning we have given events, we are able to create a new neural circuit in the brain that bypasses those parts of the brain so that we are able to view our perception of events without meaning.
Many of the students in my MBR program are able by the end of the course to stop giving meaning to most events and are able to dissolve any meaning we do give in a matter of moments. How did we achieve that result? We practice dissolving the meanings we gave to many of the events in our life.
Once you shift the meaning of failure in your subconscious, you can then take action to start creating new pathways that feel safe when not doing things perfectly.
For our students, we tell them to do things imperfectly. Start small. Leaving the dishes, not folding the laundry. Going to bed without tidying up the house. It doesn’t mean you become a complete slob and do nothing, it means letting go of having things be perfect to feel safe. The more you practice being ok with things being less than perfect the more your body can relax, which promotes healing. In addition, you build the pathways in your brain that give a different meaning to failure and ultimately build trust within yourself.
MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO FIND THE CONNECTIONS
This phobia is one of the most detrimental of all the phobias because it goes beyond something on the outside that frightens you, it is a phobia that makes you afraid of your own self. This phobia can taint and sabotage every aspect of life as it makes you see life through a very distorted and dark pair of glasses.
When you suffer from this phobia, life is overwhelming. Everything is too much, too difficult and too impossible and the fear makes you feel like you will never be good enough. You will miss out on so many life opportunities from careers, to relationships, traveling, to hobbies, good health, all because of an unrealistic fear that you will fail. The regrets and limitations will have a huge impact on your quality of life and health.
There is no need to spend life perceiving yourself as a failure when healing and self love can grow and overcome deep wounds of failure.
Fear is also a skill. The more we use it, the stronger it gets. I believe we have abused it. It has turned into something bigger than it was meant to be. Rather than keeping us SAFE, it often keeps us STUCK. But we can relearn, reset, & rewire our brains for safety, & practice THAT instead.
YOU CAN UNDO THIS FEAR
Here's the deal, You are an adult now. Regardless of where this fear came from you can undo it. You can give it a new meaning. You can rewire your subconscious that failing doesn’t mean rejection, that you are stupid or whatever meaning your brain has given it.
The fears we don’t face become our limits
Life teaches us by means of our mistakes. If you make a mistake, ask yourself what you have to learn from it. Accept these lessons humbly and gratefully. This way you grow.
Everything you want to do well is worth doing poorly first.
Make as many mistakes as possible, as early as possible in your life, and enjoy them! I can vouch for that one! If you don't make mistakes, the challenges you are working on aren't challenging enough. And that is a big mistake. It IS important that action is taken and that you act and learn.
Keep this in mind when you think about all the things you have tried to heal. Those may look like failures, but really they are not. They are signs that you took action. From that action, you learned something that you still carry with you today. Without that action, you will still be stuck. You are not stuck right now, you have learned with each action you have taken, each building upon itself. With continuous action, you will reach your goal, whatever that looks like.
Be disappointed if you haven't failed in a week. Congratulate yourself if you have failed. These may sound silly but they are exactly what we need to do, society tells us the opposite.
Identify all the times you consider times that you have failed. What lessons/wisdom did you gain from them?
These are all ways to give failure a new meaning.
Fear of failure shows up in things that we avoid doing and can show up as us feeling overwhelmed.
Fear of Failure is connected to memories where we perceive it to be a threat to our survival.
It can often be connected to a secondary gain for reasons to not get well.
It can show up as anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, or headaches.
We can use the if-then method to determine what is really connected to our fear of failure.
When we shift the meaning of the experiences connected to where the fear of failure was established, our subconscious will no longer see failure as a threat to survival.
Last words of wisdom-
Don’t let fear of failure get in the way of your healing or living life. Why give power to something that isn’t even true? Instead put the power back in your hands to do something about it. Find the subconscious resources connected to your fear, be willing to look at your past experiences with a different set of eyes, and be willing to take uncomfortable action.
That my friend is all you need to get over this fear and assist your subconscious and conscious to come into alignment.
If you’re dealing with chronic symptoms and feel like a fear of failure is driving your bus and would like some help to make all these connections, I invite you to apply for the MBR Program today.
Jenny Peterson is a Chronic Illness Coach who helps those with chronic health conditions uncover the unconscious patterns connected to their symptoms so they can heal for good. She is the Founder of the MBR (Mind Body Rewire) Program and Host of the Simplify Your Healing Podcast.
After resolving Lyme, digestive problems, panic attacks, skin issues and much more, she knew that she had to help others get back their life and health too. Her mission is to bring a solution to a world where so many are suffering emotionally and physically with chronic illness, by shining a light on the body’s ability to heal when unconscious stress is released.
To work with Jenny and her team to resolve your chronic health issues using your mind, apply for the MBR Program today.
Jenny is not a doctor. She is a trauma trained coach specializing in identifying the subconscious patterns connected to physical symptoms. She has worked with hundreds of clients successfully using this biological approach to healing. Take the information that she is sharing as you will and to your doctor if necessary.