“At the end of the day, you are solely responsible for your success and your failure. And the sooner you realize that, you accept that, and integrate that into your work ethic, you will start being successful. As long as you blame others for the reason you aren't where you want to be, you will always be a failure.”
- Erin Cummings
In this column, you will learn simple but powerful tips on how to overcome the fear of failure from a wide range of experts.
Clicking on the expert names below will take you to their individual blurb on overcoming the fear of failure.
1. Acknowledge and define the fear.
Everyone is anxious when they try something new and especially if it is a challenge or perceived as something difficult or significant. Accept the fear and engage it with an inquiry as to what you’re really afraid of. Maybe you’re afraid of losing income. Perhaps you’re really afraid of being embarrassed or shamed. For someone else, it could be disappointing others. Define what’s behind the fear.
2. Prepare for success.
Once you know what is behind the fear begin to prepare for success. If you’re afraid that you’ll lose income, then add more to your savings account. If you’re afraid of being embarrassed, talk to those who will support you regardless of the outcome and ask directly for their explicit support. The same goes for feeling like you will disappoint someone. Speak with that person, express that fear and let them know that plans and strategies you’ve made that point to success.
3. Read about others’ successes and failures.
Every single person who has achieved great things has failed at one time in their lives. Often they’ve failed multiple times. Reading about their failures and how they overcame them to ultimately succeed will inspire you to continue despite your fear.
4. Find Team Members and Coaches.
Every great achievement occurred as a result of a team of people working together. Find others who share your passion or dream and enlist them in creating and implementing a game plan for success. Consider yourself the leader of a team working towards achieving your big goal. Find a mentor or coach to help think through your ideas and decisions and give you honest feedback.
5. Break it down into manageable chunks.
You may have one BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal) but you can break it down into manageable tasks and a timeline. Concentrating on one step, one small achievement, at a time maintains momentum, builds confidence and keeps fear at bay as you focus on what is achievable now.
Alicia Rodriguez, M.A., P.C.C. – www.aliciamrodriguez.com
“The cave you fear to enter lies the treasure you seek.”-Joseph Campbell
Fear of failure keeps too many of us from pursuing our dreams. Our true selves long to express themselves and be seen. Unfortunately, the part of us that wants to stay safe often has its foot on the breaks.
Fear doesn’t have to be the enemy. It can show us potential areas for growth, exciting opportunities, and parts of our shadow that need to be integrated. It is impossible to get through life without failing, so you might as well shoot for the stars and have fun in the process.
Here are some ways to release the paralyzing fears that have been holding you back.
Next time you feel fear getting in the way of your goals, pay attention. What is this fear voice saying to you? Even our destructive emotions are misguidedly trying to help us. Imagining your fear of failure has good intentions, what might it be trying to protect you from?
When you start to untangle fear, you can uncover the core emotions behind it. Often the underlying fear is: If I show my true self, I will be rejected. Our need for love and belonging is so strong that this can feel like a life or death situation.
Ask fear to sit this one out.
Now that you have started to relate to your fear and get curious about its motives, let it know that you’re an adult, and you can handle whatever happens. If you get rejected, disappointed, or brokenhearted, it won’t destroy you. No matter how far you fall, you‘ll be able to get back up.
Respectfully thank your fear for all the ways it has tried to protect you. Assure it that it doesn’t have to go away completely, but it can’t run the show anymore. Instead, ask your brave, hopeful dreamer to take the wheel.
Fear of success
It may seem counterintuitive, but success can feel more terrifying than failure. If you take the leap and it works out, things might have to drastically change in your life. If you do get what you want, you will then have something precious to lose.
Success is unknown and therefore not entirely safe. Where you are now, even if you are miserable, is familiar and therefore more comfortable. Acknowledge that happiness is also scary—there’s a reason many people opt to risk less and stay safe. It takes courage to break through that desire for comfort in service of greater fulfillment.
Safety comes with a price
“Unused creativity is not benign.”-Brene Brown.
We are all unique, creative beings put on this planet to express ourselves. If you do not tap into your gifts and share them, they will make you sick. Keeping your true self locked up can cause depression, hopelessness, and anger. It can even lodge itself in your body as physical sickness or addiction.
Thinking you can avoid being hurt is an illusion. The flow of life will always keep moving, and you can choose to drag your heals or enjoy the ride. By attempting to insulate yourself from rejection and disappointment, you are also blocking out everyday miracles that are there to encourage you.
