Overcoming Fear of Failure

Overcoming Fear of Failure

Fear is one thing no one can deny never having. It comes up as frequently as we need to do something new or take another step and for different reasons too but while others can move on from that stage quickly, others are stuck in that spot, sometimes repeating the cycle of envisioning and squashing the visions.

To fail is an embodiment of a whole lot of other negatives- to underachieve, mismanage, unsuccessful, insufficient, desert, to fall etc.

In this midst of the what-ifs are others plunging ahead to take for themselves accolades, yet others find themselves in a cycle.


How To Know You Have a Fear of Failure

  1. You Give up Before You Have Started: Such a person usually and erroneously calls themselves a realist. They carefully analyze challenges and issues before them and if it doesn’t give high assurance, they refuse to try at it no matter what. Over and over again they let go of opportunities with the same knowledge that they are not good enough and will never be.
  1. You Are a Master of Excuses: People with a fear of failure can come up with some of the best excuses you’ll ever hear. They are able to make excuses ranging from the silliest to the most reasonable to justify their behaviour or attitude. A person not sensitive or not close enough to notice the cycle may never figure it out. Note that these excuses are first for themselves before they are for others.
  1. You Are a Secret/Open Perfectionist: These parts of themselves may not be easily noticed in the long run. This is a reason they refuse to try their hands on anything at all with a suspicious feel- they want the best and if it doesn’t seem the least bit feasible, they refuse to try further.


You must be aware that people do not just come into these fears of failure. They are there for some reason.

  1. Childhood: Everyone grew up in different environments. Some harsher, others not encouraging either. Children that grew up in such environments are likely to develop this fear of failure. These children grow up wanting things, sometimes trying to prove themselves to their parents, peers, and the world, and finding out often that they just couldn’t satisfy or reach this point of approval, either for themselves or their family. With time they stopped trying, resigned to the knowledge that they could never achieve more. Thus, this fear is born and most times have taken to maturity.
  2. Previous Failures: Not everyone learnt to be “extra careful” in their childhood. For some, it was a rude awakening, a dash of their hopes and dreams. Therefore, to prevent the future occurrence of that kind of heartbreak, they develop different self-protect mechanisms. All of which can be identified as a symptom of the fear of failure.
  3. Reputation/Ego: Persons with very high self-esteem are sometimes this way too. They think too much of themselves and want others to think too highly of them that they will do anything to avoid being brought low. So they avoid situations with chances of failure and stick to what they know.

Persons who have fought to achieve an amount of success usually fall under this category. They don’t want to bite more than they can chew so they stick to their fame, preferring to ride the waves instead of going against them. This way, it’s the best of both worlds.

  1. Perfectionism: Some persons are strict with themselves. They expect the utmost best from themselves so refuse to perform below expectations. After a range of high calculations, if the chances even seem the least bit unlikely or without a high chance of success, they immediately shut it down.


Effects of Fear of Failure.

  1. Loss of time: The more you refuse to step out of your comfort zone, the more you lose time. With the illusion that there’s still enough time to go after your dreams and goals, comes the perfect excuse to give in to procrastination, so the days and months keep running by and soon this person realizes that time is no longer on their side.
  2. Loss of Opportunity: With the passing of time goes opportunity. Only those who have prepared ahead can grab unto it. A person plagued with the fear of failure refuses to allow himself to dream too big and when this happens he/she is not able to walk the steps of preparation needed to latch onto opportunities.
  3. Failure: People with a fear of failure don’t realize that not achieving that dream of theirs is in itself a failure. They keep telling themselves that they’re okay how they are when in truth they are dissatisfied, sad, angry, and even disgusted with themselves. Seeing people achieve their secret desires leaves them more depressed. In time, this builds up to make such a person lash out in different negative ways.
  4. No enlightenment: One thing that trials bring to us is to reveal the real us, the one you didn’t know was within. Not trying, you leave yourself to what you think you know and you limit yourself. What you think you don’t know and are unwilling to know, you’ll never know.
  5. Underachievement: A person with a fear of failing will never reach the best of himself. He or she lacks the extra push that motivates winners, keeps them burning the night candle, and keeps them moving. To decide to remain in your comfort zone is to decide to remain low.

