Performance Anxiety Leads to Failure to Launch in Young AdultsMarch 12, 2020
Perfectionists that struggle with black-and-white thinking may be less likely to put effort into reaching goals they think they may not be able to reach. It sounds counterintuitive, right? Aren’t perfectionists that experience performance anxiety about needing to do everything right supposed to be more likely to succeed in meeting their goals, even if they’re not necessarily satisfied with their progress? When it comes down to it, young adults who experienced heightened anxiety around deadlines, tests, and performances may actually be more likely to experience failure to launch.
Failure To Launch, Anxiety, and Perfectionism
For most young adults, perfectionism is not an organic thing. It is a learned response to experiences of so-called failures, perceived rejection, and the threat of disappointing others. Over time, it becomes more important for them to hold themselves to high standards in order to gain approval from others or to prove to themselves that they are “good enough.”
The way one is affected by perfectionism depends on where these beliefs come from:
- Socially-prescribed perfectionism is strongly associated with beliefs that failure led to aversive interpersonal consequences (i.e., important others losing interest, upsetting important others).
- Self-oriented perfectionism is having unrealistic expectations and standards for oneself and holding the belief that failure affects one’s self-worth.
How Does Perfectionism Affect Goal Setting?
While the ultimate goal of perfectionists is to be high achievers, they are often more concerned with avoiding failure than taking small steps towards their goals. This can lead to difficulty learning from their mistakes, admitting where they have room to grow, and willingness to ask for help.
Perfectionists are also more likely to be out of touch with their personal goals and are focused more on maintaining a certain reputation. So, they might choose a path their friends are taking or chase the dream their parents envisioned for them but struggle to understand why they are doing so. All of these factors can set young adults up for failure to launch.
Radical Acceptance Taught Through Adventure Therapy
If your child is struggling with failure to launch and confidence, wilderness therapy programs can help them evaluate their personal goals and encourage them to explore their identity through a variety of adventure activities and experiential learning opportunities. At Trails Momentum, neither the academic curriculum nor outdoor recreation activities are designed to test one’s ability to achieve. Instead, the focus is on getting young adults to engage in these activities without focusing on how others will evaluate them.
When participating in these activities, we often bring up the idea of radical acceptance and meeting oneself where they are at. This still means celebrating achievements but also means letting go of perceived failures. We remind young adults that in any given moment, they are doing the best they can with what they have.
Another strategy we offer is cognitive restructuring, which involves identifying negative beliefs about ones potential, questioning where that message comes from, and suggesting an alternative belief that may be more accurate.
For example, instead of focusing on how they “can’t do this” when trying a new activity, like rock climbing, we encourage young adults to recognize that they “haven’t done this before” and that they aren’t expected to discover their hidden talent. Staying in the moment and persevering despite self-doubt builds resilience and reduces anxiety over time.
Trails Momentum Can Help
Trails Momentum is a wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-25 who struggle with anxiety and depression. The program’s goal is to inspire change in young adults that draws on a sense of community and adventure that helps shift the narrative about a young adult’s trajectory. Students are taught how to connect with the greater world, foster real relationships, and develop their own identity. Trails Momentum gives students the opportunity and tools they need to recreate themselves, becoming more independent from their parents, and get on track to a healthy, happy, and successful future.
Contact us at 877-296-8711.