F.E.A.R.=Feeling Excited And Ready
What if you reframed fear as a sign that you are headed in the right direction, and could make the conscious choice to lean into it? Instead of an alarm system telling you to stop, it could signal that you are on the cusp of greatness. Fear can be harnessed as extra energy for the upcoming task. Nervousness means you have skin in the game, which is never a bad thing.
There are two kinds of fear—the kind that warns you are in danger and must take action, and the kind that arises when you are about to step into something bigger. If your safety is not at risk, it is likely to be the good kind. Your body may confuse the two, so ask your intuitive wisdom for guidance.
Awaken your inner child
Remember the glee you had when you were given a box of crayons and a piece of paper as a kid? You probably didn’t pause to think, what if I‘m not good at this? Invite that brave child to come back by taking perfectionism out of the picture.
Get some finger paints, write with your non-dominant hand, dance in your room as ridiculously as you can, sing loudly in the car…all for the joy of doing it, with no regard for how skilled you are or how it would be received. What did you love doing most when you were a kid? Its time to bring fun back into the picture.
Fail, fail again, fail better.
The quickest way to get rid of any fear is to face it, and face it often. Get well acquainted with failure, even make a point to go out and be bad at something. You’ll start to notice you didn’t actually die, and it was probably enjoyable.
Look at the people you admire in the arena you wish to join—they have all failed, and probably a lot. Brilliant author JK Rowling was rejected numerous times before someone accepted Harry Potter and was warned, “Don’t quit your day job.” Find reviews of your favorite books/music/movies and notice how they range from glowing to scathing. Imagine if that person had let their future critics stop them from creating something beautiful.
To get perspective, picture yourself at the end of your life, combing through all of your experiences. Chances are, it is not the mistakes you’ll regret, it’s the things you didn’t have the courage to try. Do your future self a favor and follow whatever calls you now. Living with those what-ifs is very painful, and it is never too late to start. You only have one life. You might as well make a big, beautiful mess of it.
Sarah Bauer Hernandez, MA, LPC – www.sarahbauerhernandez.com
Learning something new requires moments of looking stupid, crashing and burning, making mistakes, and falling on your head.
Mastery takes dedication, commitment, and thousands of hours of practice. Being a beginner demands chucking our egos in at the door, asking for help, and saying I don't know a lot.
Now let’s dismantle the topic, dive deep and get honest.
Get a pen and paper sit down with a hot cup of tea or coffee and answer these questions:
1. What is it you are really afraid of? In order to overcome your fear of failure you need to know what it is you are actually afraid of. Be real with yourself here. Most likely it will be other people’s judgements of your so called failure or your judgements of yourself.
2. What does your inner critic tell you?
Shine the light on this voice in your head and write down all of the negative comments it is sabotaging you with. Example: “If my manuscript gets rejected by this agent that means my book sucks. That means I am worthless. Really, why did I even bother to write the book. Maybe I should go back to something safe that doesn't expose my vulnerability.”
Now pull out some Byron Katie tactics and examine your beliefs.
Are they really true? Because one agent rejected you that means you are worthless and so is your book? Is this really true? Is your worth as a person equal to some subjective opinion of a stranger?
All art is subjective. Not everyone is going to like you or your creations, but that doesn’t mean that just as many people will connect with your work, and quite possibly what you create and have the courage to put out there could help people. Find another agent and try again.
3. What is your definition of success?
Now this is important. Everyone has a different version of what success is. Get clear with what it is FOR YOU. Readjust your view of success so that it is in alignment with your truth and your beliefs. The person who wins the gold medal at the end of the race isn’t the only person that wins. Putting yourself out there, training everyday, committing to a goal and following through are all successes!
4. What are your motives?
Why are you doing what you are doing? Why do you want your book to be a #1 New York Times Best Seller? Is it for your ego? So that you can feel good about yourself, post it on Facebook and get a lot of praise? Or is it because what you have to say could be valuable and helpful to others.
Be brutally honest with yourself. The reality is nothing outside of us will ever give true inner satisfaction. No amount of money, praise, awards, likes or recognition will give you inner contentment. This is your job. Only you can give this to you. So if you are thinking “When my film wins an academy award then I will be happy.” It might be time to re think why this achievement is so important to you.
Now that you have unearthed your inner demons it is time to get into alignment.
1. Visualize your project and how it will touch people. Feel it in your heart. How do you want your work to be a positive force in the world and begin feeling it now.
2. Do your work because you love to do it. Not for the outcome. Create because you love creating. Train because you love your sport.
3. Get over yourself, go out there and do your best. Love and accept yourself no matter what the outcome.
4. Cheer on someone else. Encourage a friend who just got a great new writing gig, or who just ran their first marathon. Become the world's best cheerleader, and put that supportive energy out there for others.
