Getting divorced means that you are going to try new things for the first time, whether you want to or not. NEW will mean different things to different women. It might be a change in status, new home, new friendships, new childcare arrangements, new routines, new job, new responsibilities etc
Doing something that you have not done before, carries a risk of failing. For some people, the mere fact that they might fail is enough to put them off trying. So, they choose to stay put and stick with the status quo.
For a large part of our lives, it makes sense to stay in the construct of our comfort zone, it is a lovely place to be cosy, safe, emotionally secure, low stress, low anxiety and few surprises. But staying put means that you risk missing opportunities and experiences, which may bring many rewards to your life.
Brené Brown has a great podcast on FFTs (F****** First Times) which you can listen to here. This is what she said about launching the first episode in her new podcast series “Unlocking Us”:
Here are some of the reasons that make professional women fear failure:
- Perfectionism has an enormous impact on fear of failure. The more you achieve and the more senior you become, can make the fear of failure magnify. High achievers value success to the point that it can turn into an obstacle. Gradually the fear stops them trying anything new. Perfectionism can show up in all areas of your life and is strongly associated with feeling shame.
- Learned mindset and beliefs from childhood can affect how we perceive performance as adults. If you have learnt that success is only achieved with a score of full marks, and you have been constantly told that you should have done better then, it is likely that you will have carried that belief into adulthood.Sometimes the encouragement to do better and better can have a negative impact on self-esteem. It can set you up to feel that no matter what you do, you can never meet expectations. Learning that “good enough” is acceptable, can be a transformative life lesson.
- A previous bad experience or trauma can have an impact on how we cope with future risk of failure. Feelings of humiliation and shame are enormously powerful emotions, which can hold you back from trying new things. You may have your first taste of failure as an adult, and this can be hard to negotiate if you have never practiced it before.
- Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence can increase fear of failing. One set of thoughts, feelings and beliefs can affect another area of your personal and professional life. When you feel good about yourself, you are far more likely to put yourself forwards and try new things.
You may feel stuck and want to move forwards but are too frightened or unsure of what to do next. If you try to keep living the same life, it may start to feel awkward or completely alien to you. It is very common to get caught up in your old stories, the ones that have always worked and kept you safe:
- I have always done … every weekend
- We always do this in the holidays
- We always have a family take out night on Friday
- My Ex likes me to wear (…), when we go to …
- We have been members of the same gym for years, how can I go on my own?
- My mother expects us to visit every (Bank Holiday)
- My in laws always collect the children from school on …
- Our friends are all couples, so I can’t go on my own…
So how do you write new stories?
It is not easy to draft a new story, but the process can be rewarding, and you will learn about your strengths, skills and areas for growth.
The exciting part is that you can make these stories your own. No one else can tell you who has the leading roles, what the plot will be or how the drama unfolds. You get to choose a narrative, which aligns with your values and beliefs. You can edit your values as much as you need to make a life filled with meaning and purpose. A life where you set your own boundaries and are in control.
So, if you recognise yourself in any of the examples above, what can you do?
1. I invite you to take a moment to write down the thoughts that spring to mind when you think of the word fail. What do the thoughts make you feel?
2. Try to work out where your fear of failure is coming from. Your values and beliefs are very powerful and not all of them will be helpful. It is good to let the unhelpful ones go and then work out your OWN values. This can be hard work, but it is worth it. I have written more about values and beliefs here.
3. Plan and practice. This is especially helpful if you have found that your confidence has dipped at work. The more prepared you are for a presentation, interview, viva exam or any situation, will help reduce your anxiety to a level you can cope with. Find a friend who might help you to prepare.
4. Plan for worst case scenarios. If something goes wrong, what is the worst thing you can imagine happening. Also think about how you will cope with it. What will you do? If you have a plan, it will help reduce your anxiety. The reality is not as bad as you think it will be.
5. Focus on things within your control. Instead of stressing about the things, you cannot control, spend that energy focussing on the things you can control. You are not in control of what your Ex has planned, when they have the children for the weekend. Focus instead on what you are going to do and make your plans.
6. Break your “big goal” into a series of smaller steps or “mini-goals.” This may make the task ahead seem less daunting. You also get to achieve lots of mini successes on your way to the “big goal.” This helps to boost self-confidence and stops you from procrastinating.
7. What would you do differently next time? Every single “perceived” failure is a learning opportunity.
8. Re frame what success and failure mean to you. Success does not have to be 100%. Think of the baby who is learning to walk. They fall again and again, but keep trying until they finally learn to walk and then run.