In the 1850s Napoleon III served meals to his most honored guests on aluminum plates. The lesser guests were served on plates made of gold.

At the time aluminum was incredibly rare and so very costly to obtain. Worldwide production was a few ounces a year. Today massive amounts of aluminum are produced and it’s so cheap that it’s used to make soda cans and to wrap food in our refrigerators.

A simple if-then rule gave aluminum it’s high value in the 1850s. If a material is scarce, then it’s worth a bundle. And when it comes to failure, having an if-then belief can create fear. The belief often comes in a form like “If I fail, then something bad will happen.”

Value seems to follow a simple rule. The more scarce a material, the greater its value. Fear of failure also follows a simple rule. The greater the consequence you imagine for failure, the greater your fear.

But why do some imagine large negative consequences for failure and others so little … even about the same kinds of activities? One answer lies in the kinds of if-then beliefs we hold.

What are if-then beliefs and how do they contribute to fear of failure?
If-then beliefs are any beliefs that come in the if-then form. They can be beliefs such as “If I touch fire, then it’ll get hurt” or “If I make a wrong turn, then I’ll get lost.” Once you have the belief, it seems as if the relationship between the if-part and the then-part is a fact. It doesn’t feel like a belief at all.

How do if-then beliefs lead to fear of failure?
Because if-then beliefs seem so factual, the beliefs they form are powerful. A person who fears failure may believe “If I fail, then I’ll be rejected” or “If I fail, then it means I’m not capable.” Many people fear rejection so if failing leads to rejection that would be scary. Discovering proof that you’re not capable would produce fear because how can we make it in the world if we’re lacking crucial abilities required to survive?

So how do we find the if-then beliefs that lead to fear of failure?
One way is to use the “fill-in-the-blank” method. Try completing these sentences with the first words that come to mind.

“If I fail, then it means [blank] or
“If I fail, then [blank] will happen.”

You may end up with one or two words or with a longer list. Once you have that list, then try saying each sentence aloud to find which seem the strongest. You’ll then have found some beliefs that cause you to fear failure.

Here’s what happened when one client went through this exercise:
If I fail …

… then I’ll lose everyone’s respect
… then I’ll disappoint people
… then people won’t like me

For him, the belief, “If I fail, then I’ll disappoint people” felt the strongest.

Next, you eliminate the beliefs you found with the Lefkoe Belief Process. We describe how to do that here.

Summary

  • If-then beliefs contribute to fear of failure by making us anticipate negative consequences to each failure.
  • The belief may say that if you fail, people will respond in a negative way or that it means something negative about you as a person.
  • You can find if-then beliefs contributing to your fear of failure using the fill-in-the-blanks method.

During Napoleon III’s time, it would have been easy to conclude that aluminum would forever be more valuable than gold. But of course, we know that not to be true. Just about any rule, we create will be broken at some point, including the rules that govern our fear of failure. If you follow the steps of the Lefkoe Belief Process you can break these and other rules your mind creates.

So try the Lefkoe Belief Process to eliminate beliefs causing you to fear failure as soon as you can. You can even try our Natural Confidence Program which guides you into eliminating if-then beliefs as well as other beliefs contributing to fear of failure.