Playing small and hiding our gifts out of fear is the biggest disservice we can do to ourselves and to the world. What if putting your creative project out there was your entire reason for being on Earth and you blew it because of your self sabotaging ego. The time is now, and life is short. We all have been given unique gifts and it is our job to get out of the way and let them flow through us. Trust that where your project ends up is exactly where it is meant to.
Do the work and let go of the results. The outcome is not up to you. Trust that we are always where we are meant to be and that every so called failure always brings us closer to success.
Polly Green, Yoga and Meditation Teacher - www.pollyhgreen.com
One of the biggest challenge of overcoming our fears is accurately identifying them as what’s holding us back from our goals.
Often our fears are contained in well packaged rational thoughts that lead to avoidance. A person who is contemplating a career change for example may buy into their rationalization that they are too old or set in their ways to “start over,” only to find that they were fearful of the change when able to identify the feeling.
So how do we get past our own defenses to access true feelings and thereby push past them?
A big piece of the puzzle is non judgement.
If we are to truly understand ourselves we have to be willing to non-judgmentally “sit with” whatever thoughts and feelings arise when we mentally unblock. When we are truly open to hearing our internal dialogue, we are free to then choose which underlying beliefs to hold onto, and which ones to dispute, challenge, or simply not engage with.
Imagine a person speaking to their fear.
In order for them to overcome it, they must first recognize it for what it is. Defense mechanisms can often cause us to believe our fearful thoughts, and mask these feelings as excuses, such as being too busy. Now imagine that person shaking hands with their fear, and then choosing to speak to it calmly and rationally rather than fight with it. Fear can be soothed with compassionate reassurance. Imagining what you might say to a friend held back by fear, and writing these words down is helpful.
Challenges of overcoming fear are not limited to one’s own thought process, but based on cultural beliefs as well. We are taught to avoid admitting fear. Motivational statements can be quite empowering, but at times may inadvertently advise a person to not acknowledge fear in a healthy way. Again, only by allowing ourselves to be real with our feelings can we develop insight on how to act on them, in a realistic but life changing way.
If you have something in your life that you would like to change, and your gut is telling you fear may be involved in holding you back, take these steps to challenge yourself in shaking hands with and then defeating your fear:
- Find a quiet space that speaks to you in a calming, sensory way-lighting, sounds, and what you touch are important to open your mind to your feelings.
- Bring up a picture in your mind of an ideal scenario of the issue you’d like to see changed.
- Seek to gently hold onto any feelings that arise, and ask yourself to give a name to each of those feelings. Be patient and allow your internal speech to be reflected back to you.
- Ask your fear what is keeping it in place.
- Remind your fear that it is a normal part of life and reassure your fear that you hear it.
- Gently confront your fear with encouragement and affirmations.
- Write down what your next steps are in behaviorally changing the issue in mind.
- Take action! And repeat as necessary.
Please note: This guide is an exercise designed to help work through fears related to goal achievement in life.
It is not intended to be a replacement for traditional therapy or for addressing fears that are associated with any mental health disorder. Please seek out professional help if your fear feels overwhelming, or is related in any way to harmful behavior or thoughts to self or others.
Donna DeGeorge, PCC-S, LICDC - www.degeorgecounselingservices.com
When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important. – Ellen DeGeneres
Fear of failure stops us before we’ve even begun. It robs us of our dreams and opportunities.
Our brains are hardwired to be alert to threats in order to stay alive. In modern times we don’t have to be constantly on the alert for huge predators wanting to eat us. However, fear of failure is interpreted by our brain as a threat to our survival. It will trigger the fight, flight or freeze response in the brain. So, rather than taking up the opportunity that scares us, we flee from it or freeze in place.
What can we do to move out of this situation and start living the lives we want? Here are some tips:
1. Question Your Thoughts: Fear comes from what we are thinking, and most people are primarily thinking negative thoughts.
So pay attention to what thoughts come up for you when you consider going for your dream job, starting to write that novel or whatever else you want to create in your life.
Just because you have a thought, it doesn’t make it true. One of the most common thoughts that holds people back is the thought of, “I’m not enough.” Where did that thought come from? Is it really true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? Think how you act when you have that thought. Now, think how it would feel if you didn’t have that thought.
Most of our thoughts were downloaded into us at a young age and are not our own. They come from comments people made to us, or experiences we had and interpreted from the very literal mind of a young child. Our subconscious mind, where our thoughts are stored, is also very literal. By challenging the thoughts that don’t serve you and intentionally replacing them with new thoughts that do, you can form new neural pathways and new default thoughts.
