Unraveling the Failure's Try

by LeoHolman 1 min read9th Jun 201811 comments


I'm sure this idea exists somewhere else, but I haven't found it yet. (Probably my fault, I've only been on here for a few weeks and I'm still working through the core sequences.)

The failure's try is a seemingly earnest attempt to overcome a challenge, but the challenger lacks the fundamental belief that they can surmount the challenge, and accept the challenge inevitably as evidence to their failure. That is to say, you put in an honest effort without believing you can do it so you can turn around and say it was impossible all along.

I think this is a readily identifiable symptom of cognitive bias, of unevenness of evidence because one starts with the conclusion and works backwards. The belief "I'm a failure" or at least "this task is impossible (for me)" exists somewhere in System 1, and subtly gravitates behavior toward manifesting itself.

I am well aware that I do this, and I'm not sure how to correct it. Somewhere in my belief network rests this idea that I am insufficient, a node of impostor syndrome, and biased evaluation. I got a 96 on my Chinese final, something I certainly would not have been able to do when I first arrived in China, but my reaction is not "I've progressed so much, I've learned all this material and tested well." It's... Well. Empty. Like I hadn't done anything at all. Like I didn't believe it happened. I've been working hard at learning this language for years, it's very important to me, and yet when faced with seemingly undeniable evidence that I've made substantial progress, I don't interpret success.

I think this node manifests in another area as well. I feel like I /must/ become useful in as many aspects as possible. After reflecting for a long while on this, I think it's because I believe otherwise people won't want anything to do with me. I fundamentally doubt the idea that my presence alone is something that can be enjoyed, I feel that I must constantly be raising my ability to help others before they could accept me.

So my question is, now that I am aware of the node, how do I unravel it? My understanding of counter-conditioning relies on specific, actionable behaviors. "Every time I want to eat ice cream I will think about my fitness goal, and instead work out, with enough time and careful planning, my desire for ice cream will be overpowered by my working out habit and I will (virtually) no longer struggle with my desire to eat ice cream." I've had success updating and adjusting other habits with this form, but I'm struggling to apply it to this problem. I fear it's the nature of the problem itself. "Even my strongest counter-conditioning strategy is too weak to deal with how pathetic I am."

I'm hoping for some insight. Thank you!