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Why are we afraid to make mistakes?

I recently saw this article and found the following paragraph: "In science, you make your mistakes in public. You show them off so that everybody can learn from them. This way, you get the benefit of everybody else's experience, and not just your own idiosyncratic path through the space of mistakes."


While i'm not sure that all scientists share their mistakes so that others can learn form them, i was wondering why we're afraid to make mistakes at work, for instance? Is it because we are told that mistakes are not tolerated? Could it be our education, from our family and school, that mistakes should be avoided at all cost or hidden when they happen?

Topics: failure mistakes
  • May 31 2013: That's an easy call. Education (in America anyway) has no grounding on social development. It is purely competition only. There are no formal models for social development, authority is lorded over you without contract or explanation. Fix these things and one of the first realizations is that there is developmental value in honest failure. And sniggling and mob ridicule becomes the sign of social illiterates and arrested development rather than the norm it is still today. That's why people are afraid to fail. When we have a culture of cooperation that offsets the over-emphasis on competition, it begins to occur that failure is a stimulus that leads to synergy. And if you don't know how great a thing synergy is, you are undoubtedly a product of that flawed western education. Synergy is the coming together of two or more persons whose unique interactions creates a new whole greater than the some of its parts--in other words, together we can and will discover collaborations that lead to creation neither of us could have accomplished or even imagined alone. Capitalists frown on that kind of thing--it's winner take all, so there are probably political reasons we still have the Industrial Factory system still churning out under-achievers if not failures. IMO, no reformed educational system should accept even one failure. It's gotta be all "hit, no miss" not hit or miss with a high degree of misses.
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      May 31 2013: Interesting and convincing point. In a competition it is often easier to drag rivals down than stack one's own success. Without appropriate incentives people would end up making each other fall down to the ground.
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      May 31 2013: I completely agree with that seeing as I am a product of that fail of a system.
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      Jun 1 2013: What would be the realistic result if the educational system were to change?

      I honestly agree with your point, but from another perspective competition drives people to strive for higher achievements, and thus produce people with supposed 'higher' success, but consequently results in many failures. (Life is too damn unfair).

      Should society change there educational system in that it would reduce the competitiveness and strive for 100% success (Note: Competitiveness is part of human nature, if that helps with anything).
      • Jun 1 2013: Competition and cooperation are not mutually exclusive--it doesn't have to be all one way or all the other. Consider team sports--one team cooperates with each other and so does the other, but the two teams compete with each other and nothing is lost while so much is gained as the sport takes form. When it comes to education it becomes much more unwieldy if you think of education revolving around a building hundreds or thousands of young people come to each day. What if you dispose of that model after elementary school where the basics of language and mathematics are uptaken and convert part of that building to a "facilitation zone"? Here there would be guidance personnel, students completely liberated from the confinement to this thing we have called "class" where young people who may be intellectually ready to progress at extraordinary speeds have been dragged down by the luck of the draw of a poor teacher or slow students no longer have that confining them to 20th Century views of "normality". On the same token, those who have not done well in "class" for whatever reason get remedial help from older students where the elders are able to get credit for the social development value as well as the communication skills helping those a little younger in age can provide. I'm going to run out of characters long before I can address even a fraction of the potentials that are possible if we cease seeing education as tied to "time slots and a central building" and instead retrain what used to be "teachers" (with the help of new media technologies) to take the approach of having a number of "clients" that they "facilitate" by matching cooperative relationships which are by nature, temporary and fluid. How could this be configured so that it is not so faulty and makes for the mixture of some competition? Use what nature has shown us--the bee hive where no more than 6 and no fewer than 2 can work in a "cell" to achieve an objective. Culturize lecture as entertainment etc
  • May 30 2013: there are only two things:

    1. people have pride issues. somehow, people try to be as perfect as possible because they are afraid of being trampled on which hurts their prized ego. that hurts emotionally.

