Afraid to fail?

“Women are afraid to fail. I see it all the time and it is their biggest obstacle to overcome”. A client of mine made this comment while talking about exercise and why I hadn’t been exercising since my first daughter was born 4 years ago.  When he first said those words , I instantly became defensive and couldn’t help thinking : ” What do you know? you are not a woman and don’t know what it is like being a full time working mom to two little kids,and blah blah blah”. All my excuses for NOT working out were instantly running through my mind to justify my behavior and my right to feeling provoked by his statement. However, knowing he has been a personal trainer for over 25 years, I couldn’t fully disregard his statement.

“You see”, he continued,”women tend to only do cardio, when they actually should focus more on strength training in their work out. And strength training it is all about failure. You push yourself until you fail. And then you do it all over again until you fail. And then you do it again next time and next time. You just keep pushing until you fail, because in order to be successful you have to fail. So you will fail. Understand it, reflect on it, own it , and then do it again. Don’t be afraid of it and don’t be hard on yourself”.

My reply: “Well easier said than done –I am a woman!” He just laughed and said ” I know!”

But afterwards when I was by myself, I couldn’t stop thinking about this statement. What if women,including me, are afraid of failure ?  If so, do I allow that fear to limit me? I wasn’t quite sure about the answer until I turned the question around and instead asked: How would it make me feel, if I actually allowed myself to fail? A wave of relief instantly washed over me. Like an imaginary wall was crumbling to the ground around me and all the pressure was off!  What a great sensation. And, the more I thought about it , the more I found the  answer to be quite simple: Yes I do let the fear of failure limit me and stop me from doing new things!!! I realized I was actually intimidated by the thought of getting back in shape. The end result would be awesome, but to get there, meant I would first have to face the fact that I was no longer in shape and could not even do a push up or run  200 yards.  It meant I had to face my “shortcomings” and the fact that I had let me self go. And to be honest, who doesn’t get a bit intimidated about that!!

 I realized that I was letting the fear of failure limit me in other ways as well. How long have I want to take a dance class, but kept postponing it due to being too ‘busy with the kids’, when I know the truth is, that I was afraid of not being good enough?

 Furthermore, I love working with dogs, but I always felt I wasn’t a good enough trainer for the owners. So instead of facing my fears, I had unfortunately  stopped doing any dog training classes. And as a result, missing out on a lot of fun with some great people and their dogs.  

 I am sure I could come up with many more examples of times,I had “chickened” out.  As you can see, this was quite the AHA moment for me.

And what I find even more interesting is,  a conversation about strength training made me realize the limiting fear that was embedded within my thoughts and my view of myself. How come I never knew this about myself before? And if I feel this way, are other women experiencing the same thing? Probably. If this resonates with you, I truly encourage you to take a minute or five and just reflect on these thoughts. Maybe you will discover some interesting observations about yourself.

I believe we meet people for a reason and we have certain conversations for a reason. Just a couple of days prior to the strength training “talk” ,  I had a long overdue conversation with a girlfriend from Denmark, who is also a mother of two little ones. This girl is a super hero in my eyes. When she does something, she does it 120%.

With a  8 month old baby who is still not sleeping all trough the night, my friend  gets up super early to do an hour of P90X workout ( Yes, the hardcore P90- “have-you-lost-your-mind”X workout!) before the kids gets up.  I realized my excuse for not working out because “I’m- a-busy-working- mom” went straight out the window. And when I afterwards had the “fear of failure-talk” with my client, it really got my mindset back on what I wanted and the motivation to take the necessary action to make it happen.

So the next day, I went to Anytime fitness and signed up. I now get up an hour earlier so I can go to the gym in the morning.  I have found that I absolutely LOVE this hour in the morning of peace and quiet me-time, no matter how hard it is to get out of bed. And not only do I go to the gym.  I am actually doing a lot of strength training with free weights. Something I used to absolutely hate. But since I have allowed myself to fail each time I go there, I find that I push myself harder and enjoy it more.

After 2 months,  I now feel stronger , than I have  in 4 years. You can’t tell from the scale that I am working out ( but that is due to my nutrition and material for another post) but I can feel it!  And yes, I often have to battle the little voice inside my head saying:”Just give up – you are not seeing the result in the scale anyways.It is just a waste of time”. BUT thankfully I am very familiar with this voice. I  know it is my constant test and my goal is to prove the voice wrong.

Am I still fearful and intimidated of some things? yes of course, it is a hard habit to break after 35 years.  I am still intimidated by starting to run again. I think it is because I  used to be a runner . but now when I get on the treadmill, it is a “smack-in-your-face-how-bad -in-shape-I am” moment, and who wants to keep being faced with that type of “failure”? Nobody.

But that is just it. The lesson: Keep running and face what intimidates you and push yourself until failure. Then pick yourself up and keep pushing again. Keep in mind, nobody’s perfect. And the more I allow myself to not be perfect , the more I can just enjoy it.


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