Do you know what stands between you and your dreams? it is the fear of failure. More than 90% of the people on this planet face this problem at least once in their lifetime and they have one question in common how to overcome a fear of failure?
You know failure is that dreaded word that has the power to paralyze even the most determined person. It whispers self-doubt into your ears, keeps you shackled in your comfort zone, and makes you overthink of worst-case scenario every time.
But what if I told you that failure is not your enemy, it is a stepping stone toward success? What if I told you that it’s possible to overcome your fear of failure and unlock your true potential? Because success lies not in avoiding failure, but in embracing it as an essential part of life.
In this article, I will discuss the root cause of your fear of failure and uncover the hidden strength within you, also explore the 10 practical ways to overcome your fear of failure. Are you ready to silence the whispers of doubt and rise above your fear of failure? Let’s get started…
Table of Contents
Understanding the Fear of Failure
Start with the evolutionary origins of failure dread if you want to comprehend this issue. As you are aware, our ancient ancestors relied on their natural survival instincts to keep alive.
They would receive warning signals from their brains when confronted with potentially hazardous situations, which assisted them in evaluating the dangers and taking action. Over thousands of years, our DNA has become encoded with this basic fear reaction.
Even now, failure is still perceived as a threat to our lives by our brains, which are still hardwired in this way. Even if we are no longer in danger of being pursued by wild animals, failure is frequently seen by our minds as a setback to our well-being.
Our earliest brain is trying to protect us from harm, even if that harm is just a bruised ego. It’s like a built-in survival instinct that has been passed down through the generations, ensuring that we think twice before venturing into the unknown or doing something new.
In today’s digital world, you find yourself living in a society filled with expectations and pressures. From an early age, you are bombarded with messages about success, achievements, and the importance of never falling short.
Whether it’s the pressures from your parents, friends, or even social media, you are constantly surrounded by a culture that magnifies the fear of failure. You are constantly being judged at every stage of your life and the thought of disappointing others becomes a heavy burden on you.
The society in which you live frequently defines success in terms of external qualities like academic standing, employment status, or material assets. Because you are concerned about not meeting the standards others have set, these expectations breed a great dread of failing.
Long-term anxiety over failing can have detrimental effects on both the mind and body. On a psychological level, the fear of failing can prevent you from taking chances, attempting novel things, or pursuing your aspirations. It may result in low mood, anxiety, or even self-doubt.
On the physical level, the fear of failure triggers the release of cortisol stress hormones which can have negative effects on your health in the long run. It can negatively affect your immune system, disturb sleep patterns, and even be responsible for health problems like heart disease.
That’s why to make yourself mentally and physically fit you need to take the necessary actions to overcome the fear of failure. Now let’s see some of the important characteristics of fear of failure, by understanding them you can easily take necessary steps to overcome it.
Characteristics of FOF:
Our striving for perfection frequently causes us to fear failure. You hold yourself to a high standard, striving for perfection in all you do. The reality is that perfection is an illusion; pursuing it would be like pursuing a mirage in the desert.
You are truly terrified of not living up to the absurdly high standards you have set for yourself, which is what you mean by “fear of failure.” Your worries about what other people might think of you tend to be fueled by your fear of failing.
You find yourself caught in a web of criticism, seeing scenarios in which you trip and fall while others laugh and point at you. The reality is that people typically care more about their own life and insecurities than they do about evaluating other people.
Failure anxiety is closely related to our ego. Your ego enjoys defending itself and preserving a favorable self-perception at all costs. In order to protect you from any potential danger, it goes into overdrive when faced with the threat of failure.
Your inner voice asks, “What if I fail? I’ll appear foolish!” However, the reality is that failure does not define who you are as a person. (Check out – 8 types of fear that stop you from living a great life)
Procrastination or avoidance of tasks are common signs of fear of failing. You often put off necessary activities or refuse to take advantage of fresh chances because you are worried about faltering, making errors, or failing. The most successful people in the world, however, have actually failed more frequently than they can count.
These are some of the important characteristics of fear of failure which can help you analyze yourself to check whether you are facing fear of failure or not. Just observe yourself and your thoughts for a few days and you will get clarity on this.
Now let’s see some of the fundamental causes of fear of failure to understand this problem in depth. Because the more you get into the depth of this problem the more it becomes easy for you to overcome the fear of failure with the help of practical strategies.
What causes Fear of Failure?
If you want to overcome the fear of failure effectively then you must know the potential causes of it. Let me explain to you the most important 5 causes of fear of failure.
