Understanding the Fear of Failure

Now you are aware of it, we're going to work on understanding the fear of failure. Then we can overcome it.

understanding the fear of failure

Fear of failure is a common thread that weaves through the lives of almost everyone at some point. It's that nagging doubt that stops you in your tracks, the voice that whispers, "What if I can't?" But what really is this fear, and why does it have such a hold on us?

Let’s dive into understanding the fear of failure, armed with a touch of humor, some real-life anecdotes, and practical advice from a seasoned life coach - that’s me!

What is Fear of Failure?

At its core, the fear of failure is an emotional response tied to the anticipation of negative outcomes. The keyword here is 'anticipation', not actualization. So these outcomes are just in your head.

It’s the intense worry that your efforts won’t measure up to your standards or those of others. This fear can manifest in various ways, from procrastination and avoidance to stress and even physical symptoms like panic attacks.

One of my clients, let’s call him "Tim," was so afraid of failing his law exam that he almost didn’t show up for it. His fear had escalated to the point where even studying felt pointless because he was convinced he would fail. More from Tim later.

The Roots of This Fear

Understanding where this fear comes from is a critical step in overcoming it. Often, it's rooted in past experiences where we faced criticism or didn’t meet expectations, leading to low self-esteem or negative self-talk.

For some, it’s the result of a perfectionistic upbringing, where only the best was good enough. If perfectionism was a sport, some of our parents would definitely have taken home the gold!

conquer fear of failure

The Impact of Fear of Failure

The implications of living under the shadow of this fear are vast. It can prevent us from trying new things, stifle our growth, and even affect our mental health.

Fear of failure keeps us playing small, confined to our comfort zones, which sounds as fun as watching paint dry, right?

Another client of mine, "Sarah," dreamed of starting her own business but was paralyzed by the fear of it failing. She couldn't bear the thought of losing her investment and facing her family's "I told you so."

The Different Faces of Fear of Failure

Fear of failure isn't a one-size-fits-all issue. It varies from person to person:

Procrastination: Delaying tasks because the fear of failing them is too great. I've definitely been guilty of this. Sometimes you don't even realize that fear of failure is the reason you put things off. Awareness is the first step.

Avoidance: Not participating in activities or opportunities to avoid the possibility of failing. My earliest memory of this was playing sports in high school.

I was on the basketball team but would never shoot the ball. I'd always pass it. At the time I thought I was doing a good thing by creating plays and setting others up to score. But in reality, I just didn't want to miss the shot.

Anxiety and Stress: Worrying incessantly about failing, which can lead to physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.

As the lyrics say in Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), "Worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum."

worrying is as effective as trying to solver an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum

Addressing the Fear of Failure

Confronting this fear involves a mix of self-awareness, willingness to face the fear, and strategies to manage the emotional and physical responses it elicits.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and setting realistic goals are some of the ways to tackle this fear.

Tim - remember the wannabe lawyer from earlier? Well, after a few coaching sessions, not only did he take his law exam but he passed it with flying colors.

He learned to reframe his thoughts from "What if I fail?" to "What if I succeed?" He also accepted that even IF he did fail, it was not the end of his journey to becoming a lawyer.

Understanding and overcoming the fear of failure is not about never failing; it’s about learning from each experience, whether you call it a failure or a lesson.

The key is to keep moving forward, take small steps, and remember that every setback is just setting the stage for your next comeback.

Remember, failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of it. So the next time you feel that familiar dread of failing, give it a nod, a wink, and go do your thing anyway. Who knows? You might just surprise yourself.

This post was all about understanding the fear of failure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *