Rigid irrational beliefs will prevent us from doing experiments. Some of the beliefs that hold us back and keep us from experimenting are:
1. I will look foolish if I try to do this and fail.
2. I could not stand to try and fail. That would be horrible.
3. It should be easy to get what I want. How many times must I try before I succeed?
In REBT we always advocate unconditional self-acceptance. So regarding the belief of looking foolish if you try to do something we would advocate that you work on your level of self-acceptance. So what if someone was to think you were foolish for trying to do something you really wanted? How does that make you a fool? Other people’s opinions are just thoughts in their head and the only way their thoughts can impact you is if you think you need their approval. Realize that it is your opinion about you that matters most. You can choose to accept yourself even if you fail. Your failure reflects upon many variables like your skill at the moment and external factors in the environment that are beyond your control. See that failing never makes you a failure. Whether you succeed in your experiment or fail you will still be nothing more or less than a fallible human. Each time you try and fail you may very well learn something which will ultimately lead you to success. You will be more open to the lesson to be learned in failure if you have unconditional self-acceptance when you fail.
The second belief “I could not stand to try and fail. That would be horrible!” is a very self-defeating belief. When we attempt to do things and we fail it certainly is bad. It is also uncomfortable and awkward when we fail. Disappointment and frustration are healthy feelings which are signals that we perceive reality and it is at least for the moment – bad. We have failed. However, if you think about it failure is bearable. Who has not failed? All people who have invented new things have failed along the way to ultimately achieving success. REBT encourages you to think about this idea that failure is unbearable. Is failure really unbearable? Where is the evidence for that self-limiting position? There is none. Failure is bad and repeated failure is very bad. Defining failure as both unbearable and horrible will only hold you back. Neither unbearable nor horrible are true when it comes to failure. You have failed before and lived to tell the tale. Horrible means all bad, limitlessly bad. Earthquakes and death are so bad I won’t ask you to challenge the idea that those are horrible. However, failure, even repeated failure is bad, inconvenient, frustrating, but not unbearable nor horrible. Defining failure as unbearable and horrible will lead you not to try to change what you can possibly change. It will stop you from making one more attempt.
Finally, let us examine the belief “It should be easy to get what I want. How many times must I try before I succeed?” This belief is self-defeating and is inconsistent with reality. Where is it written that it should be easy to get what you want? The answer is that it is written nowhere that things should be easily obtained. As for how many times it takes to succeed the answer is as many times as you will discover. There is no way of knowing in advance how many times it will take for you to achieve your goal. It may take ten, a hundred or more times. One thing REBT theory points out is that if you hold the belief “It should be easy to get what I want” you will likely stop experimenting and trying to get what you want after just a few failed attempts. Alternatively, you could think along the lines of the following REBT rational credo:
I will experiment with life and make many, many attempts to get what I want. When I fail, this will be understandably frustrating and disappointing. I will keep striving to get what I want by acknowledging that failure and the subsequent disappointment is bad and uncomfortable but never unbearable or horrible. I will be resilient and continue to try to get what I want because I will think sensibly about failure. I also will not allow the opinions of others to lead me to feel shameful over my failures. My opinion is what determines my feelings and as long as I refuse to define myself as a failure for failing I will never feel shame about my failures. I will collect my failures and continue to experiment to see what works and pays off until I get what I want. I can rest along the way but it is important for me to see that success comes with continuing to make attempts. No one can predict in advance which attempt will lead to a payoff. Let me not imprison myself and hold myself back with my assumptions. Let me continue to experiment until I get what I want!