“There is no failure. Only feedback.” — Robert Allen
2. Reframe failure: There is no failure, only learning opportunities.
Without failure you don’t grow because you’re not taking the risks that help you figure out what works. Failure is an essential part of the journey of life. When you start to see it that way it becomes less of a monster and more of a wise teacher. Experiencing an outcome that you don’t like or want doesn’t make YOU a failure. It’s simply an event along the way. Use what you’ve learned and keep going.
3. Get to the heart of what you’re really afraid of:
It’s often not failure itself that scares us. It’s what failure leads to. We think we might be humiliated, or be rejected, or we might loose all our money and be homeless. Once you’re clear on what the real problem is, you’re empowered to take steps to deal directly with the issue.
For example, If you want to start a business, but are afraid of failing, work on the steps to building your business while still at the job that’s paying the bills. Make the jump when you know you’ve got a solid foundation for your business in place.
4. Break your dreams down into small steps:
When you think of what you want to create as one big whole, it can be overwhelming and feed your fear. Instead, begin by breaking your end goal down into the steps you need to reach it. By breaking it down into small steps, it feels more doable and you can celebrate along the way, each time you complete a step.
By facing your fears head on, you put yourself in a position to deal with them in a pro-active way and move ahead in your life.
Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach– www.americaslifepurposecoach.com
Do you ever say ‘If only…’ or ‘I wish…’? And then do nothing at all.
You continue living a life of soulless routine – driving the same route, working the same job, eating the same foods. Because you’re terrified of failing if you try something new. Yet the very routine that feels so safe and certain, is slowly suffocating you.
It's a truth we all avoid. That if we want to live a life we truly love, then we must risk failing. In fact, the real truth is that the only way to live the life we crave is to face the failures we fear so much.
But how do you overcome the crippling fear of failure?
Here are seven strategies that’ll help you bust through the fears that are holding you back.
#1. Reframe Failures as Setbacks
Your language plays a huge role in how you think and what you believe about yourself. Begin by switching the word failure for setback. Then set new beliefs around what a setback means for you. Ask yourself what you feel about setbacks. Ensure you pair positive feelings such as fascination and empowerment with your new beliefs.
#2. Change the Meaning
The setbacks you’ll suffer as you begin to live a bigger life and to take risks mean nothing until you give them meaning. And the meaning you give them determines how you think about those setbacks. If you give positive meaning to a setback, then you make anything possible. If setbacks mean growth, learning and excitement, then your future is limitless.
#3. Drop Your Protective Veneer
Everybody has scars, worries and doubts. And everybody hides these imperfections behind a shiny protective veneer. They only let people see the good bits they believe people want to see. One of the stepping stones to overcoming fears is to stop avoiding or hiding your imperfections. Everybody has them.
Making mistakes is human. Save the valuable energy you put into maintaining your veneer each day by being proud of who you are instead – which means you’ll have more energy to look after your core self.
#4. Shift Your Opinion Radar from External to Internal
Allowing the fear of failure to paralyse you means you’re making other’s opinions matter more than your own. Stop putting other’s opinions on a pedestal and living your life in the shadows. Tap into your values, self-beliefs and opinions over what matters most to you, then keep them firmly in focus every day.
#5. Work on Your Why
It’s been said that if your why is big enough, then the how will take care of itself. And your fears will take a back seat. Commit time to identifying your purpose – the unique gifts you offer your world. Cement them in place by setting specific goals that enable you to live your purpose and by identifying minimum standards that you hold yourself to. Standards are things like ‘I will read for 1 hour every day’ or ‘I will not engage in critical or complaining conversations about people.’
#6. Realize Setbacks are Momentary
No setback is permanent – unless you decide that it is. You have the ultimate control and power over the impact a setback has on your life. Know that they’ll pass. And know that as they pass, you’ll grow. You’ll become more capable. And you’ll believe in yourself more. Meaning, your fears will take a back seat and no longer control you.
#7. Embrace Fear
Accept that you can only overcome fear by accepting it’ll never go away. And if you run from it, then it’ll run you. Understand that the things you fear the most are usually the things that matter the most. They’re the things you know deep down will make the biggest positive impact on your life. So face your fears, embrace them and they’ll become quieter.
It’s Time to Be You
You’ve been hiding in the shadows, dreaming, wishing and hoping. But you want more out of life. And you know, that right now, it’s time to stop playing a small game. Because, by getting in touch with your why, nurturing your core self and reframing the meaning you give to setbacks – you’ll be winning.
Worry will be replaced with wonder. Shame will melt into pride. Annoyance will turn into amazement at your strength and capability. Your fear of failure will fade into a distant memory and your future-self will welcome you with open arms.
