All about Fear of Failure
Fear is not an unfamiliar term nor does it need an elaborate definition. Many of us have faced fear of one thing or the other. Fears come and go; sometimes they are dealt with effectively and at times the fears loose their validity or die on their own.
Children are especially good at it. Sometime with the parental guidance and sometimes in their innocent ways they deal with fears and overcome them. It is the prolonged stay of the fear in the mind of the person which needs to be tackled. If the fear settles down in the mind of the adult it needs more efforts and powerful techniques to remove it.
In this blog let us examine fear of failure: what it means, what causes it, and how to overcome it to enjoy true success in work and in life.
In addition, in this blog, there is also a short video on the same subject.
Types of Fears
Some people are afraid of real things which are physical such as fear of dog (Cynophobia); fear of darkness (Nyctophobia); while some people are afraid of situations such as fear of height (Acrophobia: ); fear of drowning (Aquaphobia:); fear of small or crowded space (Claustrophobia)
At the same time, there are certain types of fears which relate to the possibility of an unfavorable situation or event perhaps occurring in future (and it may not occur also). It is this category which I refer to in this article and would specifically like to deal with the Reasons or Causes for the Fear of Failure and Fear of Rejection. This will be followed by some tips and ways to overcome the Fear of Failure and Fear of Rejection, so that you can enjoy moving forward without getting stuck and be more successful in life.
Possible causes of Fear of Failure
Nobody likes to fail, but it is normal to fail due to some mistake or unexpected circumstances beyond one’s control. However, for some people, failing leads them to such a major psychological threat that their motivation to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed. This fear of failure causes them to unknowingly sabotage their own chances of success, in various ways.
There could be several reasons or causes which trigger the fear of failure. Basically at the root of all this is psychological conditioning of the mind. For example:
- If you have the habit of being a perfectionist then you may like to put off taking the action till you are fully convinced that the outcome will be ‘perfect’. In a way no action is also inaction, pointing to the fact that you are afraid to try.
- Some past event where your failure caused embarrassment and as a result you lost all confidence (like making a bad presentation which was criticized by your seniors). This has conditioned your mind negatively.
- There could be over critical parents during childhood or non encouraging spouse which could deny much needed motivation for you to get up and take action.
- Humiliation in the friends’ or professional circle
- Focusing too much on the possibility of negative outcome
Experiencing such a trauma can sometimes stay in mind and if it gets linked to your having taken an initiative in which you were a failure may cause the fear of failure. This fear gets triggered every time you want to take an action or perform.
Why must you deal with the Fear of Rejection and Fear of Failure
The fears can be so empowering that at times one may decide not to try it at all – something that one must for progress or growth or for general day to day working. The person fears that if he tries his hand at something he may not only be unsuccessful but it may lead to a series of failures or a larger fear. Obviously the person is not convinced at the subconscious level that he is good at something.
Of course, most of us have had such fears at one time or the other in our lives but when we always let fear stop our forward march in life, we’re likely to miss some great opportunities along the way. Thus this is limiting the progress in life.
In such cases failing can bring forth negative feelings and emotions such as disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and confusion. It is not failure per se which is bad but it is the unwanted reaction or behavior of some people who experience failure.
How to Overcome Fear of Failure
You may like to take one or more of the following steps to overcome your Fear of Failure
1. Accept the Fear
Begin with acknowledging the fact you have a fear of failure. It doesn’t matter that what is the intensity or the frequency of this fear which prevents you from proceeding ahead in life. Once you accept the situation then you can take the corrective action and do something to improve your situation. Believe you me, this step itself will take a lot of load off your shoulder
2. Don’t be too harsh on yourself
There is no gain in constantly being critical for not being an excellent performer. Just as you accepted the fact that you have the fear, similarly you can accept certain limitations you may have and at the same time do remind yourself of the unique assets such as skill sets, abilities, advantages you may be enjoying but you have rather taken them for granted.
For a detailed article please refer to Don’t be your own Critic number one.
3. Analyze your Fear
You are now at a better stage to sit down and analyze your fear. Try to find out what situation or person triggers this fear? Or is it just the fear of unknown? Figure out the worst case scenario if you fail 100% – which you know is not possible because you will achieve something at least. Also work out a fall back action plan and again see what worse could happen. Once you face the fear a few times psychologically you will fear less as you have tried to break it down to various components it is made of (in your case). If there are any messages, lessons to be learnt from this exercise then note them down carefully and make a solid plan to move ahead in life. But don’t do this exercise too often.
