Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Nick in Los Angeles. I have crippling fears of making mistakes all the time no matter what I’m doing. Be it cooking or trying to learn something new, I always have fear of making mistakes, so I never do anything.
You will make mistakes and that’s okay. If your fear about this is preventing you from growing, learning and developing new skills, then it’s time to seek professional assistance. This can create a cycle where you don’t develop new skills, which can further reduce your feelings of incompetence and, in turn, this can make your anxiety about mistakes even worse. Some things that a therapist may explore with you could include thinking ahead to the possible impact of your mistake. Will it be that bad? Are you working third shift at a nuclear plant where pushing the wrong button will spew radioactive water into a city’s water supply or are you a transplant surgeon, defusing an explosive device, clinging to a 300-foot rock wall by your toes and fingertips?
These are critical, high-risk situations where there’s virtually no margin for error and you must perform flawlessly. This is why nuclear engineers, transplant surgeons, explosive ordinance disposal technicians and rock climbers all have something in common, years of training, supervised experience, study and the right temperament, rock steady under pressure, highly focused, driven and motivated and generally very highly compensated and held in high esteem and prestige by their colleagues or the public. Now ask yourself is burning the meatloaf or the chocolate chip cookies that horrible?
Most everyday events are not critical, high risk and unforgiving of error nor are the ultimate consequences that bad. I love to cook. I’m a dedicated foodie and amateur chef and my early efforts were somewhat pathetic. I’ve cut myself with knives, burnt myself on hot stoves, and given myself food poisoning. And enduring the polite twisted smile or grimace of others at some of the stuff that I’ve prepared which was less than palatable, especially early in my cooking career. None of this was a big deal in retrospect. Ask yourself about the actual outcome and weight of your mistakes.
Most of the time, it won’t really matter in the greater scheme of things. Now that being said, sometimes our mistakes can result in very serious outcomes. There are some situations where we must exercise the greatest care and focus or there will be severe consequences. For example, driving at night in a snowstorm with your three year old in the car. Separating the critical from the mundane may reduce your anxiety.
Your skill level at whatever you’re doing can improve with practice, trial, and error in learning. Every success is a victory which improves your self-confidence and your self-worth, and every mistake is a valuable lesson.