Because you’ll realise that you are enough.
And who doesn’t want that for themselves, right?
Miranda Hill, Coach and Writer – www.grablifego.com
Recovery from the fear of failure begins by learning to protect and nurture our sense of self.
As we begin this process, as we begin to listen to ourselves and learn to make decisions that are in our own best interest, we develop confidence in our ability to rely upon and meet our own needs, and the reliance upon other’s opinions gradually begins to take a back burner.
Below are some steps to help you begin your journey of recovery:
Learn to listen to yourself in the moment.
Stop and ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to express them. Also pay attention to what your body is telling you. What bodily sensations are you feeling: Are you experiencing tension in your stomach; in your chest; in your neck? Begin to learn to recognize these messages from your self and respond in caring ways. For example, if you are tense, stop what you are doing and take a deep cleansing breath. Continue to breathe deeply until you regain a sense of balance and peace and then resume your activity.
Affirmations provide us with the content we need to replace old outdated and toxic internal dialogue. Affirmations can be as simple as “I am loveable. I am enough.” Do a Google search for “positive affirmations,” check out Pinterest, or use your iPhone to find an app for affirming messages and select affirmations that feel right for you. Begin to practice reminding yourself that you are a valuable and unique individual.
When someone comes into my office I begin our therapy sessions by listening to him or her attentively in order to hear and recognize what he/she is feeling. Having a friend or family member to talk with when one is trying to find solutions to any internal dilemma can be healing provided the individual is positive and caring. Listen to how you feel when the friend you choose responds. Does the message feel ‘right?’ Do you feel empowered by the content of the message or dejected?
Set boundaries to decrease negative influences.
As we begin to listen to ourselves and change negative messages, it is important that we learn to become aware of outside influences that feed us negative messages as well. Listen to how you feel when interacting with others. Are the messages you are being fed helpful and produce growth and peace or do you feel worse about yourself from engaging? Begin to distance yourself from negativity. Recognize that another’s opinions are not necessarily ‘gospel’ and you have a choice about whether you internalize these or not.
Recovery is a process so be gentle with yourself.
As you grow and develop your understanding of self, your skills will develop and you will become more proficient at championing yourself in the moment thereby developing greater confidence in yourself and less reliance upon the opinions of others and outside influences.
Debbie Glover, LPC - www.debbiepglover.wixsite.com/counseling
Fear of failure, large or small, is perhaps the most common feeling humans have – aside from the feeling of love.
Since fear and love are opposite emotions, harness that fear by using your heart.
Our biggest fear is likely that we will be judged negatively if our actions fail.
A major source of fear comes from attempting to manipulate the outcome and avoid pain. Be honest about our reason for acting, our intention. Stay with the intention. Don’t project or make up an outcome to begin with. Move forward on your intention for the reason behind it.
We know, or have at least heard, that FEAR is an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real”.
When we operate from the heart, our intention and focus allow us to see what IS real. As we act on our deepest intelligence, fear of failure is not interfering. We’ve also likely heard, “Learn to fail, or fail to learn.”
Thomas Edison was told to give it up. He stated that he hadn’t failed, he’d succeeded in finding 10,000 ways that didn’t work. His intention was to invent a lightbulb. If he allowed fear of failure to lead his actions rather than allow his heart’s passion to create light, history would be very different. He also said he never did a day’s work in his life. It was all fun. It felt like fun, not work, because he was acting from his heart.
You may be thinking, what does the heart have to do with fear of failure? When our systems are in coherence with our hearts, we can think rationally. Alignment with core heart feelings boosts creativity, we rediscover hope, and we are resilient. New intuition arises. You are no longer relying on your ego. You are operating from your soul.
I utilize HeartMath coherence methods as part of my approach to clarity and realistic ease.
How do you tap into your heart’s wisdom?
1. Sit very comfortably in a quiet place, away from distractions, where you could potentially even fall asleep when you first try this.
2. Be honest about what you are feeling afraid of failing at, and summarize this fear in one statement. Simply naming the fear gives you power over it.
3. Take three deep breaths, and it may help to place your hand on your heart as you drop the focus from your head to your chest area and slow your breathing.
4. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply as you cultivate the essence of a smile. Target your breathing as though you are breathing in and out of your heart.
5. Think of something or someone you feel warmth and affection toward. Some people choose a pet or a child who makes them laugh.
6. Feel the ease flow in and the anxiety flow out with each breath. Hold that affection for yourself; you’ve got this.
Laurie Curtis, CPPC, CiPP – www.curtisease.com
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