    2. people don't like to be reprimanded or punished. as we were all brought up, our parents and elders usually chastised us when we've done wrong. that hurts physically.

    people are afraid of making mistakes because it has a double effect: you have already committed one and you're a bit unsure of what happens next. people are afraid to get hurt.
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    Jun 3 2013: One reason has to do with education. In school, a mistake is the worst thing you can make, the whole grading scale is based on how many mistakes kids make. Inadvertently, this has caused a drop in risk taking and creative solutions to problems because kids are so afraid they will make a mistake they will not take a risk. You can't be creative if you are paralyzed by fear of making a mistake.
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      Jun 3 2013: Robert Kiyosaki in his book, "If you want to be rich and happy, then don't go to school", postulated pretty much exactly what you have just said Dale. By making people believe that mistakes are wrong/bad, people then become afraid to make them. This then transpires that people don't innovate in their jobs because they are afraid of being wrong!
      The missing key ingredient here about mistakes, is that you are meant to learn from them! It is by learning from your mistakes that you grow and gain more knowledge and insights. If anything, mistakes should be encouraged with the proviso that you learn from them. Much as we should learn from the mistakes of the past in our collective human history, so the same mistakes aren't made again! :D
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        Jun 5 2013: My Father, who was a masterful handyman and carpenter, said that, in today's work culture, he'd have to fire himself as a 17 year old apprentice, because he made loads of mistakes in the beginning....

        My son gets frustrated because he can't play guitar like I can...except neither could I when I started....You try, mess up, try again,mess up, try again, mess up a little less, try again....etc.
  • Jun 1 2013: I think it has to do with maturity. I'm 50 and I don't think about mistakes, one way or the other. I live life and go through each day living. If I thought to myself," oh no! I made a mistake! what will people think??" what kind of life would that be? Mistakes are facts of life, we all make them. Look at, Post-it-Notes... I have them all over my laptop.. they were a mistake.. in that, while looking for an adhesive to perform a certain task, the world got turned on to Post-it-Notes... that wasn't at all what the company was shooting for, but the "mistake" has make them millions... or, you make a "mistake" and walk down the wrong aisle at the super market, and run into your future wife, or husband... forget about making mistakes... you'll not only make less of them when you do, but you'll also learn how to live, and be human.
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      Jun 1 2013: Superb!! ^-^
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    May 30 2013: Cause people afraid to trust us after! Cause they think we gonna make a mistake again and spoil their task.. yeah maybe that's why! :)
  • May 29 2013: The first thing that popped into my head, when I read your question, QF, was: fear of failure.
    But when I read your description, I think you're on to something when you said, "Is it because we are told that mistakes are not tolerated?"

    In 2nd grade, my teacher said to us: "You're allowed to make mistakes, that's why there are erasers on the ends of pencils." 2nd grade was a joy, because I felt that no matter what happened, I was learning something.
    In 3rd grade, my teacher would circle erased sections of my papers with red ink. Suddenly, that freedom and excitement to learn was gone.

    Victor Wooten said in his TEDed talk, "Music as a Language":
    we don't refuse to communicate with infants who are learning to talk, because they don't speak perfectly yet, do we? What kind of world would this be, if that were the case? Is there no room for development anymore?

    The wisest thing any person ever said to me, was an 8-year-old autistic boy. He said, "I can do anything. I just have to learn how first."
    • May 29 2013: Actually I think your first comment was right, "fear of failure", and that happens at a very young age.

      From parents always saying "dont", dont play with matches, dont run with scissors, dont forget, dont paint outside the lines, dont be late, dont touch... etc. It's also similar to down, quite down, sit down, put it down.

      All negative reinforcements which then lead to...

      School tests which are a perfect example, as now your being rated amongst one's peers. And compounded with 'what will people think of me', if I fail, nicely takes us to the next level, cheating on a test. Which can change peoples perception of you, clearly from a negative to a positive experience. And the respective reinforcement that comes a pass or a fail.

      Sometimes it's quite clear to see that this methodology of learning and its traits are still unsurprisingly in adults - they still have the same propensities as the child. Look at a politician as a good example.

