Why are we so afraid of making mistakes?

by Sushma Iyer Rasal Share via -



Are you one of the thousands out there who stop themselves from living freely because they are always living in fear…? …Fear of making mistakes is so common! Some are aware of this tendency, while some aren’t, but unconsciously get anxious when they anticipate that they may end up making a mistake.

Since making mistakes is a natural part of life, I thought it would be a good idea to publish this post, in an attempt to bridge the gap.

Top 5 reasons why people are afraid to make mistakes:

1. Upbringing

Since childhood, whether or not we are rewarded for things that we do right or ‘correctly’, more often than not, we have been scolded t or punished for making mistakes, whether it is about making a silly calculation error in math, or leaving a book behind at a friend’s place… Therefore, we have hardwired our brain to think that it is ‘terrible’ to make mistakes

2. Fear of rejection

Many of us dread being rejected, or ridiculed or mocked at. It is so important for us to be accepted by our loved ones, that we always want to come across as correct, and perfect, to them. We believe that if we make mistakes, it will tarnish our reputation. Therefore, even in the worst case scenario, where we end up making a mistake, we are always prepared to blame an external variable for it.

3. Fear of the unknown

Many times, we do not know what will happen if we make a mistake. We imagine that the consequences would be earth-shattering, and we are so petrified by the imagined scenario that we absolutely dread making the mistake.

4. The right-wrong debate

Being right is often overrated by people around us, and the society at large. The need to walk right, sit right, speak right, do things right, has been reinforced endlessly. The reactions, both verbally and non-verbally, towards those who might perhaps trip, or clumsily drop things, or forget to pay the light bill, are often not very pleasant. People therefore do not want to be at the receiving end of such reaction, and therefore choose not to make mistakes at all in the first place.

5. Disappointment in oneself

Many a times, we set unrealistic standards for ourselves. By making mistakes, we look small in our own eyes. In order to live up to self-created expectations, we become afraid to falter.

Is it possible to overcome this fear? Yes, it is. A lot of my clients have worked on their fear of making mistakes, and are now comfortable with themselves, accepting the fact that mistakes are very much a part of each of our lives.

Here are some quick tips on how to overcome this fear of making mistakes…

  • Changing our perception of making mistakes from being a disastrous offence to a learning experience

At the end of the day, a mistake is just an alternative way of doing something. Let’s take the example of driving in a new city. It is pretty much possible that you miss a lane, because you weren’t clear with the instructions on Google maps. However, at the end of the experience, you might have stumbled upon a shortcut. Therefore, a mistake is not a disaster. It is a learning experience, which mostly teaches us how not to do things.

  • Telling yourself, “it is not the end of the world if I make a mistake”

Most of the times, in fact, all of the times, it is not the situation, but what I am telling myself about the situation, that results in my final experience. Therefore, if I start swearing at myself each time I make a mistake, I will dread mistakes not because of the mistake by itself, but because of my reaction to it. However, if I bring about a shift in my self-talk, and tell myself, ‘it’s ok buddy.. it happens! It’s not such a big deal’. Over time, I will be able take mistake as a part and parcel of life.

  • Asking yourself, “Have I never ever made a mistake?”

How much ever you may wish to live in denial, it is practically impossible for you to have not committed a single mistake in your life, EVER. If it were such a terrible thing, you wouldn’t have survived. However, the fact that you have survived, are functioning well, and mean well for yourself (because of which you are even reading this article :)), shows that it really isn’t such a horrible thing, after all!

  • Evaluating whether people around you have ever made a mistake

We often get overwhelmed by our circumstances. However, when we observe people around, especially those who are generally happy and content with themselves, we may at first think that their life is perfect. However, on interacting with them, or by observing closely, we notice that it is not their perfect life, but their acceptance of their imperfections, that allows them to be happy and content.

Benefits of making mistakes:

That’s true. Making mistakes do have their share of benefit. They are:

1) You become wiser!

2) You have hands-on experience, and therefore know how it is to make mistakes and come out strong.

3) You become more aware and accepting of yourself, and discover new aspects of your personality

4) You realize that mistakes are as much a part of our life as anything else. And that it is absolutely normal.

5) You enjoy enhanced relationships with your loved ones, because you are not harsh with anyone that makes mistakes.





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