Banish the fear of failure as a Mum

Banish the fear of failure as a Mum
November 20, 2017 Jeni

The Learning Zone V Performance Zone

I watched a pretty powerful TED talk the other day by Eduardo Briceño all about how we try our best to achieve things, whether this is in work, life or motherhood.

Essentially, he described two zones: The Learning zone and the Performance zone.


Take yourself back to the Learning zone

The learning zone is where we sit when we’re trying to improve ourselves, trying new things, attempting to master new techniques and making mistakes in order to learn from them. In our performance zone, the goal is to execute something we’re already good and minimise those mistakes – in fact, mistakes are seen as a failure in the performance zone as effectively, we believe we should already be good at those skills.

The performance zone maximises our immediate performance whilst the learning zone maximises our growth and our future performance.

Even though we may work hard, we sometimes spend too much time focussing on the performance zone – at work, we’re rarely allowed to make mistakes, we fear mistakes. If we take this Into motherhood, we’re constantly trying to avoid every mistake possible – otherwise, we can feel like we’ve failed as a Mum. We’re pushing our skills to the limit in the performance zone as a mother because we’re too frightened to make mistakes.

The learning zone, however, gives us the ability to try new things, make mistakes and understand how we can learn from those mistakes to improve our capacity. We’re able to deliberately practice the abilities needed by breaking them down into component skills and work on them without fear of failure – because, in the learning zone, mistakes are not seen as a failure – they’re seen as development curves.

When we become mothers, there seems to be this need to be perfect, to make all the right decisions, to be able to handle every new situation with expertise, calm and knowledge – yet when you really think about it – how on earth can we really be expected to do that? We’ve had little-to-no experience, no training and very little prior knowledge, plus don’t forget, we’re dealing with a living being with a mind of its own! We’ve already put too much pressure on ourselves to perform when in all honesty, the odds don’t stack up – we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to struggle at some point and if we’re constantly forcing ourselves to be perfect and be in that performance zone, we’re going to look at those negatives as failures. This just then eats away at our self-esteem and knocks our confidence.

Maybe we should stop trying to be mothers in the performance zone all the time and accept that we’re in the learning zone pretty much most of the day? Wouldn’t it be better to make those mistakes, like choosing the wrong form of discipline that escalates the situation, or getting mad when you could have stayed calm or letting them eat that sugary snack too close to bedtime (we’ve all been there!) and rather than see those mistakes as failures, note them down as learning points and reflect on it later to see how you can make it better next time.

Gradually, you’ll notice that there are some activities you do really well, so excel at them in the performance zone – but don’t be afraid to head back into your learning zone to make those abilities even better by deliberately practising those skills.

So take the pressure off, embrace those mistakes – see them as part of your growth as a mother rather than as symptoms of your failure. Remember, we all have bad times, but if you learn to reflect on those bad times and identify where you can improve – the bad times will feel empowering rather than deflating.

You’re doing great, but visiting that learning zone more often can make you greater.


  1. Joanna 2 years ago

    This takes me back to when my kids were younger and pushing all my buttons. “They’re destroying me!” I wailed to my husband. “No”, he said, “they’re creating you”.

    (I did want to kick him in the nuts for being a smart arse tho)

    • Author
      Jeni 2 years ago

      What a wise husband you have! 🙂 (but yes, agree he would deserve a slight ‘dent’ for the timing!)

  2. Carly 2 years ago

    Eloquently written. As a teacher I uphold the the intrinsic value of the mistake. It isn’t just motherhood which seemingly requires ‘perfection’ – I teach many children whose mothers’ subliminal passing on of these aspirations (sometimes not so subliminal I might add) really affects their children throughout their education. Increasingly in school we see children utterly terrified of making mistakes. This in turn can lead to anxiety, depression and so many other behavioural and mental health issues.

    Ps… I love TED talks.

    Great blog, so thanks for sharing.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *