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Understanding the Fear of Failure Understanding the Fear of Failure
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Understanding the Fear of Failure

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“All lifters, from novice to champion, can be affected by a fear of failure because they will undermine their training by putting too much importance on one single effort.”

Learning From Failure!

Whether you are male, female, bodybuilder, powerlifter, Olympic lifter or just a person trying to tone up a little, one of the major obstacles you face is the fear of failure. Without a doubt you will experience it from time to time and it is important you deal with it positively and not let it have a negative effect on your training and performance. A fear of failure can definitely cause a stagnation or even a regression in your progress.


All lifters, from novice to champion, can be affected by a fear of failure because they will undermine their training by putting too much importance on one single effort. If they do not win the contest or add a half inch to their calves or take off a little around their waist, they believe they have failed. The truth is that people who win physique contests, drop unnecessary body weight or add muscle may not be exceptional, elite lifters. What they do have though is desire, discipline, determination and the guts to risk failure - all necessary ingredients for personal success.

No one in the weight game has ever become successful without a risk. Whether success is measured by winning a contest or increasing your calf size, failure is an Important part of the process of achieving your goal. Understanding that failure is part of the process of growth is a big step toward eliminating fear.

Let us consider what failure isn't. Failure isn't judging yourself by the expectations of someone else. Friends and relatives can place a heavy burden on your psyche. Your girlfriend wants you to win the contest so she can impress her friends. Your husband wants you to lose five pounds because he wants you to look good at his bosses party. Your gym owner wants you to win a trophy for the sake of the gym. These often less than subtle expectations from other people put stress and fear of failure in your mind that may negatively effect your training and performance. Even worse, you may decide not to compete or even train because of fear of being subjected to someone else's disappointment or criticism.

Your peers in the gym are often quick to judge you by the size of your arm or the number of 45's on your bench press bar. As a result, just going to the gym can often be a source of fear. You have probably heard your non-weight training friends express an interest in working out, but they make the excuse of not showing up at the gym because, "I'm too small," or "I'm too fat." What kind of reasoning is that? The workouts are to take care of these problems but because of their fear of looking bad in the eyes of others, these people never even begin to train.

We all fear loosing, no matter Pro or Novice.

Trying to live up to the expectations of others can be the heaviest weight you'll ever try to lift. So what often happens is that rather than fail In the eyes of others, you will choose not to enter the contest, or, you may psyche yourself with a fear of failure to such an extent that your performance will follow your negative mind set.

Failure should never be confused with not living up to the expectations of others. Keep in mind that weight training is primarily a solo endeavor and an act of self-discovery through the experience of facing yourself. Failure is not the act of losing a contest. Failure is the act of not taking the risk at all.

If YOU want to enter a contest, and do; or If YOU want to increase your bench, and try - congratulations for the effort. That is a success of a kind just because you took the risk. In time, facing that fear and taking the risk will produce results. You will get more out of your efforts because risk taking is growth.

When you stop to think about it, what is the worst that can happen If you fail? Your distorted sense of fear is probably tar greater than its reality, since for the most part, failure is just a feeling of loss at the moment something occurs. Much the same is true of success. In reality, they are just emotions that are part of the process of traveling the path of self-discovery.

It has been said many times that you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes, and it's true. Besides being an avid bodybuilder, I have trained In karate for over 20 years. I have many trophies in my basement that span years of competing. With some of them I Just barely recall the tournament, let alone the win. I am proud of them of course, but sad that a few are just fading memories.

There are also empty spaces between the trophies. They are empty because they represent tournaments where I didn't place high enough to win. I remember these tournaments quite well because although I didn't win a gaudy piece of plastic, I did grow in my art. I grew because I learned something about karate, myself and competing. My failures are rather like trophies, except they don't take up any room, gather dust or fall over and break. Instead, they provide me with invaluable memories of learning experiences every time I look at the empty spaces.

Stay realistic about the whole concept of success and failure. Success doesn't guarantee great joy and happiness anymore than failure should bring you great misery. Regardless of your wins and losses, keep in mind the benefits and pleasure you receive from your training. Also, be proud of how far you have come.

Look at your failures as instigators to move you ahead. Every time you get knocked back a step, take two giant ones forward. Learn and keep moving, and in time, the word failure will take on an all new meaning.

Tags: Bodybuilding Life

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