Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure?

If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

Patterns From Childhood

Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

Over-Personalization

The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

False Self-Confidence

People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

Advertising

Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

Advertising

Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positive

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

Advertising

Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

    For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

    Advertising

    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

    7. Learn From Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    Having Trouble Reaching Goals? This Could Be Why What are Goals? Achieve More By Changing Your Perspectives How Setting Lofty Goals Can Lead You To Unbelievable Success 6 Amazing Vision Board Ideas To Help You Achieve Your Goals How to Create Life Goals And Put Them into Action

    Trending in Success Mindset

    1 How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations For Goal Setting 2 Success In Reaching Goals Is Determined By Mindset 3 Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable 4 When I Stopped Being Afraid To Make Mistakes, I Started To Live A Better Life 5 Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. There’s No Such Thing Called Failure.

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 19, 2021

    How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations For Goal Setting

    How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations For Goal Setting

    When it comes to setting our goals we need to take a few things into account – what we need to do to start achieving our goals, how we’re going to achieve our goals and what our motivations are behind them.

    For many of us goal setting can bring up a sense of anxiety which usually comes down to our limiting beliefs. These manifest as thoughts around our lack of ability, our current situation, expectations from others and comparing ourselves with other people’s lives. All of these results in us setting goals that may not be inlined with what we truly want and our motivations are not focused on our inner growth and development.

    Limiting beliefs are usually those negative thoughts you have about yourself like thinking you’re just not clever enough or believing that you’ll fail. Ambition can be hard for a lot of us since limiting beliefs can make us think that high ambition will only lead to failure and disappointment.

    But research says that aiming high and having big ambitions actually makes you happier and here’s why.

    Ambition Is The New Happy

    It’s typical for people to assume that with more ambition comes more risk of failure but this is actually a pessimistic view and one that probably belongs to someone who typically isn’t ambitious. Research has found that ambitious people generally tend to be more satisfied than those who have lower expectations.

    Advertising

    The outcome of several studies show that when people set goals, they have two factors in mind – expectancy (how likely you are to succeed) and value (what the process will do for you). When we set limiting goals or goals that are ‘safe’ and easy to achieve, we don’t get any value from them and get no real sense of achievement or satisfaction. In other words, people who focus on the value of the goal rather than the odds of being successful or not are much happier in the long term.

    So to overcome self imposed limitations, the key is all about stretching yourself, aiming high while not focusing on the potential failures but also with a sense of belief that it can be achieved.

    How To Overcome Self Imposed Limitations:

    When you think of a big goal you want to achieve what comes into your mind? Do you think you’re not good enough? Not smart enough? You don’t have the education or the money? Do you worry about what people will think?

    If any of these crop up then they are limiting beliefs. These are usually a result of an accumulation of negative ideas, thoughts and beliefs that have built up over your entire lifetime. They most likely came from others, intentionally or unintentionally, as we made our way into the independent world.

    The problem with these limitations is that they create thoughts that stop us from believing we are capable of achieving big things. They make us just settle for our lot in life and never allow us to go after anything that will benefit our happiness and sense of wellbeing. As you can see this is a pretty dangerous mindset as it manifests as fear that we’ll fail or be judged for going after what we truly want.

    Advertising

    1. Investing In Your Self-Development

    It’s important to realise that happiness starts from within. If you find yourself having doubts about your abilities, then it’s worth looking into working on your personal development.

    If you make excuses around your situation like the the town you live in is too small for good opportunities, you’ll put something off until next year when you might have more money, your family wouldn’t approve, or you’re just too old now, then these may just be excuses in disguise. Most of the time anything is possible. When we make excuses, they can be hiding a deeper issue of low self-confidence and self-limitations.

    You essentially need to stop identifying with the limiting beliefs and don’t allow yourself to be defined by them. Working on your confidence, shifting your perspective and cultivating a positive mindset towards yourself and your goals will create a good basis moving forward.

    2. Don’t Give In To Societal Pressures

    This is a biggie when it comes to limiting our ambitions. There is an immense pressure to conform to social norms but what are social norms anyway? All they are, in essence, is an accumulation of other people’s opinions and ideas imposed on the masses who and has become some kind of universal rule that people should live by.

    No one has the right to make you feel like you can’t follow your dream if that’s what will make you truly happy. People have their own lives to worry about so make sure you just stick to concentrating on yours.

    Advertising

    3. Don’t Listen To Negative Opinions

    We can get very swayed by what other people think and say especially if they are close to us. It can have the power to stop someone going after their goals and this really is a sad state of affairs. By doing this we are giving our power to other people which naturally leads us to feel less happy.

    Even when we’re on our goal journey, we can come across people who have negative opinions about your decisions which can lead us to question whether this is the right thing to do. The key is to understand whatever negative speak you hear, know that it is coming from people’s own fears, insecurities and issues. Make sure you surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and encourage you to carry on.

    4. Break The Habit Of Assumptions

    Assumptions are a huge ambition killer. Our limiting beliefs cause us to come to all sorts of incorrect conclusions based on what we think we know. But most of the time we don’t have all the information or we base it all on past experiences. We like to seek out examples in our lives for how it didn’t work before and apply this negatively to our new ideas and goals.

    If this sounds familiar then you need to test your assumptions, and by this I mean finding ways and evidence that break the pattern of your self-imposed limitations. Take actions that test whether your past judgements and conclusions are actually untrue. By doing this you can build a sense of empowerment, give your mind proof and a different perspective on the situation.

    For example, if you want to go back to studying but you think that, because you were never motivated at school, the same will happen again, then perhaps take a short course in something you’re interested in and see if this belief really is true. The chances are you weren’t motivated at school because you lacked any interest in what you were learning but now your priorities and interests have changed. By doing this you give yourself a chance to prove that what you believe isn’t actually true and gain self-empowerment.

    Advertising

    5. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

    Last but not least, we need to stop comparing ourselves to other people. We all have a tendency to do this and it only brings up dissatisfaction and a sense of failure if we see other people doing ‘better’ than us. Of course, this really is just an illusion. We are all on different paths with our own set of limiting beliefs that we’re battling with. It all comes down to assumptions again – we cannot know what is going on in other people’s lives so it really is pointless to compare ourselves to them. It’s really unfair to do this to ourselves since we’re making comparisons with something we don’t have full knowledge of.

    Give yourself a break – understand that you really can achieve anything and all you’ve got to do is believe in yourself and believe it can be possible. So aim high and live a much more fulfilling and happier life.

    Featured photo credit: Vijay Putra via pexels.com

    Read Next