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The Fear of Making a Mistake

I am constantly learning. Learning and re-learning. Sometimes when I’ve learned something new, I think I have just had the most profound, life changing revaluation. But then, only a mere few days later, I find this new revelation has lost all its sparkle and no longer feels like truth at all. Major womp

Same goes for my needs. At one moment I can think I need a certain something from someone, to only find a week later this really isn’t what I need. And in fact, what this person is now offering me – because I asked them to – is actually doing more harm than good.

Why We Can't Be Afriad to Make a Mistake mylittletablespoon.com

But in those moments when you feel you have learned something life changing, or when you have a revelation about something you think you need, do you cast it aside for fear that maybe you will be proven wrong in the near future? Do you stop yourself from asking for this need out of fear that you may actually change your mind later on?

This is a really hard one for me – and was one of the greatest lessons I had this week. I learned that I am very afraid of making a mistake. 

Living is Making a Mistake mylittletablespoon.com

I learned how hard it is for me to ask for what I need. Its like I’ve basically lived my entire life sub consciously believing that those around me – specifically my parents – should just be able to know when I am hurting or needing their care. I’ve believed that they should just be attune to my needs without me needing to tell them how I feel. 

You know where that got me? That got me desperately trying to scream out for help without using words. That lead me to using my shrinking body to try and tell those around me, “I’m not okay,” “I’m not fine,” “I need attention.” I have been incapable… slash haven’t known how…. to communicate my needs or tell someone what I need from them. There’s a lot that goes behind this – fear of rejection and not being validated, feeling embarrassed or needy or looking “stupid.” A general feeling of not feeling safe. However, another reason is this fear of making a mistake.

“What if I say something that hurts their feelings? What if the thing I think I need is actually not what I need? What if I  change my mind and have to tell them I was wrong??”

I’ll just look stupid!

I’ll look out of control and dramatic. 

They’ll get mad. We’ll have confrontation. I’ll feel way too uncomfortable. It’ll all just feel way too MESSY.

This translated into my eating disorder as well. “What if I eat this now and then aren’t hungry for my lunch?” “What if I eat the wrong thing and it isn’t even good?” “What if I have too much and then I’m super uncomfortable?” All the mistakes!! Oh what HORROR. 

Well you know what, brain boss? LIFE IS GODDAMN MESSY (like my house last week…) I – we – are always trying sooo hard to keep control of everything and know precisely what is going on never making a mistake. We are constantly working so hard to stay as far away from conflict or uncomfortable feelings as possible.  But that is not how life works. As much as we may hate it – life is full of uncomfortable feelings. Pema Chodron says, life is all about “groundlessness”

Pema Chodron, Making a Mistake mylittletablespoon.com

Last week I had an extremely uncomfortable conversation with my parents. Feelings of being unnoticed and hurt were building up inside me and I was trying desperately to – silently – scream out to them that I was needing attention. I didn’t want to eat in front of them, thinking maybe this would spark them to take that notice I was longing for. When I couldn’t hold the tears in any longer, I made the “mistake,” of saying, “I don’t understand why you guys haven’t said anything.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have said this – or maybe just not in this way. One parent got very defensive. I began to feel attacked. It was messy and hurtful and painful. But once the conversation was over, the honesty that was needing to come out had been laid out on the floor. Feelings were heard and needs were met. I felt uncomfortable for the rest of the day, definitely, but the next morning? I felt lighter than I had in weeks. I had the most marvelous day and had zero eating disorder urges. 

Why We can't be afraid of making a mistake mylittletablespoon.com

From my parents side? They were in the same boat as me. All three of us had been tip toeing around the issues and the honesty – for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. For fear of hurting one of each others’ feelings. For fear of stepping on each others’ toes or making things worse. For fear of making a mistake. 

Ya well look where that got us.  We – all three of us – were so afraid of making a mistake that we ignored the issues, trying to avoid all conflict, and each of us experienced stress because of it. 

Maybe the “needs” I told them are going to change by next week. Maybe I will have to say, “Wow so maybe that’s not what I need from you.” Maybe my one parent wishes they did not get so defensive and said what they did. But we made our feelings known. We each displayed our needs as we currently perceive them. We can’t be afraid to make those mistakes. Especially with family – you will hurt each others feelings at some point. But you will get over it. Because you are family. 

We can’t be afraid to feel uncomfortable. We can’t be afraid of conflict. And we can’t hold in our own feelings in order to avoid the risk of making a mistake. This is where growth lies. It sucks. Oh mannnnn does it suck in the moment. But I guarantee you – you will wake up the next day with a hundred pounds lifted off your shoulders. And your family will still be there – probably quite a bit lighter themselves.  

Why We can't be afraid of Making a mistake mylittletablespoon.com

Why We Can't Be Afraid of Making a Mistake. #groundlessness #honesty #embracethemess Click To Tweet

Thank you to Amanda for her weekly round up letting us think out loud. 

Tell me, 

Have you ever had to have a difficult and uncomfortable conversation where you felt a hundred times lighter the next day?

Have you noticed how you are affected – physically and emotionally – when you are not saying something you know needs to be said? 


  1. Heather @ Polyglot Jot | 12th May 16

    This is so hard! I have often been the one hiding things because I’m afraid of confrontation or getting someone upset or hurting their feelings. I’m trying to make more of an effort to communicate, especially when it’s causing me pain or upsetting me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts–so true!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…TOL: Technology addiction, coffee dependence, & Food ShamingMy Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      I’m so happy to hear how aware you are of this tendency you have, and that you are consciously trying to communicate more when something is upsetting you. It is SO hard. So bloody hard!! And unfortunately it still doesn’t feel good in the moment or even immediately after, but give it a bit of time and you realize how much better you feel now that you’ve gotten it out.

  2. Amanda @ .running with spoons. | 12th May 16

    I’m not a huge fan of confrontation either, but I’ve definitely learned over the years that it’s better to face something right away than let it fester and build up, because it ends up doing so much more damage that way. Saying something is more uncomfortable in the short run, but soooooo much better in the long run!
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…unicorn snot, too close for comfort, and obsessions galore (ToL#182)My Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      Precisely. Ugh letting something fester inside is absolutely toxic. In the short term it can still feel awful, but so much better than the alternative, and in the long run – will actually feel amazing.

  3. katalysthealth | 12th May 16

    Im so glad you were able to lay it all out there with your parents. I know it can be awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s what you need – and you should never deny yourself that because of fear or uncomfortableness! Confrontation can suck at times, but it usually results in something positive IF handled correctly. Sounds like you did it girl. <3
    katalysthealth recently posted…Thinking Out Loud #85My Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      Now that’s what I needed to be reminded of – it was what I needed. I easily feel selfish when I think this way – but none of us deserve to feel burdened or undeserving by keeping our needs inside. Thank you Kat!!

  4. Susie @ Suzlyfe | 12th May 16

    Good for you, lady. The hardest thing can be to stand up for yourself, particularly when it involves people you love, and who you know want the est for you. I’ve had to have such discussions with Alex, and he with me, but it makes us all the better for it. And it makes us more comfortable in our homes and in our interactions.
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Living with Anxiety Disorder: Beyond Your ControlMy Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      Exactly!! When you aren’t honest and are holding things inside, your very home can be a an infestation of discomfort and building resentment. It’s so hard when you know the other person just wants the best for you – but I like to remind myself that that always means they want to know the truth and how to truly help you (even if it is difficult in the short term to hear)

  5. AmberLynn | 12th May 16

    I think you’d like the book I just finished! I have a post coming tomorrow about it and it might help you with some of the feelings you are having. But yes, we all need things one day that aren’t the same as the next day. You’re a different person each day!
    AmberLynn recently posted…TOLT: Most and Least 2016My Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      The book you reviewed sounds fascinating – I am going to keep my eye out. Thank you so much for commenting so that I could find your blog!

  6. amanda- runtothefinish | 12th May 16

    So true, we learn the most usually from our mistakes not from the things that go perfectly!

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      ExACTLY. It can feel pretty awful in the moment, but in the long term can make our lives SO much richer.

  7. Emily Swanson | 12th May 16

    It is so true, that God has used the mistakes and sins and idols in my life to grow me, change me, and press me more towards Him. It’s showed me how weak I am and how He gives more grace and courage, that I don’t have by myself. Mistakes are … one of the BEST ways to learn, even though they are hard.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…Best Nut Butters (II) & A GiveawayMy Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      They feel soooo awful in the moment – but without making mistakes I don’t know where we would ever get to in life. They are what make our lives have meaning and teach us more about ourselves and love for others.

  8. Ellie | 12th May 16

    I’ve had so many of those conversations with my parents and sometimes I felt I still wasn’t heard. I am glad you got through to them, because keeping lines of communication open is so important. I think in my life, there are still things unsaid and I’ve left them alone without sacrificing self care. I know what I need and I cannot get it from my family. That is no excuse to be mean to myself or treat myself badly.
    Thanks for the post Cora 🙂
    Ellie recently posted…Training Talk [Running A Relay With A Team]My Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      Well, I mostly got through to them. But unfortunately I think we – especially now as adults – have to accept that they will never fully “get it” or give us what we need. For me, this is so hard. Its like I keep expecting them to give me what I need, when really the only cure is to find it within myself.
      I admire you so incredible much for this ability you have (I know it came with a lot of work). I have such a hard time separating self care/compassion/self worth from validation and getting my needs from others. I know what I truly need I can’t get from my family, but I am still working at getting it from myself and not sacrificing my own self care and happiness.

