Best Self Magazine

Our Best Self in the Face of Fear and Failure

Your Best Self in the Face of Fear and Failure, by Sheila Ferguson. Photograph of eye on distressed wall by Steve Snider

Photograph by Steve Snider

Mindful strategies to shift our flawed thinking and patterns that invite the illusions of fear and failure

I can barely breathe. The possibility of failure on an epic scale threatens everything my team and I have worked to achieve. I feel paralyzed. How in the world do I reach deep within and clear the way for my best self to emerge? I need her. She’s in there. Somewhere.

Will she show?

Brain science teaches us that how I feel and how I handle myself when the stakes are high is a function of how I have handled myself in the myriad threats that preceded the current crisis. Each earlier threat, big or small, has pre-conditioned my mind based on my thoughts, reactions, and my beliefs about my capabilities, culpability, and support. These past factors determine with near certainty whether I will be crippled by fear or transcend it, in this situation and each time fear rears its monstrous head in the future.

So, what can I do — what can we do — to ensure that our best self shows up when we need her most?

We can condition our response to fear to strengthen our inner certitude rather than cause a loss of confidence.

Unmanaged, fear can confuse us, hinder our achievements, and limit our potential. Fear often hijacks our thinking, throwing us into a downward spiral. With each successive failure, fear gains strength and we lose power. Worst of all, fear can block the very thing we need to bring forth our best self: conscious thought.

Conversely, each time we conquer fear, we increase the likelihood of success which boosts our confidence that we can handle more significant challenges. Every past moment of success positively influences our mind’s

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