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.
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 can 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.
What Does A Fear Of Failure Look Like
No one enjoys failing. That’s ok, it’s normal.
But our fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding any risk of failure obscures the drive to succeed. What’s not ok is when your insecurity directs your behaviour and you subconsciously sabotage your chance for success.
So what’s the impact of holding a fear of failure?
If the following characteristics are VERY indicative of how you operate within your life, you may want to consider examining what failure means to you.
- You worry about what other people think about you.
- You worry about your ability to create the future you desire.
- Failing makes you worry about how smart or capable you are.
- You have low expectations for yourself.
- You preoccupy yourself with tasks to make your work perfect, often sabotaging productivity or other tasks that are more important.
- Failing makes you worry about disappointing people whose opinions you value.
- You tend to tell people beforehand that you don’t expect to succeed in order to lower their expectations.
- Once you fail at something, you have trouble imagining what you could have done differently or moving on from that failure.
- You often get last-minute headaches, stomach aches, or other physical symptoms that prevent you from completing your preparation.
- You often get distracted by tasks that prevent you from completing your preparation.
- There’s a tendency for you to procrastinate and “run out of time” to complete your preparation adequately.
- You feel shame when you fail and this creates self-doubt around who you are.
- You have trouble taking responsibility for your decisions.
- Saying ‘no’ to opportunities has become the standard.
- You’re feeling stuck in your comfort zone.
- You have no sense of power or control over your fear.
A fear of failure often paves the way for self-defeating behaviours and self-sabotage, even if you’re unaware that this is your pattern. Getting real with the fear is the only thing that’s going to move you away from the behaviors that are holding you 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
- feeling emotionally drained
- dissatisfaction with life
- 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, you might feel it’s essential to finish writing out your Christmas cards because you promised to send them off by the end of the weekend—even though you’re also about to take your final exams.
But there are three important things you can do to conquer the maladaptive ways fear of failure can influence your behavior:
Own the fear
It is important to accept that failure makes you feel both fear and shame. Bringing these feelings to the surface can help prevent you from expressing them through unconscious efforts to sabotage yourself and bolster your feelings of self-worth while minimizing the threat of disappointing them. Speak about your fear to someone you trust. Keeping fear hidden and silent, allows it to gain power over us. Often just the act of voicing your fear can be enough to deflate it.
Identify the root cause
Creating awareness around what has created these negative beliefs will allow you to challenge them moving forward. If your parents were overly protective or you had a particularly strict teacher your perspective in looking at these causal factors will be different now. Examine these beliefs and challenge their validity.
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 of worry about the future. We can control neither. Here and now is all there is.
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 anyways’. Focus on what is within your control and allow the rest to fall away. Forcing yourself to go where you feel uncomfortable, will ultimately build your courage muscle. Take action and feel the difference in your sense of empowerment.
Failure is inevitable but it’s also temporary. And with each failure comes the opportunity to learn. Afterall, life is only a series of lessons concealed with our failures and mistakes. Take the lesson and reconstruct how you see failure as an opportunity to learn. Ultimately the goal is to reframe the way we look at failure as an opportunity to learn, versus making failure mean something about ourselves.
Facing your fears is the key to overcoming fear of failure. Once you face it head-on, bring it light and allow it to exist, you realize that they aren’t as bad as you thought they would be.
PS: If you’d like to connect for a clarity call, connect with me.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.