Fear of Failure

Sophie Gill · 7 June, 2020

I’m a bit of a worrier, and throughout my career I’ve always been pretty concerned about avoiding mistakes and not upsetting people. Interestingly, to me at least, this has been a bit of a challenge as a developer.

Occasionally I have released code that didn’t work quite as expected, or which had some unintended consequences. When this happens, a developer can either roll back the change or release a fix. So far, each of these situations has been resolved reasonably quickly, and no lasting damage as been done. So, no drama right?

Wrong! Each time I have found my anxiety levels spiking, and I feel like I’ve let the team down. I also get quite nervous about my releases possibly breaking things, and that can lead to perfectionism taking over.

This is problematic, because perfectionism doesn’t mean being perfect - no-one is. But it does mean that I expect perfect, and of course this is never going to be achieved.

I’ve been thinking about this cycle a lot, and I’ve come to realise that it’s much more important to get comfortable making mistakes and resolving them, than it is to focus on avoiding mistakes. I’m always going to make a mistake eventually, but if I learn how to manage my emotional response and get better at fixing common problems, I’ll probably feel much less stressed overall. Obviously we should take sensible steps to avoid making a mistake, but done is better than perfect.

Why note this here? Because right now I’m thinking about this a lot, but I’ll probably need to be reminded of it in a few months or years. Any maybe it will be helpful to someone else too.

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