      Which I suppose justifies/re-enforces Freud's - ID / Ego / Super-Ego philosophy.

      Which Lizanne because of your initial thought shows you are at a level of ... Always the Child :)
      • May 30 2013: Absolutely, Tify! You know me well!!

        My Mom, who was a Montessori teacher, always replaced 'don't' with 'you need'. Do instead of saying 'Don't play with those scissors', she would say, 'You need to be careful with those scissors'. It was a simple grammatical switch, turning a potentially negative comment into a positive one. Just the word 'need' implied that I was responsible for my actions, and it made me more aware of what I was doing. I totally agree, testing reinforces this deep-rooted need to achieve perfection.

        This leads me to how we deal with emotions. Just like you described, Tify, we often tell our kids not to do things, in order to protect them. We also tend to say, 'Don't cry' or 'Don't be afraid', as if switching off these natural emotions were that easy! Inadvertently, we're teaching our kids that there are some emotions that are ok to feel, and others that are not. It is a form of conditional love - we're actually saying to our children, 'I'll love you when you're happy, but not when you're angry'.

        Our natural instinct is to protect our children from pain, but the paradox is, that we need to allow them them feel it, along with every other emotion, so that they can recognize it in another - it's about building empathy. Making mistakes are vital, otherwise, how will you recognize that wonderful sense of accomplishment?
        • May 30 2013: Your right Lizanne, we need to make mistakes, it was a comment of mine in another place.

          To be a good judge you need experience, to get experience you need to make mistakes.

          I was just trying to point out how society currently changes our perception about that, from childhood to adulthood, and until we change what we do, we cant expect people to change and so nor society.

          And Lizanne realistically, I don't think by continuing along this path, we either actually doing the child any favours either, not in-terms of it's ability to learn more, nor it's ability to grow more, nor in its ability to change society and the problems that we are starting to face.

          I look at the high school drop out rate in the US, a ted talk currently on here, and I wonder if that 'negativity' is setting these kids up to fail.

          I cant tell you how so right you are about 'conditional love', you obviously know and realize that what we are seeing in society now is a direct and absolute cause of that ingrained behaviour.
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      May 31 2013: great comment! but i wonder how the 8 year old child will learn to do things? will he figure everything out himself? definitely not. someone will teach him lots of things, including what's "wrong" & "right", which means that the kid will also learn what is acceptable behaviour and what's a "mistake" (which is usually something bad, as opposed to whatever is considered good)
      • May 31 2013: I feel, there are so many levels of 'right' and 'wrong', even where mistakes are concerned.

        In this example, a mistake is not the same thing as unacceptable behavior. It's something fundamentally unintended. Unacceptable behavior implies premeditation:

        A child who feels something complex like envy, for example, can act out in an effort to change the situation. They have trouble with the initial emotion, can't figure out what it is but knows it doesn't feel good, so another emotion like frustration or anger takes over. Then what often happens, is that he/she is scolded for behaving 'badly'. The core emotion, envy, is masked by another emotion, which means the core emotion is never properly dealt with.
        When my kids act out, I try to get to the bottom of things, and work out what they were feeling before they started 'behaving badly'. We calm down, then we go back, step by step, till we work out what sparked that first emotion. Then we talk about it (and when talking doesn't work, we sing about it!)

        As far as learning goes, I agree with you QF, someone will help that child learn. Some things, he'll figure out on his own, which is a wonderful achievement. Kids know at a pretty young age what's okay and what's not okay (i.e. acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior). And even when they do, they can still 'opt' for the unacceptable behavior, and are indeed 'making a mistake' by doing so.

        Little kids deal with big feelings, it's vital they learn to be open and communicative about them in some way. That's where adults come in - parents, educators - to guide kids in discovering and coping with these emotions. Concealing our emotions won't get anyone anywhere, which goes for everybody.
        • May 31 2013: I want to agree with you, but your making a mistake :)

          Unfortunately you also forgetting that not all parents care about their children, which is another whole long subject but also effects the reason why I'm posting this, shown the final paragraph.

