Fear Archives

Don’t Let Your Mistakes Hold You Back

We’re all human, and we all make mistakes, whether you’re a parent, a surgeon, or whatever it is you do in life.

Recently, I got involved with a program to trap feral cats, bring them to the Humane Society to be fixed, checked-over, and vaccinated. They are then released back to where they were trapped.

I set a trap in our backyard. The cat I caught appeared to be one the neighbor kids had tamed enough to handle. They considered it their pet. The woman from the feral cat program took the caged feline to the clinic. After the procedure, on her way out, the carrier fell apart and the cat ran away. That was 7 miles away from where we had trapped the cat.

I was crushed. In my mind, I could still see the little neighbor girl hugging that cat. I had played a part in losing her beloved pet.

This got me thinking. As our positive impact on other people’s lives increases, so does the impact of our mistakes. I think that’s why many of us fear stepping up. Think of a surgeon who’s unintended mistake disfigures someone for life.

Does this mean we should avoid taking on work that has bigger impact in our world. Absolutely not. But if you’ve been avoiding going to the next level in your work, this may be a factor. Many people feel much more comfortable letting others take the risks. It’s easier to sit back and envision how much better you would have done than the person who actually took the risk.

To go grow in our work, we may need to learn to deal with mistakes in healthier ways. We’ll want to face our mistakes and process them. Realizing that we need to mourn what happened, come to terms with the fact that we’re human and make mistakes, and learn to relate with others concerning our mistakes, especially those who are impacted by them. And, of course, we’ll want to learn from our mistakes.

As we become more comfortable with dealing with mistakes, we will no longer be held back by fearing them.

I could quit the feral cat program all together. Or I could continue to be involved and process my emotions about the incident—forgiving myself, allowing myself to mourn, and preparing myself to talk with the little girl if the lost cat is indeed the one she had adopted as her friend. And here’s what I learned. I no longer plan to put a trap in my backyard where there’s a higher risk of catching someone’s pet. Instead, we will place the traps near dumpsters where many feral cats hang out for food.

How do you feel about your mistakes? Is your attitude towards them limiting you from taking part in your world to your fullest?

Image Credit: Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the past, I’ve wanted more time to do the things I love to do—art, writing, being in nature, design, and belly dancing. But I was so busy doing the things I thought I was supposed to do—keeping a budget, cleaning, working full-time, doing personal growth work, etc.—I had little time left over to do what I really loved. I kept looking for ways to put less time into my responsibilities and more into the activities I wanted. Years went by and nothing changed.

Then I decided to reverse my approach. I would do the things I love to do first and then figure out how to fit in my responsibilities later. Since I was giving myself less time to do my responsibilities, necessity became the impetus for solving this dilemma. I got creative on how to get my responsibilities done in less time and with less effort. I decided I no longer needed to keep a detailed, to-the-penny budget—a more general budget would work just fine. I paid my landlord’s cleaning lady to wash my floors, which was something I could afford. Prior to this, I thought hiring a cleaning lady was an all or nothing deal.

My goal is to get my responsibilities so streamlined, they’ll function as easily as these guys dismantling and rebuilding a jeep in 4 minutes.

After I made this switch, I was surprised at what came up. When I put more time into what I really wanted, I noticed I started experiencing fear. Some of the things I love to do have scary aspects to them. I’m afraid my writing, art, and design won’t be that good, or people won’t receive it well. Belly dancing in front of a crowd can certainly be scary. Staying home and cleaning or working on a budget always felt safe. It wasn’t until I took this new approach, that I realized fear was hiding beneath my excuse of being too busy with my responsibilities to get to the the activities I said I loved.

Now, I’m working with the fear that’s coming up. I actually use my responsibilities to manage my fear. When I feel like I need a break from fear, I pull out a safe, responsible to-do. The other day I oiled the squeaky doors in our house. It was easy, and I got instant results. This makes me feel more grounded and confident so I can go back, with renewed strength, to face what I’m currently afraid of.

It’s amazing how it can all work together. Before, my responsibilities were inhibiting me from doing what I loved. Now, my responsibilities are actually supporting me in doing the things I love to do.

Using Fear as a Helpful Tool

When I was a kid, I thought fear was something you eventually grew out of. You’d come to a point in your life when you’d have such deep confidence that every new thing would be a total adventure and not something scary.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that fear is a part of every worthwhile new venture. I’ve been told that if you’re not afraid when you’re about to get married that you’re not in reality about what you’re about to do. And who isn’t nervous the first time they go on a professional interview or when buying their first house.

So I’ve been thinking about fear lately as I’m making changes in my life. A recent ski trip was the best analogy for how I handle fear now. I can ski easy and intermediate blue runs. When I’m on an intermediate slope looking over the edge of that steep hill, I’m afraid. But once I start skiing, I remember, “Ah, I know how to do this.” And I feel the challenge of being at the edge of my ability.

This the kind of fear I’ve learned to gently press through. When I have these types of challenges, whether skiing or creating art or teaching a class for the first time, I find that when I step into what I’m afraid of, the fear almost instantly disappears and I’m enjoying myself like I do skiing down an intermediate blue run.

Now other times, I have unintentionally gotten on an advanced blue ski run. I look down the steep, narrow hill and feel fear again. In this situation, there’s no turning back, so I go. But since this is beyond my skill level, I feel terror the whole way. I use an enormous amount of effort to get down without having a serious fall. By the time I finish the run, I’ve lost my confidence and I’m physically exhausted.

It’s not productive for me to push through this kind of fear, unless I have no choice like in the case of accidentally getting on a difficult ski run. So if I’m afraid to do something I’m considering doing and I start to do it and my fear sustains or increases, I know it’s time to back off and try something different. I’m not ready for that challenge yet. I don’t want to have to take time to recover from the lack of confidence pushing through a situation like this would cause. It actually sets me back.

I love dealing with fear this way. I’m not limited by my fears. But instead I use fear in a way that helps me know what will be a fun new adventure and what I need to do further work on before I attempt it.

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