I believe that Perfectionism can be both a blessing and a curse why? because it motivates us to strive for excellence, but on the other side, it sets impossibly high standards. This is one of the root causes of fear of failure.
The fear of failure creeps in because you are afraid of falling short of this unattainable perfection. You worry so much that even a minor misstep could tarnish your self-image and undermine your achievements.
Your past experiences hold tremendous power over your present mindset. If you have encountered failure before, it can cast a long shadow on your future endeavors.
It’s like a whisper in the wind, reminding you of the pain, disappointment, or setbacks you have previously faced. The fear of failure emerges as a protective mechanism to shield yourself from experiencing those emotions again.
Expectations and judgment:
In today’s world, one of the biggest causes of fear of failure is the weight of expectations placed upon you, both by yourself and society. You live your life with so much burden of others’ expectations and judgment.
You often worry about not meeting these expectations, fearing the judgment of others, and feeling of inadequate. The fear arises from the concern that failure will lead to disappointment, loss of respect, or diminished self-worth.
Unrealistic definition of failure:
Society often portrays failure as an endpoint, a mark of final defeat. But let me share a secret with you, failure is merely a stepping stone on the path to success in every aspect of life.
When you define failure as something to be avoided at all costs, you lose sight of the valuable lesson it can teach you. The fear of failure intensifies because you perceive it as a personal reflection of your worth rather than an opportunity for growth.
Lack of self-confidence:
Confidence is the fuel that propels you forward in the face of challenges. When you doubt your abilities, skills, or knowledge, the fear of failure finds fertile ground to take root.
It’s like a small flame flickering in the wind, threatening to extinguish your courage and preventing you from taking risks or stepping outside your comfort zone.
Impacts of Fear of Failure
The more you have fear of failure the higher chance that it will have a negative impact on your life. That’s the reason you need to overcome the fear of failure as soon as possible by using effective practical ways.
I know you can’t permanently delete the fear of failure from your mind but at least with the help of some practical ways you can deal with it effectively. We will see those practical ways later but before that let me share with you the negative impact of fear of failure.
Have you ever looked back on a missed opportunity and thought, What if I had just tried? What if I hadn’t let fear hold me back? The fear of failure can lead to a lifetime of regret. (Check out – 4 ways to live life fearlessly)
When you let fear dictate your choices you may find yourself wondering what could have been. Remember regret weighs far heavier than any failure ever could. Embrace failure as a chance to learn, adapt, and move forward.
When fear of failure grips you tightly, it can paralyze your progress. You become hesitant to try new things, explore uncharted territories, or chase after your dreams. You miss out on opportunities for growth and learning.
Instead of taking risks you may choose to stay within your comfort zone, where things feel safe and predictable. But the truth is life begins at the end of the comfort zone.
The most profound negative impact of fear of failure is the stifling of your true potential. When you constantly worry about failing, you limit yourself from reaching new heights and discovering the vast depths of your abilities.
It’s like putting a cap on your own growth. Remember “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”, by succumbing to the fear of failure you deny yourself the opportunity to shine brightly.
8 Practical Ways to Overcome Fear of Failure
Now you know the causes of fear of failure and its long-term impact on your life. With this in-depth understanding, I think now you are ready to overcome the fear of failure so let’s see these 10 practical strategies one by one and defeat your fear of failure effectively.
1. Setting realistic goals and expectations:
You know sometimes you set a goal for yourself that is very huge and it seems impossible to achieve. And when you start taking action towards it, automatically the fear of failure comes into your mind because you are trying to achieve something which is very huge.
Your mind interprets that as an impossible task and makes you feel worried what if I fail? I am not that capable enough to achieve the goal, etc. These thoughts constantly pop up into your mind and trigger the fear of failure.
That’s why it is very important to set realistic goals that you can break into a small number of tasks. See when you break your goal into small manageable tasks or steps, you do not feel overwhelmed and it becomes easy for you to finish those small steps or tasks.
With every step forward you feel a sense of accomplishment and confidence that helps you move towards your goal without fear of failure. So whatever your goal is you should break it down into a number of small steps.
How are you going to break it down into manageable tasks? let me tell you an example, suppose your main goal is to start your business. Start with breaking down the components of starting a business like market research, finding/evaluating good ideas, developing a business plan, etc.
Then again break these major components into actionable tasks in market research actionable tasks are conducting surveys, understanding what your competitors are doing, identifying your target audience, etc.