Note that when we talk about people with the fear of failure, do not go around looking for wretched or homeless people. They can be found in every aspect of life. The fear of failure is so carefully hidden it can be found in comfortable, average citizens, high-class citizens who have already achieved great things but is unwilling to push further to get more.

Looking at these sad effects of fear of failure, we know we must put our all to fight it, and here are steps to help you overcome it.


How To Overcome Fear of Failure

  1. Acknowledge the Fear: If you find that these symptoms are so able to describe your situation, you must acknowledge to yourself that they are indeed there and a problem. Refusal to acknowledge that you’re afraid of failing means you’ll either keep hiding or rush out to prove yourself wrong leading to mistakes. So this is the first step. Spot it. Do you or do you not have the fear of failure. You can’t stand in between. Choose one side. Now, we can progress.
  2. Find a Goal: This probably is already increasing the beat of your heart because one symptom of the fear of failure is not allowing yourself to dream or have a big goal- at least not the real one. I mean what you really want but seems like all chances of achieving it is low. You don’t want to dream too big, you want to be realistic. You say to yourself, “How can the boss agree to transfer me to that department?”
  3. Feed Your Desire: When you know what you want, chew on it. You’ll need to decide you want it. If it’s worth it. Focus on the pros and less on the cons. See yourself doing it. Take it slowly. This is one of the main points. If you can’t see it, if you’re not hungry enough for it, you might start but never finish it. Write them all down. How it affects you, your children, your family, everyone. Make a very long list. The longer the better.
  4. Research: If you worked on your desire enough, automatically you will find yourself easing into this next phase. Begin to research how to get what you want. How to be a better web designer, how to change careers, how to get that body you want, how to be the best in your workplace, whatever you want, research on them, read, write them down.
  5. Break Up the Steps: Break your goal into smaller goals. Even to the minute detail, if you so wish. This will help you build up your confidence. The more you can tick these smaller goals as you achieve them the closer you get to your main goals. They may look like little things but you are indeed getting closer.

For instance: To pursue a career change to photography, your goal could be broken down like this;

    1. Subscribe to photojournalism blogs
    2. Read at least 3 posts every day.
    3. Check photography courses online
    4. Tell …………… about it (a trusted supportive person).
    5. Save …………. amount every day.
    6. Register for a free photography course.
    7. Take a free photography course.
    8. Practice, practice.
    9. Buy a camera.
    10. Take pictures around the home.
    11. Take advanced photography courses.
    12. Become a free picture contributor.
    13. Research how to make an attractive portfolio.
    14. Make an attractive portfolio.
    15. Pick a mentor.
    16. Research how to approach my mentor.
    17. Approach my mentor.
    18. Did not work out? Get another.
    19. Approach new mentor.
    20. Did not work out? Research more on approaching mentors.
    21. Get another mentor.
    22. Open a blog…

The list goes on and on.

Did you notice that even these goals can still be broken down into more minute details? Write them all down someplace personal. Perform a small ceremony as you tick them, maybe a toast. Then keep going.

Did you also notice that the above are smaller steps yet? This person is able to take them slowly while still in their current job until they get a better footing.


  1. Prepare for Contingencies: Deciding to go for your dreams does not mean throwing a blind eye to the risk involved or the probability of failing. It means allowing the pros to push you to go for it anyway. An example can be taken from the above goal breakdown. Points 18-21 show the person’s plan b. Your plan book can have as many plan b’s as you want. They help you deal with the fears and prepare for them.
  2. Be Accountable: Find a means of being accountable to your goals. It’ll help more if there was someone or a system put in place to help you keep to your plans. This is because most times, you’ll want to give up and “play it safe”. Sometimes, your voice alone cannot provide enough motivation. You’ll need external support.


To conclude, you must know that the fear of failure is not something that can be pushed out with the snap of a finger. Since it was learnt, it has to be grown out of or proved false. So take it slowly.  Allow yourself to grow at your own pace.

Career Advice

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