Doing Something Wrong: Dealing with the Fear

Many counsellors fear doing something wrong.  It’s often the reason why people won’t try new things.  People can be paralysed for years by the fear of getting it wrong: leading to self-criticism and feelings of worthlessness.

For the counsellors I work with, it can show up as:

  • Not setting up in private practice
  • Worries about social media marketing
  • Never fulfilling a dream to do something like write a book

They’ll say things like they’re too busy, that they’re a procrastinator, or they’re feeling scared.

This blog looks at what to do about this fear.

Fear doing something wrong

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What’s the Problem with Doing Something Wrong?

It’s very common for counsellors to worry about:

  • Being reported to BACP
  • Criticism from other counsellors
  • Making a mistake

They often fear what others will think.


Perfectionism can come into the mix here.  Brene Brown describes perfectionism as:

“the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame”

Brown, Brené (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (p. 129). Penguin Books

It’s about trying to manage other people’s perception of us.  Perfectionism is about trying to avoid rejection.

Ultimately it leads to us caring more about what other people think than following our heart’s desire.

I wonder: does this speak to you?

What are your reasons for feeling frightened of doing something wrong?

As a child I often seemed to break rules I did not know existed and was punished in a rejecting way.  So I feared doing something wrong – although I often didn’t know what “wrong” actually was.

It led to me not trusting myself and relying on others to tell me the “rules”.  To avoid rejection I developed people pleasing behaviour.

Later in life I experienced a conflict when people pleasing failed as a strategy.  Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to placate another person.

That conflict was a great lesson.  I survived! And you can survive, too.

Practical help for the Fear of Doing something wrong

If you’re about to embark on something new, the fear of going wrong can paralyse you.  It’s scary to think about.  However, if you work through those fears systematically, you can find solutions.  You’re more creative than you imagine.  Download this practical worksheet to help you confront what is stopping you and help you decide whether or not to move forward.

Overcoming Fear of Doing Something Wrong

Recognise that Fear is Not a Reason to Hold Back

It’s helpful to recognise that courage is not an absence of fear.  Courage is about taking action even though fear is there.  If you’re waiting for the fear to go, you’ll be waiting forever.

Brene Brown says that:

“Remember, it’s not fear that gets in the way of courage – it’s armour. It’s the way we self-protect, shut down, and start posturing when we’re in fear … When you’re feeling fear, there’s a temptation towards perfectionism, self-criticism,  and a need to control the outcome.”

You can read Brene’s blog here.

In order to grow, it’s necessary to move out of your comfort zone.  That means discomfort and fear.  Try not to armour up with perfectionism and control.

Be prepared to fail, and if that sounds too challenging, read on.

Count the Cost

Fear is warning you of costly mistakes. But have you thought about what your fear is costing you and others?

  • If you don’t go ahead, what will that cost you in terms of fulfilment?
  • Do you want to help others?  If so, how are they being helped when you hold back?

What will you do with your “one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver)?

So, if you’re thinking about the possibility of a mistake, also consider what it will mean if you are able to achieve even small steps towards your ultimate goal.

Download this practical worksheet that will help you to assess your fears, find solutions and decide whether it is worth moving forward or staying as you are.

Download Worksheet Here

Test Your Assumption

You may be sure that you can’t achieve your plan. You may think it will be an abject failure.

But how will you know unless you try?

Think about how a small step may encourage you.  For example, working with one private client who is referred to you by someone you know.

Ask for Help

Using perfectionism as armour often means it is difficult to admit that you can’t do it all.

However, acknowledging both your strengths and weaknesses is hugely freeing.  It is such a relief to find someone who enjoys doing the things you find hard.

Why not see if you can find someone to help you with difficult things?  Perhaps people who:

  • like writing or designing websites and logos
  • are technically proficient
  • get pleasure from reconciling columns of figures

How I welcome my book keeper who adores nothing better than creating order from the chaos of my accounts.  It’s not for me, I’d much prefer to be working with people and by so doing, generate the income that pays us both.

Use Your Support Network

Having people around you who know you, love you, and believe in you, can be very healing.

They are your cheer leaders and your back up team.   They’re there for you when things go wrong and you feel like an idiot.

People will help you succeed.  I’m supported by my business pals, my coach, my accountability partners and my friends and family.  I couldn’t do what I do without them.

This is why I run the Therapy Growth Group.  It’s an online group for counsellors who would like to start, grow or develop their practice. It helps with business strategy but most importantly, it helps you to know you’re not alone.

We’ll encourage you to keep going through the challenges and celebrate your success.  Contact me to find out more.

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article.  Josephine  disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.