Last week in a moment of deep reflection, I realised that I have a profound fear of making mistakes. It feels funny to me that I hadn’t realised it previously but the thing with our fears is that usually until we work to unpick them, our fears manifest in our real life as some of our more unwanted habits or behaviours. For me, the fear of making mistakes manifests as procrastination. I procrastinate because that protects me from making mistakes.
Several months back I took an online quiz to discover my fear archetype having listened to Ruth Soukup’s podcast series called, “doing it scared.” The results were a little, “yes, that’s pretty much what I expected,” and so I parked the idea and didn’t think I’d particularly learnt anything new about myself, as I so often seek to do. But then something seemingly insignificant happened whilst I was at work the other day and I was suddenly floored by my realisation that perhaps these quiz results were perhaps a lot more revealing than I’d first led myself to believe. According to the quiz, procrastination manifests as the fear of imperfection, preferring not to do something at all than to risk it not being perfect. I’ve never been much of a perfectionist at anything which is perhaps why this label didn’t resonate with me at first but what does resonate with me is that I put off doing things that I want to and should do because I’m fearful of making mistakes.
Motherhood has opened up a rather daunting portal into my own childhood, my experiences and my upbringing, both the good and the bad. Looking at my inner child, I can see where some of this fear may come from. Perhaps it’s the inherent people-pleaser in me, the child (turn adult) who seeks to please others through their actions, who longs for praise and acceptance and who strives to make others proud before herself. Or perhaps it’s those times at school where I didn’t know the answers and having been put on the spot for an uncomfortable minute too long, I burst into tears in front of everyone, to release my emotions, the fear of being wrong (and therefore being told off /criticised/reported on) paralysing me into a state of discomfort unparalleled by much else. Perhaps too, there were times when I did indeed make some big mistakes as a child and the feeling of disappointment that I sensed from someone else led me to want to avoid that being repeated. I need to go deeper here, to explore the route cause of this fear but for now, I’m just happy to have joined some of the dots and worked out some of the puzzle.
I procrastinate so much in life and literally always have done, that it drives me (and my husband) pretty mad. I’m working on it, and I’ve made a lot of positive changes this year but I guess sometimes, in order to make the biggest changes of all, we have to truly understand the reasons why we have our “bad” habits because the release of fear is in the discovery of why the fear exists.
This fear of making mistakes is the reason I haven’t written more blog posts, despite more than 30 sitting in my drafts. This fear of making mistakes is why I haven’t taken steps towards starting a podcast yet even though perhaps I could have made the time to. This fear of making mistakes is why I agonised for weeks over deciding which new nursery to send the girls to because I just didn’t want to get it wrong. This fear of making mistakes is why I dwell on the times when things haven’t gone right in Motherhood because I’m scared that somehow, I’ve messed up.
The responsibility of raising babies is heaped with opportunities to make mistakes. Of course, as parents, we will all inevitably make mistakes but sometimes the fear of doing so is so consuming. The fear and worry of not being good enough. The fear of one day being blamed and resented. The fear and worry of not raising kids to be able to manage everything life throws at them. The fear and worry that comes with every decision you make along the way and with that fear of making mistakes, the hope and knowledge that everything will probably be just fine!
So what can I do with my fear now I know why and how it exists? I can be more mindful about it, notice it and not fuel it. Action is the antidote to fear. A life lived to please other people is no life at all. A life lived to be of benefit to other people, is quite a different story.