When you start taking action on these mini goals or small tasks you do not feel fear of failure because your actionable tasks are too small to do compared to your end goal. That’s how by breaking down your goal into manageable tasks you create an easy-to-follow roadmap.
Every task seems too small and easy to complete and with each completed task your confidence goes up and your fear of failure goes down simultaneously. This is one of the best ways to overcome the fear of failure in the long run.
2. Reframe failure as a learning opportunity:
I have a question for you, how do you look at failure in your life? There are two ways most people look at failure. The 1st way is you can see failure as your defeat, you can see it as a complete disaster in your life which makes you question your abilities.
On the other hand, the 2nd way is you can see failure as your guide which offers you effective feedback and insights on why you failed. Because whenever you fail at something, you have the opportunity to learn what didn’t work and how you can improve yourself for the next time.
So the way you see failure decides whether you will face the fear of failure in the future or not. If you look at failure like 2nd way then you will not see the fear of failure in your mind because you are ready to take failure as learning, insightful feedback for your growth, and most importantly opportunity to improve yourself next time.
If you look at failure like 1st way then there will be a high chance you will face the fear of failure every time you try to do new things. That’s why it is all about perspective, in order to overcome fear of failure you need to change the way you look at failure.
You can get a lot of examples of successful people in different fields they have failed multiple times in their life and still in the end they have achieved their goals with consistent effort and by bouncing back from the failure.
People like Edison, Jk Rowling, Elon Musk, and Michel Jordan successfully defeated the fear of failure only because they looked at failure as insightful feedback to improve themselves and an opportunity to learn from every failure in their lives.
So change your perspective to look at failure in your life, the moment you change it you will see your fear of failure go down automatically. Over a period of time, you will definitely feel confident about your abilities, and that confidence will push you toward your goal.
3. Cultivate Self-compassion:
Fear of failure is directly proportional to self-criticism and doubt, What does this mean? See, whenever you fail at something naturally you start blaming yourself for that failure, you criticize yourself and doubt your abilities.
This instant response to failure increases the fear of failure in your mind. So next time trying that thing again becomes too much difficult for you and this happens because of your negative response to the failure.
This is where self-compassion comes into play. Self-compassion means being kind to yourself in tough times. It is simply giving support and encouragement to ourselves in challenging and tough times like failure or rejection.
Practicing self-compassion is one of the powerful ways to overcome the fear of failure. How to practice it? Simply, instead of responding negatively to failure, you can respond positively means when you fail at something just accept that you can fail too.
Accept that you are not perfect, you can make mistakes, and you are not a superhero. Forgive yourself and take your mental care by accepting the failure in your mind. When you respond to failure this way, your fear of failure goes down immediately.
Experts recommend that to practice self-compassion you can use the techniques like mindfulness, self-reflection, and positive self-talk. With mindfulness, you become aware of your present thoughts, and emotions and you observe them without judgment.
Self-reflection means simply revising your strengths, and achievements and reminding yourself that failure is not a reflection of your worth, it is just an event. Practicing positive self-talk means replacing the negative response to failure with a positive response and repeating affirmations like I am the best, I can do it.
These techniques I will cover in the upcoming articles in detail. With the help of these 3 powerful techniques, you can practice self-compassion and overcome the fear of failure effectively.
4. Learn from Role models and Mentors:
Let’s say you want to start a new business and you are ready to take steps towards it. The moment you start taking steps towards your set goal you may feel fear of failure after some time and that is natural right?
But if you are surrounded by supportive people and good mentors, then there is a high chance you will easily overcome that fear of failure. That’s why it is always recommended that you should surround yourself with supportive people and find good mentors for your growth.
When the fear of failure pops up in your mind you need a little bit of encouragement to move forward and those words of encouragement you will get from those supportive people (it can be friends or family).
Similarly, you need new ideas and perspectives to see the fear of failure differently, which you will get only from a person who already has gone through the same journey. The new perspective from your mentor helps you deal with the fear of failure easily.
In the worst case scenario, if you don’t have supportive people and don’t have mentors in your life then the best thing you can do is to start reading biographies of successful people from any field like Elon Musk, Ratan Tata, Steve Jobs, Michel Jordan, Barak Obama, etc.
Make these biographies your mentors because you can learn so many things from the journey of highly successful people especially how they defeated the fear of failure.
Along with books, you can also consider listening to podcasts, and interviews of successful people. Because by reading about them or listening to them you can get new ideas and perspectives from their journey to deal with the fear of failure.