  9. Meghan @ Sundaes for the Soul | 12th May 16

    Oh I LOVE this. I just found your blog and I’m so glad you did. What you said about worrying about eating because what if I’m full for the next meal and worrying if I eat too much- I can relate to that so, so much. I’ve learned the same thing- that it’s just not worth worrying about. It’s okay if we make a mistake, it’s part of life. The conversation you had with your parents sounds tough- but it’s important that you had it it sounds like!

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      And I am so glad you stopped by so that I could find your blog! Your posts and writings are inspiring. I really look forward to reading much more. Thank you for your words of encouragement!

  10. Stephanie Leduc | 13th May 16

    I’m honestly quite good at knowing telling people why I am upset, and it just dampens the mood. I have a heard time getting my feelings out, because I don’t like being emotionally up front with people. But when I am forced to share what I am feeling (aka James forcing me to start talking when I am being unusually quiet), I feel so much lighter afterwards as well.
    These were some wise words, and the cover photo looks like a book cover!
    Stephanie Leduc recently posted…Internship Update: What I’ve Been up to!My Profile

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      Being emotionally up front with people is one of the hardest things to do. Unfortunately, it is also extremely vital to our lives and our well being. I’m so impressed by James that he forces you to talk when he sees you are quiet!! Most people (like my parents) would just back off and think you “need space,” when really this silence is often our way of saying we need to get something out.

  11. chasetheredgrape | 13th May 16

    Perfectly said Cora – and in these moments we learn so much for next time. You won’t forget that feeling you had the next day of the weight being lifted off your shoulders.
    I have always had that fear of making a mistake or doing/ saying something wrong. I am better than I was when growing up but it’s definitely still a work in progress!

    • Cora | 14th May 16

      It is definitely a work in progress – it will probably take many years – but being aware of this fear we have is the most important part. I think each day we need to do one little thing that tests our boundaries and make a little risk of making a mistake or saying something wrong. Each little thing we do will make us more confident and resilient to whatever results happen.

  12. Aubrey @ Clusterforked | 14th May 16

    How true this is. I am so pleased to hear that however painfully it may have come out that it did eventually lead to the feeling that a weight had been lifted. This fear of making mistakes has always manifested in attempts to control i.e. making myself smaller for many of the same reasons you outline here. You are so right when when you talk about the fears we have of getting it wrong – whatever it is – hold us back in so many ways and can have exponential effects on our lives. For me, a big part of overcoming this is trying to be more honest with the people around me even if this is a little uncomfortable. I try to tell myself “If I am honest and true to myself, maybe anything I lose because of that wasn’t worth having in the first place”. It’s always going to be a work in progress but it’s in the little things we can do each day, exerting a little less control, being a little more open and in the long run maybe leading a happier life.
    Aubrey @ Clusterforked recently posted…Reflections On The First Year Of My Bachelor’s DegreeMy Profile

  13. masala girl | 17th May 16

    LOVE this. especially, ” “What if I eat this now and then aren’t hungry for my lunch?” “What if I eat the wrong thing and it isn’t even good?” “What if I have too much and then I’m super uncomfortable?” All the mistakes!! Oh what HORROR. … LIFE IS GODDAMN MESSY. ” so SO true. stuff happens, you go with the flow and figure it out 🙂 i hope you and your parents are working things out!
    masala girl recently posted…Ginger Almond Butter (Raw Sprouted Almonds + Their Benefits)My Profile

  14. June Favorites- Link Love – Sundaes for the Soul | 1st Jun 16

    […] Why We Can’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes Love everything about this one. Life is a whole lot more fun when you’re not worried about making mistakes. […]

  15. Yudith @ raisefrequency | 12th Dec 17

    You are sharing your story and expressing your feelings in this post which means you are conquering fear of making a mistake. Fear of conflict, fear of hurting one or others feelings, fear of making a mistake, fear of expressing our feelings and even fear of feeling our emotions sabotage our happiness. You described very well: when we express our emotions and feelings we feel lighter. Thank you.
    Yudith @ raisefrequency recently posted…Conquer Fear of Love -Discover How to Love Without FearMy Profile

    • Cora | 16th Dec 17

      Ahh. What a refreshing reminder. Thank you thank you. And thank you for reading.

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