          Another example is the use of and influence of religion to influence people into 'mindset'. An doctrine, being imbued with specific believes. A commonly used form - indoctrination.

          Thus your assuming that parents are the primary means of morality, up to a point that's true, but it's a status quo that ends. Peer demands and opposition will nearly always trump initial guidance, as will other forces. And not all of them for good.

          Those facts and others, are used by two opposing factions, one being your typical suicide bomber, ever notice they are not men or women in their 60's? Or that they go through an indoctrination - typically managed and motivated by 'pre-selected' peers.

          The other opposing faction being the military, ever wonder why the average age of a solider in Vietnam was 18-19?

          Lest we forget the why the word exists and the obvious implications that word has - infantRY

          I wont go into the whole cult scenario - but they follow similar psychological patterns of indoctrination, honed to their specific goals.

          and the reason for this comment is that, motivational changes can and do significantly adjust a child's perspective of what you said Lizanne about - 'Kids know at a pretty young age what's okay and what's not okay (i.e. acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior).'

          That's why I think that comment, while it has the potential to be true, is not the whole truth.
      • May 31 2013: Tify, if I did, it was absolutely unintended, despite the fact I'm a grown-up (on the outside, anyway!!)

        My point of view is indeed, but one point of view. Seeing the world in a broader perspective is the main reason I visit TED on a daily basis. ;) You are absolutely right, I often see children who are 'dumped' at school and left to their own devices.
        And, I notice the influence of peer pressure on my kids - you're so right, the effects of it sometimes undermine my methods. This just motivates me to work harder, to get at that core and encourage communication, especially when it concerns situations that take place outside the home.

        Young minds are easy to mold, if it's fighting a war or selling them stuff they don't need. There are indeed so many examples of the youth being brain-washed into making mistakes, for 'the good of *fill in the blank'. The Hitler Youth jumps to mind - can't imagine a bigger mistake than that...

        Reality and history has shown, we do possess the ability to suppress what we know is 'right', in order to comply.
  • Jun 15 2013: People are afraid to make mistakes because of a deeply entrenched societal norm that communicates that a mistake is equal to failure. People don't want to fail. The problem is that the fear of making mistakes cripples people. People who are highly capable, people who are well intentioned, people who can make a difference will shy away from even attempting something because of the fear of failure.

    I agree with the referenced article, that we should absolutely celebrate mistakes, as scientists do. However, it should be noted that the even more honorable factor of mistake making that wasn't mentioned is that of the attempt, stepping up to the starting line. Whether or not you actually complete a task mistake free, you've set yourself apart from the masses who would rather not try then make a mistake if you simply try. There can be no success without an attempt.

    I am a middle school assistant principal and I see the fear of making mistakes holding hundreds of students back from meeting their full potential all too often. Fear related paralysis plagues our youth. The good news is, we can change that by modeling the necessity of attempting to achieve, by demonstrating willingness to try, to mess up, to learn, and to try again.
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      Jun 24 2013: I agree with majority of your opinions. But we need to separate mistakes. I realize more then 4 kind of mistakes exists, so it`s important to recognize it.
  • Jun 12 2013: I wouldn 't say that we are afraid to make mistakes. Actually, we are afraid of what other people are going to say about our action or behaviour.
  • Jun 4 2013: When I was a child, I was beaten if I made a mistake. Now, even though I am 60 years old, I have a panic attack if I think I have made a mistake. I admit them and accept responsibility for what I have done but when I first realize what I did, it scares the heck out of me.
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    May 30 2013: Quote break:

    "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Albert Einstein
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      May 30 2013: I disagree.
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        May 30 2013: Why?
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          May 30 2013: um, actually i read it wrong. i agree. LOL my mistake.
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        May 30 2013: Too too funny......Are you humbly admitting a "mistake"......How grand!!!!
        And, how appropriate in this conversation..LOL

        But now I am a bit disappointed, because I was hoping to learn your perspective on this quote.
        Oh well...thanks Thaddea for your replies (both of them)

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      May 31 2013: isn't that impossible though? not to make any mistakes, that is.
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        May 31 2013: Of course, it is impossible....at least I think it is.

