How do you feel when undertaking professional or personal projects? Does fear of failure overwhelm you when pursuing your life goals? If so, you’re not alone. Some people who live this kind of fear dread starting anything because they feel absolutely certain that whatever they do will fail. However, this feeling is baseless, and the sense of insecurity can interfere with your actions, thoughts, and emotions.
Still, not all fear of failure is bad because the healthy one leads people to better plans and can help them prepare and focus. It only becomes bad when left unchecked and grows out of control because it can be extremely paralyzing and isolating.
This article will discuss how you can overcome an overwhelming fear of failure. It will highlight signs of this negative fear, possible causes, impacts, and tips on overcoming it.
Let’s get started.
Fear of Failure Explained
Fear of failure comprises the belief you’re not good enough, and in most instances, you’re likely to disappoint others. It’s an all-encompassing reaction that the belief that you won’t measure up and you’re going to do poorly on your tasks.
The unpleasant feelings can be mild or severe based on the situation. Mild fear of failure is just anxiety because you fear failing, which can motivate, encourage and provide you positive stress to persist and achieve your goals. The mild fear or worry about the outcome of an interview, exams, project, and the like is perfectly normal. It only becomes bad when it prevents you from achieving your goal.
On the other hand, severe fear of failure can stop you in your tracks, prevent you from taking any action toward your goals, and cause fear of work which is linked to perfectionism and procrastination. Indeed a severe fear of failure can interfere with your life and stops you from moving forward.
Causes of Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is just like other phobias. It develops at any stage in life and follows a pattern of contributors like biological and environmental conditions. The fear might develop after a traumatic event or when your parent, guardian, or spouse pressure you to be a top performer or high achiever.
Some of the causes include:
Traumatic Life Experiences: High-stress levels and traumatic experiences like emotional neglect and sexual, emotional, or physical abuse can contribute to fear of failure.
Perfectionism: Intense or unmanaged perfectionism levels can cause anxiety and fear of failure. Perfectionists tend to view any failure as unacceptable and greatly feared.
Genetic & Biological Issues: Your biological makeup and genes can influence your fear of failure. The reason is that anxiety has a genetic component, so if your parents, siblings, and other close relatives have a phobia, then you’re more likely to develop the same fear.
What You Learn from Parents: The way your parents communicate or their actions can tremendously influence you in terms of fear of failure. Parents who place a high value on their children’s success and accomplishments or are overprotective can increase the odds of their children developing this fear of failure.
Signs of Fear of Failure
There are many signs that fear of failure is holding you back. It includes worry, hopelessness, procrastination, and physical symptoms like headaches or fatigue.
The following are signs of intense fear of failure.
- Feeling hopeless about your future
- Chronic worry
- Physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and digestive troubles that prevent you from working on completing a project or towards your goal.
- Intense concerns about how others think of you when you don’t do well or completely fail
- High distractibility by even unimportant and irrelevant things
- Avoidance of people or tasks linked to a general goal or a project
The Impact of Fear of Failure
Fear of failure can be paralyzing. It can cause someone to believe there is no need to try to achieve something. This form of fear can lead to problems in day-to-day life and missed opportunities.
Usually, people with this kind of fear approach a task with extreme caution because they lack a success orientation which includes actions designed to achieve the goal. They want to identify and prevent any form of loss that affects their relationships, mental health, and overall quality of life.
Other consequences of fear of failure include:
- Thoughts of powerlessness
- Decreased resilience
- Self-sabotaging/self-handicapping behavior
- Low self-efficacy
- Low self-esteem
- High anxiety
- Thoughts of powerlessness
- Emotional instability and upheaval
- Avoidance of opportunities, projects, tasks, and people
Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Failure
1. Identify Your Feelings
Why are you afraid of failing? Knowing why you fear failing can help you face it and identify the reasons behind your fear of failure. Some people overwork themselves not to succeed but to avoid the consequences of failure.
Others engage in avoidance, procrastination, and other self-protective behaviors in order to have a reason for their failure. Therefore, you should take the first step, which includes identifying the self-sabotaging or stressful behaviors and then taking positive actions to enhance your success.
2. Redefine Failure
Developing a relationship with fear can help to overcome it. This means cultivating a new perspective on failure rather than viewing it as a life-destroying disaster. You can see failure as feedback or a chance to learn and grow, a lesson or an opportunity to reflect on past failures, a surmountable challenge instead of a roadblock in your path, and as an impermanent situation instead of a permanent end.
3. Redefine Success
Some people give failure a lot of attention as opposed to success. For that reason, they spend a lot of energy and time avoiding failure than achieving their goal.
You can avoid that by putting your desires in proper perspective and evaluating whether your fear of failure is blocking your way to true success.
4. Build Your Self-esteem
It’s important to shift your attention to developing a new perspective about your worries about failure, its role in your life, and thoughts about yourself. You can put more effort into boosting how you view yourself and your abilities.
This will prevent you from ruminating about your supposed shortcomings. High self-esteem helps you focus on your inherent strengths and talents instead of your weaknesses.
5. Give Yourself Some Room for Failure
At first, the chronic fear of failure can hinder you from giving yourself some room for failure. But permitting yourself to fail can be liberating. You can do that by asking yourself what the worst possible outcome of failure can be. Even though failure is unpleasant, you will realize that you can survive even the worst-case scenario.
6. Dedicate Yourself to Failing
Committing yourself to failure can be traumatizing. But you can find a scenario or situation where you have control over its outcome and then plan to fail.
The purpose of doing that is to expose yourself to failure and find ways to cope with it. One of the possible scenarios is game night with your buddies.
7. Break Down Your Goal or Project into Smaller Chunks
The more overwhelming the goal or task, the higher the fear of failure. But splitting the task into manageable chunks gives you more control and thus less anxiety or fear.
Breaking your goal into smaller ones can help you reflect on aspects of success within your control. It can also help you make effective choices and take actions to set yourself to achieving your goal.
8. Do More with What Works for You
What is your approach to tasks? You can do more without failure when evaluating your work habits and identifying what works well and what gets in your way. Next, put more effort into what works and try to replace what doesn’t work with different actions.
Spending a lot of time reflecting on what works and what doesn’t, as well as taking different actions to replace the latter group, can help you gain control over your tasks and fear. It can also motivate and empower you to work towards achieving your goals without the fear of the outcome.
9. Remain Focused
Sometimes your mind can be occupied with negative self-talk about what might or not happen in the future or, worst still, what has already happened. But focusing more on what you’re presently doing keeps you abreast of today’s actions instead of spending many hours ruminating over your feelings and thoughts about perceived shortcomings and imagined consequences.
10. Relax Your Body and Mind
Anxiety creates tension, worry, and stress. You can overcome this by relaxing and finding calm. Some of the best relaxation techniques include guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, deep breathing, etc. Additionally, you can try getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and taking a healthy diet in order to put your body in its best state.