Fear of Failure and the Fragile Ego

by | 0 comments

This is a topic that is fresh on my mind as well as critically important for any person’s success. I had many conversations with practitioners over the weekend regarding the inability of a client to follow diet and exercise advice- regardless of how sound and valid that information (if supported) may be. When a practitioner would voice his/her assumption as to why a patient may struggle to follow through on clear dietary advice, there were some common threads.

The patient isn’t motivated
The patient isn’t ready to change (the pain is not painful enough)
The patient doesn’t have enough tools/support

These along with quite a few others

I’m not going to suggest that there isn’t any truth to these assumptions. A person might very well lack motivation, not be at an ‘action’ stage of readiness, and could lack the necessary tools and support for meaningful change. But there is another underlying issue that I find is the much more common root of a ‘failure to launch.’ That is that the underlying (and potentially even subconscious) fear of failure is so intense that it prevents the person from trying.

Here is the thing about human beings: we have mighty egos. Egos that we viciously aim to protect. When I say ‘ego’, I am not talking about the root source of vanity and egocentrism that we commonly think of. I am referring more to the Freudian/Jungian definition of the ego. The constant inward awareness of ‘self’ that drives our most neurotic worries.

Chances are that if you have an interest in taking better care of yourself, you have spent a lot of time trying and failing. Every time you’ve tried and failed, you’ve made a little crack in your ego. For every break in your ego, you need to increase the lengths you are willing to go to protect it.

As you get heavier (and sicker) and make more attempts at taking control of your health, you make that attempt with less commitment and more excuses. You do this to protect the fragile ego.

If you went into an attempt to turn your health around and said to yourself, ‘I can do this. I am ready, able, and I WILL succeed. And then ended up failing, your ego would completely shatter. But if you went into an attempt to turn your health around and said, ‘I am willing to give this thing a try, but I doubt it’ll be any different than before.’ Or ‘Ok, I’ll try this diet, but I’m not willing to give up vice X, Y, or Z’ what you are doing is protecting yourself from the failure you are expecting. For if you do indeed fail, you can say ‘yes, but’.

Yeah, I failed, but I knew it wasn’t going to work.

Yeah, I failed, but I never REALLY tried.
Yeah, I failed, but I didn’t give up this, that, or the other, and I’m not willing to.

You buffer yourself from the shattered ego, but you put a giant barrier between you and success.

The cruel joke is that if you could let go of protecting the fragile ego and were able to say to yourself ‘I am just going to do this thing, and do it to the best of my ability because I love and care about myself. I’m not going to track pounds lost or create time-based expectations. If those things come- great. But that’s not what I am doing this for. I am taking healthy actions because it is the gift I deserve to give to myself’- you’d never fail.

The lengths we go to protect our ego will always be the most significant barrier between us and success, regardless of the area we are aiming to succeed in.

So when someone comes up to me and says ‘my client/patient just won’t take my advice’ the first thing I think about is the fragile ego and the deep fear of failure that is seeded deep within that person.

Get a person past that, and success is inevitable.

How would you like to receive podcasts, tutorials, and learning materials weeks before the rest of the world gets to see them?

All you have to do is sign up for the members only section of the website. It is totally free and there aren’t any lengthy hoops to jump through. Just sign up and you’re in!

Tommy Caldwell

Tommy Caldwell is the Founder of Hybrid Fitness and the bestselling author of the books Heavy Brain and the MetFlex-Rx diet. He is a performance coach, specializing in behaviour change and self-discipline that are necessary for achieving health and fitness goals.


Leave a Reply

Kids Eat Bugs and Blood (and your child won’t eat vegetables?)

I'm not trying to preach or sound judgmental when I write this, but 'picky eaters' are not a thing. Not inherently, anyhow. There are some things that some kids won't eat- but when you claim that your child doesn't have a palate for an entire food group, you may be...

Stop Skipping the Dietary Fundamentals

What matters when it comes to your diet? Hint: it isn't the supplements you take, whether you eat breakfast or not, or your macronutrient ratio. Food Relationship: How you eat must come first. Why do you overeat, snack at night, and drink too much? You know these...

Stop Outsourcing your Self-Esteem

Every time you seek out external sources of validation, you are outsourcing your most valuable tool — the ability to decide when you are a person of value, and why. When you take twenty different versions of the same picture of yourself before putting it out into the...

If you react, reflect.

After a night of little sleep, I found myself policing two toddlers in the bathroom — the one currently pooping in the toilet bit the one playing with the toilet paper. While trying to resolve this situation, my pancakes were burning away on the stove. Angry,...

The Power of the Inner Critic

You’re lazy. You don’t have any self-control. You don’t deserve to be here. You’re not qualified, and everyone knows it. This is the ever-so familiar voice of the inner critic. The little voice inside of your head that lets you know how inadequate you are- and we all...

The Fat Loss Food Pyramid

Here is everything you need to know about food in a 3-Part Pyramid Whole Foods First: If you are eating as close to nature as possible, always going to the least processed version of any food, you are doing 90% of the work Nutrient Density: Within your whole foods try...

The Fat Loss Macro-View

There are a few things you can do when it comes to diet in order to increase your chances of fat loss. Doing one of these things is ok, but easy. Doing two of these things is good, but can be difficult. Doing three of these things is great, but damn near impossible...

Membership post sample

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit...

Podcast Test 2

01 – Tim Ferriss: depression, psychedelics, and emotional resilience

“It’s very hard for people to talk their way out of something that they didn’t talk their way into.” —Tim Ferriss

Micro Blog Sample Posts

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Praesent tristique magna sit amet purus. Gravida cum sociis natoque penatibus. Tempus imperdiet nulla malesuada pellentesque. Facilisis sed odio...

Pin It on Pinterest