        I think perhaps Einstein was saying that we MUST take the risk of making mistakes in order to grow and learn and try new things. Otherwise, we just stay the same our whole entire life, and do not grow?
  • Jun 19 2013: I think that we as a culture have incorrectly classified the value of a mistake. We tend to see mistakes as a waste of valuable time we could have spent being right. We often look back on mistakes we've made as a unit or group (Slavery, Universal Suffrage, etc. - I'm from the US) and think, "Wow, how could they have been so blind" as opposed to "Wow, I'm glad we got that right eventually." It also comes from pride in some ways. Some like to think that they have that knowledge or piece of the puzzle that no one else has. We see mistakes as moments when we fall down and correctness as moments when we pull ourselves up. We really should see mistakes as ways to pull ourselves up and moments of correctness as ways to pull others up.

    Education plays a big role in the perpetuation of this negative view of mistakes and correctness, but it is not the sole reason. Our systems are reflections of our own values; we have to acknowledge problems with our moral code or list of virtues as a community before we can expunge and correct those problems as a community.
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    Jun 17 2013: Dear Questions First,
    I think you are spot on when mentioning some of the reasons people are afraid to make mistakes...sometimes told that mistakes are not tolerated...should be avoided...hidden when they happen...". I suggest...mistakes are sometimes refered to as "failure"? People may think less of those who make mistakes? We may think less of ourselves?

    The definition of mistake includes..."wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment".
    It also says..."inadequate knowledge".

    These statements, both part of the definition of "mistake", seem contradictory to me. If we do not have adequate knowledge, I don't know how a decision can be labeled "wrong", or "faulty judgment".

    Whatever the reason, I do not feel afraid to make mistakes, because in my perception, life is an exploration. I embrace the part of the definition which says..."inadequate knowledge", and continue to seek more knowledge, so I do not make the same less useful choice or decision again. Decisions and choices I make are based on all available information I have at any given time, and I do the best I can with the knowledge I have in the moment. We can move along the path of life, and in my perception, there are no mistakes....only opportunities to learn, grow and improve our life experience:>)
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    Jun 13 2013: It comes from when we were children when the others kids would laugh at you if you where different.
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      Jun 14 2013: Raymond yes, you have a point there.
      You can even end up with a nickname because of it, and the nickname can follow you all through school.
      Thank you.
  • Jun 12 2013: It might be appropriate to add Shakespeare's quote from Hamlet, "...there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." Mistakes are perhaps a matter of individual perception for some of society's greatest mistakes became some of our greatest inventions.

    Brené Brown talks about making mistakes in her book, "The Gifts of Imperfection" which is a great read. Worth a read for some understanding regarding mistakes and shame. This talk was helpful for me as well in understanding this fear:


    Mark Epstein is also a great read for understanding how mindfulness can allow us to overcome this fear. His book "Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart" is great as well.

    Great conversation to ask the questions that allow us to be mindful in our daily lives!
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      Jun 13 2013: Evan, I really enjoyed your contribution to this conversation.

      I was familiar with Brene Brown's work, but had not heard of Epstein.
      You gotta love the title of his book!!!
      I'm going to try and find it and read it.
      It sounds like a good read.

      • Jun 13 2013: Hi Mary,

        You're very welcome. Epstein is a great read. He approaches psychotherapy through a Buddhist lens which is quite interesting. He tackles the ego and how liberation from our ego's allows us to understand our true potential and come to Enlightenment.

        Perhaps, making mistakes bruises our egos and we have to free ourselves from them in order to be as I think Brené puts it, secure in our insecurities.
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          Jun 14 2013: Evan, thank you so much for this further explanation.
          Good news, my local library has a few copies of the book.

          I'll put it on my TBR list.

