March 15, 2021

Understanding Fear of Failure (& 5 Ways to Overcome It).

As a solopreneur, I’ve faced my fair share of fear.

My identity is often so tied to what I do that when things don’t go as planned, I shut down or derail completely.

Managing this fear has been pivotal to not only taking risks within my life but also in fostering a sense of confidence and authority over my life.

Fear is part of human nature, making the fear of failure something that most of us have had to navigate as we seek success in our lives. Whether it’s in relationships or at work, fear can keep us deeply rooted in patterns of behavior that are doing anything but moving us in the direction of our dreams.

What Does a Fear of Failure Look Like?

Our fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding any risk of failure obscures the drive to succeed. What’s not okay is when our insecurity directs our behaviour and we subconsciously sabotage our chance for success.

So what’s the impact of holding a fear of failure?

If the following characteristics are overly indicative of how we operate within our life, we may want to consider examining what failure means to us.

>> We worry about what other people think about us.
>> We worry about our ability to create the future we desire.
>> Failing makes us worry about how smart or capable we are.
>> We have low expectations for ourselves.
>> We preoccupy ourselves with tasks to make our work perfect, often sabotaging productivity or other tasks that are more important.
>> Failing makes us worry about disappointing people whose opinions we value.
>> We tend to tell people beforehand that we don’t expect to succeed in order to lower their expectations.
>> Once we fail at something, we have trouble imagining what we could have done differently or moving on from that failure.
>> We often get last-minute headaches, stomachaches, or other physical symptoms that prevent us from accomplishing the task.
>> We often get distracted or end up procrastinating.
>> We feel shame when we fail and this creates self-doubt around who we are.
>> We have trouble taking responsibility for our decisions.
>> Saying no to opportunities has become the standard.
>> We’re feeling stuck in our comfort zone.
>> We have no sense of power or control over our fear.

A fear of failure often paves the way for self-defeating behaviours and self-sabotage, even if we’re unaware that this is our pattern. Getting real with the fear is the only thing that’s going to move us away from the behaviors that are holding us back.

What’s the Big Issue with Fear of Failure?

According to Theo Tsaousides of Psychology Today, several consequences are typical in those who suffer from an overactive fear of failure.

>> Intense worry
>> Negative thinking
>> Reluctance to take action
>> Dwelling in the worst-case scenario
>> Fatigue
>> Low energy
>> Feeling emotionally drained
>> Dissatisfaction with life
>> Hopelessness
>> Low performance

Cumulatively, the individual has an overall feeling of being stuck—unable to move forward and deeply embedded in a sense of fear.

In addition, we subconsciously self-sabotage our endeavours so to avoid the “worst-case scenario” that we’ve constructed in our minds. Our minds are wired to protect us, so even when we are stuck in fear and not taking action and feeling horrible…at least we’re still safe.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure

The primary problem with addressing fear of failure is that it tends to operate on an unconscious level. For example, we might feel it’s essential to finish writing out our Christmas cards because we promised to send them off by the end of the weekend—even though we’re also about to take our final exams.

But there are five important things we can do to conquer the maladaptive ways fear of failure can influence our behaviour:

1. Own the fear.

Bringing the emotions to the surface that are associated with our fear is the first step. This can prevent us from expressing them through self-sabotage and also bolster our feelings of self-worth. Speak about your fear—keeping fear hidden and silent allows it to gain power over us.

2. Identify the root cause.

Creating awareness around what has created these negative beliefs will allow us to challenge them moving forward. Examine these beliefs and challenge their validity.

3. Focus on aspects within your control.

Identify aspects of the task or preparation that are within your control and focus on those. Overthinking begins when we ruminate over past events or worry about the future. We can control neither.

4. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

Becoming aware that the fear of failure exists and how it impacts our behaviour is a large part of the solution. When we can see it for what it is, it loses its power over us. The next step is to lean into that fear and “do it anyway.” Focus on what is within your control and allow the rest to fall away.

5. Fail.

Failure is inevitable, but it’s also temporary. Life is a series of lessons concealed within our failures and mistakes. Take the lesson and reconstruct how you see failure as an opportunity to learn.

Facing our fears is the key to overcoming the fear of failure. Once we face it head-on, bring it to light, and allow it to exist, we realize that they aren’t as bad as we thought they would be.



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