5. Take Calculated Risks:
This is one of the most logical and data-based strategies to overcome the fear of failure. As you know fear of failure comes into your mind when you don’t have much information about the goal or thing that you want to achieve.
Taking calculated risks strategy suggests that before starting to do something new you must do your homework like evaluate the potential outcomes of risk or thing you want to do, understand the best case and worst case scenarios, and get a rough idea about potential rewards and loss.
By understanding these things you actually prepare yourself for failure and when you prepare yourself for failure then your fear of failure vanishes. Because with this amount of information, you definitely make good decisions toward that risk or goal.
See, when you have enough information about the risks or the goal, it becomes easy for you to step out of your comfort zone and face it with full courage. This builds up your resilience and ability to bounce back from setbacks.
So whenever you come across the fear of failure because of some risky goal, try to get as much information as possible about that goal including its positive and negative sides, also trust your abilities and intuition, and then face it with full courage.
6. Use visualization for overcoming fear:
There is a famous saying ” You first win the battle in your mind then on the battlefield.” This line truly shows the power of visualization because when you continuously imagine yourself succeeding, your brain starts to believe it is possible and you can achieve success.
This simple visualization practice creates a positive image in your mind that reduces the impact of negative thoughts and automatically helps you overcome the fear of failure.
When you visualize yourself achieving great goals in life with a detailed image in your mind, you actually rehearsing success in your mind before it even happens in reality. By practicing this you actually program your mind for success.
How you can use visualization to overcome the fear of failure? well for that I would recommend you build a habit of visualizing your success every single day because this won’t give you results in a single day.
Simply keep 5 to 10 minutes for this exercise every day. During that time, you can visualize yourself achieving your goals with full courage, feel it with your senses, and make it as real as possible.
Along with this, you can use a visual reminder like images or a vision board that acts as a constant reminder for you that you are working towards a goal. You can also practice some powerful affirmations to increase the impact of your visualization technique.
Affirmations like “I can do it”, “I am the best”, and “I am the greatest”, the more you repeat these affirmations the more it will help you program your mind and reduce the fear of failure in the long run.
Visualization helps you overcome the impact of fear of failure in your mind but to destroy this completely you need to go one step ahead i.e. start taking consistent actions towards your goal. Because in the end, your actions will help you achieve your goal.
7. Take Consistent Actions:
Taking consistent actions despite that fear of failure is one of the best ways to overcome this fear and achieve your goals successfully. Fear of failure comes with the analysis of paralysis i.e. cycle of overthinking.
When you start working towards your goal this vicious cycle of overthinking stops you from taking action toward the goal. It makes you overanalyze every single step and get stuck in a never-ending loop of a single question in your mind What if I fail?
This overthinking cycle stops you from stepping out of your comfort zone and keeps you in non-action mode. But you have the power to break this overthinking cycle by taking action.
The moment you start taking action toward your goal you break the cycle of overthinking and give yourself a chance to learn, adapt, and grow. Remember that your single imperfect action or step towards your goal is more important than staying stuck in a planning mode.
Generally, when you overthink means you actually think more about what people will say if you fail in this or what others will think about you. This fear of being judged intensifies your overthinking so you must remember one thing people will judge whether you take action or not.
So don’t worry too much about what others will say and break the cycle of overthinking by taking consistent action. Your growth in life and happiness is more important than the judgment of others.
8. Seek help from Mental health experts/therapists:
Whatever strategies I have shared with you until now are effective to get better results and take control of the fear of failure. But sometimes, the impact of fear of failure is very bad on your life and it affects your ability to function normally in daily life.
That is when you need the help of a professional therapist who can help you overcome the fear of failure with powerful methods like psychotherapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and Mindfulness therapy.
So don’t shy away from taking help from a therapist, because one single therapy can make a difference in your life by helping you defeat the biggest obstacle in the path of your success i.e. fear of failure.
The fear of failure can be paralyzing, draining us of the courage we need to pursue our goals. However, it is not a permanent obstacle. In fact, it is a challenge that you can overcome with determination, resilience, and the power of self-belief.
Throughout the article, I discussed the Fear of failure in-depth along with its characteristics, causes, and negative impact on individual lives, and at the end, explored the 10 powerful ways to overcome the fear of failure effectively.
Remember, the journey toward overcoming this fear is not a smooth road, but rather a thrilling adventure filled with growth, setbacks, and resilience. I hope with this article, you got clarity on how to overcome the fear of failure and unlock the world of infinite opportunities and possibilities.
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