          Thanks again!
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    Jun 11 2013: I feel its because we feel ashamed
  • Jun 11 2013: we tend to avoid public shame and the side effects derived from them. Making mistakes is something that's not tolerated in our societies even if we don't have a writen code, we seem to have an invisible mental law clung to our inner person that prevents us from doing something that risks our reputation before others. I feel we do it because we want to protect ourselves, and to be more precise, our selfsteem. and the other hand, PRIDE has its share!
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    Jun 10 2013: Well, what exactly is a mistake? Yes, we can agree that you can learn from mistakes, but sometimes the lesson that we learn is not victorious enough to overpower the damage from the mistake.
    In science mistakes are usually not feared because the whole goal o experimentation is to make mistakes. The information that you learn from these mistakes prevails over the detriment which is caused by the mistake. This detriment sometimes not even existing.
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    Jun 10 2013: We are raised to be perfectionists. At school, everybody expects us to have perfect grades. We are expected to have a perfect social attitude, a perfect appearance, a perfect mental state. Of course, we can't -it's just not feasible. And deep inside, we know that. But even though when these extremely high expectations from the people around us are forced on us for the first time we know they're totally wrong, we get used to them and we begin having these expectations ourselves.
    Mistakes should happen and it's not possible for them not to happen. If we are perfect since our birthday, what's the point of education, what's the point of experimenting with things? Mistakes should be accepted and then corrected. That's the only way that we can evolve.
  • Jun 9 2013: It's because of simple princeple: "Human being is social animal and he is wise enough to expresive. Being social animal, he made the soceity with rules & regulations to run the soceity".

    Soceity made these rules based on the understanding & consequnces of the situations at that time, mainly with the intension of public interest. As per me, at least some of current rules & regulations may not be completely perfect / some times wrong, because of misunderstanding of the situations when the rule is framed. Example: so many sceintist hanged or killed, when they invented some thing against the rules. but later those rules were chaged during the evaluation of finding real truth.

    I think & I am sure, Finacial indipendence of all the groups (such as, young, women, old, handicapped, even children group, etc,) in all places may induce the revolution of many social rules & regulations. we have seen this in past & hystory is suggesting the same.
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    Jun 5 2013: When I was a Pastry Chef, I had a boss once say one thing she loved when she was a "department of one" was that no-one saw her mistakes; if she burned a tray of croissants, she simply threw them out and started over, even though that might add an hour two to her day. Granted, she tried very hard to not make mistakes because she valued her time as much as anyone. However, if she was working in a department of several, like I was with her, any mistakes were immediately noticable and seemingly "worse" than hers might have seemed to her.

    I think we fear mistakes because we are taught that there is ONE way to learn...that is by mastering the task the first time. Mistakes are too often associated with improper learning or inattention, rather than simply not learning the way we are taught. It is seen as the student's fault if they don't get a concept or task...
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    Jun 5 2013: For some reason Donald Rumsfeld's famous statement came to my mind:
    “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
    There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

    Nate Silver's penetrating book “The Signal and the Noise” also refers to this quote. While many people like scientists and forecasters are placing much emphasis on revealing or predicting known unknowns, it is unknown unknowns such as the 9/11 terror attack — most people had never thought about if an airplane would crash into a huge tower — that may potentially influence our life and therefore we should really care about (which is impossible because we don't know they exist). Failing to do something is acceptable as long as it doesn't trigger unprecedented effects — that is, unknown unknowns — but otherwise we would hesitate to try. Fear of mistakes could be part of our instinct to survive in this world where unknown unknowns are omnipresent.
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      Jun 10 2013: I've spent the last decade trying to sustain the rumor that Donald Rumsfeld spent two years confinement at the federal maximum security prison in Butner North Carolina for obstruction of justice . . . or maybe I just want to start the rumor . . .

      But the unknown/unknowns are always there. And dealing with those requires two things: 1) Vigilance, and 2) Courage. It is said that "Eternal Vigilance is the price of freedom." You just have to pay attention to protect yourself. That's the risk of the Unknown. And Courage is always part of every decision we make -- where we have to act upon incomplete or potentially inaccurate information.

