When you are born, you come into the world with two natural qualities. First, you are completely unafraid. You are totally fearless. You have no reason to be afraid because you have had no experiences to make you afraid. The second natural quality is that you are completely spontaneous. You laugh, cry, pee, poop, sleep and express yourself with no thought or concern about whether anybody approves or disapproves. These are your qualities in a state of nature.
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Starting early in childhood, as the result of the things your parents do and say, you begin to learn the two basic negative habit patterns that then become the most destructive influences in your life as an adult.
The first negative habit pattern you learn is called the inhibitive negative habit pattern. This is what soon becomes the fear of failure, risk and loss. As a child, you’re extremely curious. But often your parents react to this behavior by discouraging you as much as possible.
When your parents become angry with you as the result of your drive to explore your environment, you have no way of understanding that this is because they fear for your safety. Instead, you merely respond with the idea that “Every time I try or touch or taste something new or different, my mother or father gets angry at me. It must be because I’m incapable and incompetent. It must be because I’m no good. It must be because I can’t do it.”
Fear of trying anything new
This feeling of “I can’t” marks the development of the fear of failure. If you’re discouraged or punished too often as a child, very early in life you will become fearful of trying new things. When you become an adult and think of doing something new or different, or something that entails risk or uncertainty, your first reaction will be “I can’t!” and you’ll begin to think of all the reasons why such a thing isn’t possible. You’ll think and talk in terms of failure rather than success. Before you even try something new, you’ll talk yourself out of it.
The most important habit you can develop for great happiness and success is the habit of repeating to yourself, and believing, the words “I can do anything I put my mind to!” The most powerful words you can repeat, over and over, to neutralize and overcome the fear of failure, are “I can do it! I can do it!”
What others might say
The second negative habit pattern we learn is the compulsive negative habit pattern. This manifests in the fear of rejection or criticism. We’re all sensitive to the opinions of others, especially to the responses and reactions of our parents when we’re growing up. Parents often give or withhold approval and support based on the behavior of the child at the moment.
When the child does or says something the parents don’t like, they immediately become rejecting and critical of the child. Since the parents’ approval is like a psychological lifeline to the emotional health of the child, the child immediately pulls back from the behavior to regain the love and approval of the parents. You learn that “If I want to get along, I have to go along.” At an early age, you begin to conform your behaviors to earn the approval, and avoid the disapproval, of others.
As an adult, the child who was subjected to disapproval and destructive criticism becomes hypersensitive to the attitudes and opinions of others. They’re continually saying, “I have to do this.” When the fear of rejection becomes extreme, an individual becomes so sensitive to the opinions of others that he cannot make a decision until absolutely convinced that everyone affected will support the choice.
The worst situation of all, which is quite common, is the combined feeling of “I have to” but “I can’t.” People feel that they must do something to win the approval of an important person, but they’re afraid of trying anything new and become extremely sensitive to the reactions and comments of anyone around.
The antidote to all your fears
One of the greatest discoveries in the development of the “peak performance personality” is that your fears and your level of self-esteem have an inverse or opposite relationship to each other. In other words, the more you like yourself, the less you fear failure and rejection. The higher your levels of self-esteem, the lower are the fears and doubts that hold you back. The more you value yourself, the more willing you’re to take risks and endure the inevitable setbacks, obstacles and temporary failures that will occur.
The fastest way to build your self-esteem and self-confidence, and to neutralize the fears that may be holding you back, is to repeat continually the words “I like myself!” Whenever you feel doubtful or uneasy, begin repeating those words to yourself. The most important million-dollar habit you can develop is the habit of deliberately building your own self-esteem and self-confidence on a daily basis. The more you feed your mind with positive words, pictures and thoughts, the more confident, optimistic and unafraid you become. The more you like yourself, the better you do at anything you attempt. The more you like yourself, the more you’ll persist until you succeed. Self-esteem is everything.