      And the most consistent observation I have made thus far is quite simple. Even an obviously BAD decision creating misery for everyone, iS often much preferable to making NO DECISION. The consequences of making a bad decision can often be corrected or repaired. But making no decision can destroy everything.
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        Jun 11 2013: Juan, and don't you think that a person who repeatedly makes mistakes and gets called out on them might end up deciding to make no decisions at all, in order to avoid mistakes?

        I know people like that. They will not make a single decision.....because they are afraid of making a mistake.......

        I remember when I was young that I would go out with a group of friends, and nobody wanted to say where we should go....nooooo.....I had to always speak first and give the options available.
        It gets old....having to decide all the time.....and also dealing with the backlash if things do not turn out well. But it is a risk I have always been willing to take.

        Other people.....not so much. These individuals are, in my opinion, emotional cowards. I know, tough terminology, but I am surrounded by individuals like that.
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          Jun 11 2013: Some people are just like that. And I guess that's OK. The rest of us certainly have to live with it. And It can be tough to describe others in exactly the way that you see them. It takes courage. But what's to be gained by saying or doing anything else?

          I see the courage that underlies your insight. And I think we both know that some people love the freedom of "backlash." The gal with the guts to decide sticks her neck out - and then has to put up with the petty blame-game when things don't go well. I guess that's how some people delude themselves into thinking that they are never wrong. They just wait. And then pass judgment on others. I've seen that pattern before. We all have at one time or another.

          I've always tried to get away from those where and when I could. Get away and stay away.

          Also, I have to revise my comments above. I met a Doctor who told me once, "If you don't know what to do, don't do ANYTHING!" I was perplexed, but then she explained her words. In medicine, you make a big mistake if you just experiment to see what works. Your patients want to get better. If you don't know what you are doing, you can 1) make them sicker, & 2) make it harder for a Physician who does know what they are doing to sort out the mess you have created. So, like anything in life, you have to find a balance.
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        Jun 11 2013: "What's motherhood got to do, got to do with it?" (to be sung, rather than read, to the tune of Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It)........Lizanne would be proud of me for this little musical creativity.

        Being a mom has nothing to do with it Juan...imho.

        I think that individuals who avoid making decisions because they are afraid of making mistakes have issues with autonomy. At least that is what I have read in psychology books. Add to this that many times these individuals wait and wait until someone else steps forward and decides for them, just so that they can turn around and criticize a bad decision, is just terribly terribly wacked.

        But, unfortunately, some individuals have had this sort of conditioning.

        So, how to fix it?

        I have read that you have to empower these individuals, praise them for their decision making skills when they do decide on something. Their self-esteem needs to be built up.

        I am presently working on those around me.....I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. But it requires alot of patience.....I myself am a work in progress.
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          Jun 11 2013: Out of deference to your observation, to wit: "What's motherhood got to do with it?" I edited my earlier comments to remove my offensive presumptions. But if my removal, of my formerly offensive 'motherhood' comments, are, themselves, offensive (is offensive?) then I'll put them back.

          . . . 'er, if I put my fat 'foot-in-it', I tried to fix it! If I failed to fix it and just missed the point, well, I can find a way to fix that too!

          "What's Mom got to do, got to do with it . . . ?" I get the Tina Turner reference. Wikipedia says some wonderful things about her!

          As far as your comment: "So how to fix it?" I generally do NOT go there. Not when dealing with other adults. If things get too "backlashed" I just absent myself from the equation. But this does explain my, now deleted, "Motherhood reference." I grew up in a culture that tends to abuse "Mom" in that way. It isn't fair, but Mom's have responsibilities that are a bit broader than the rest of us. Where I grew up, Mom's tend to supervise everything! So if you screw up, somewhere, somehow, 'Mom' will let you know! That is, if you're lucky . . .

          Backlash? The best Moms have the resources to deal with even that! And Mom or not, so do the strongest women. And the strongest women are people that only a fool would mess with. For sure!
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        Jun 12 2013: Oh, you don't need to apologize, I was not offended.
        I was just attempting some humor with my comment.

        But in all seriousness, I don't really think my observations and feeling are necessarily related to being a mom. I am just an observant person.

        I do feel that, at times, we can help others, albeit in a tactful, discreet way. That is, if the person is someone we love and care about, and if we are always around them and see how their behavior hurts themself and others.

        I usually steer clear of these types of individuals Juan. They suck the life out of me.

        You know, when I read Covey's Habits of Successful People and learned about interdependence, I underwent a huge paradigm shift. Since then, I have worked hard to not be the only person who works around my home. And, although I observe alot more than the others around me......I pick my battles carefully, and I help others to also be "aware".....all for their own good.

        "The strongest women are people that only a fool would mess with"......if you say so.

        I liked this quote I read once:

        "A strong woman stands up for herself, a stronger woman stands up for someone else."

        Check out superwoman: http://wisewomenrule.com/wtwquotes5/
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    Jun 1 2013: Interesting question.
    We are afraid to make mistakes because we are conditioned into believing that mistakes are bad and wrong. People will laugh at us, or punish us, so we lose face and feel ashamed.

    Children naturally learn by trail and error without embarrassment. Parents and teachers knock this out of us. It leads to people covering up mistakes, or denying that a mistake has been made. It stops people taking responsibility for their errors. It's very damaging.
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    May 30 2013: It all depends on the mistake. There are mistakes so small that nobody cares if you make them. We all make them and we don't worry about it. But I've had jobs (flying) where a seemingly small mistake could easily cause the loss of life, and you just can't make those mistakes. There are good and obvious reasons to be afraid of making those mistakes.

    And then there are all the other in-between mistakes - embarrassing, perhaps costly, but not fatal. I worked with a guy who evidently dressed in the dark, because from time to time he'd show up with one brown shoe and one black. I was "helpful" and pointed it out to him one time, and he was genuinely shocked and slightly embarrassed. But it kept happening just as often as before. I liked his attitude - the shoes were meaningless to him. On the job he worked with great concentration and precision, because his work was important. The shoes just weren't. The moral is perhaps, don't sweat the small stuff. But the flip side is do sweat the big stuff: Don't drive without giving full attention to driving. Mistakes here happen quickly and can be fatal, just as in flying.
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    May 30 2013: To be creative we need to be open to make mistakes.
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      May 31 2013: good point, but in order to get read of the fear, why not give it more effort? in other words, we're afraid to make mistakes, we know we could avoid them, but we still make them. why?
  • May 29 2013: You might want to read some of the comments in this conversation:


    In that conversation, I pointed out that failure/mistakes can cause real harm.

    We are afraid to make mistakes for a good reason, the resulting harm..
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    Jun 27 2013: It starts already in our childhood when we are told not to make any mistakes and when we are being punished for our mistakes. I think it's important for a child to know that there are no mistakes that can not be fixed.
    • Jun 27 2013: yea i agree with u but if we don't punch them they will think that they can do any thing they want right ??
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        Jun 27 2013: Right, I punch my two every chance I get. All they have to do is look at me for too long and I punch them. Both of them have black eyes right now, I mean It's summer time, who's gonna really know if you keep them locked up in the house? They live in fear of me but they sure know who is boss!

        Funny typo, I HOPE!
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          Jun 28 2013: I think the word they were trying to use is "punish"........an immergent writer whose English skills are still developing.........or perhaps too much texting?

          In either case, my ability to decode children's writing helped me here.

  • Jun 26 2013: Cause people afraid to trust us after! Cause they think we gonna make a mistake again and spoil their task.. yeah maybe that's why! :)
  • Jun 20 2013: We are afraid to make mistakes because since we were young, all the people we met teach us to be right. Now that we are no longer young, we made an auto evaluation of our self and fear is in the top of the list. This is bizarre because we were born without fear and judgment.
  • Jun 20 2013: Because we falsely believe that mistakes show a FLAW rather than a learning experience.