4. Consider the cost of missing the opportunities
It is said that ‘higher the risk higher the reward’. While the idea is not to take the advice always and every time too literally, yet there is good weight in the advice. Whether it is the career or the investment or business decision, the risky areas do pay higher dividends. Thus if one takes informed and well calculated risks the chances are that the rewards shall be better than the average.
For example, if it is career planning then combine two criteria – a relatively safe career with a high potential for growth. Taking high risk opportunities is essential because they offer the greatest rewards.
If you are motivated by the self image of striking big and to make your mark on the world, then the positive motivation shall be bigger than the negative force of the fear. This will urge you to ignore the fear of failure or fear of rejection.
5. Take Action
The best antidote to fear of failure is action. If you keep sitting there doing nothing then fear will feed on you. The more you fear, stronger the fear will become. For example, if your analysis (step #3) shows that you failed last time because you lacked a certain skill set or you associated with a wrong person. This prompt you to acquire that particular skill set or connect with the right person. Is it not that simple!
6. Think Positive
The benefits of Positive thinking hardly need to be over emphasized in today’s world. Positive thinking with visualization for the right outcome is an amazingly powerful way to build self-confidence and control self-sabotage. For more information, please refer to Maintaining Self Confidence in Case of Loss of Job
7. Research and look for the Alternatives
The unknown is a major source of the energy of fear. When you don’t know what you’re dealing with and what are the potential consequences – good or bad then the negatives seem far worse than they actually are. Take the power out of the fear by understanding the situation. Thus it would be advisable to empower yourself with the complete information by researching all the potential outcomes (both good and bad). That way you will properly understand the risk of failure and benefits of success. Analyzing these outcomes will help you see through the fear of failure and make a logical decision.
Also dig out the alternatives. May be there is a better one – more profitable or less risky or perhaps both!
8. Set Goals
Begin by setting simple goals which are clearly defined in terms of end output, action required and resources like time, money, skills etc. to achieve them. Begin by simple and easy to achieve goals which are in near / immediate future time frame. This will give you many advantages such as a clearer perspective of your assets and resources under your command, a vision about how to achieve these goals. Every target reached by you will add to your confidence level and at the same time will help to remove / reduce your fear of failure.
As the practice increases, set more than one goal and set higher goals.
9. Do Relaxation Exercises
The fear or other negative mental situations can often manifest undesired psychosomatic problems. One of the best ways to reduce the ill effects of fear on mind and body is practicing relaxation.
You may like to deep breathing for 2 to 5 minutes. Inhale, taking long deep breaths, fill your lungs with fresh air, hold your breath for a while (within your comfort level), and then exhale slowly. Keep your eyes closed and imagine that the feeling of relaxation is originating at your head and slowly travelling down to your feet.
This will help you to relax the muscles of full body.
10. Do Visualization
Experts from the domain of power of Sub Conscious Mind strongly recommend visualization for all situations relating to mind management. Simply put, visualization is a process of sitting in a relaxed state of mind and body followed by a guided imagery where you see, hear, smell and feel for a few moments that you have already reached your desired goal and stay in that situation for some time.
11. Appreciate the benefits of failure
Each failure leaves you with a message that you can learn from. You certainly become richer with your experience of failure. For example, you know that through the method you tried it is not possible to succeed (only a fool will repeat that). Hence you will try another recipe for success and growth. Maybe the lesson learnt today will prove to be less expensive – compared to what you would paid for a bigger project for applying the same methodology which failed today.
12. Do Affirmations
The advocates of affirmations believe that the regular practice of affirmations is capable of transform your life. They believe that it is an amazing tool which is so simple that anyone can learn to use them.
Here are a few positive affirmations:
“I am fearless “
“I am confident and determined “
“I take action now”
“I release all blocks pertaining to my goal.”
“I am liberated from fear of failure”
The benefit of this method is ease and flexibility. You may either do them for a few minutes every day, regularly (recommended 3 times a day , for best results) or do them whenever you feel the need.
Some links to affirmations on various subjects are:
- Affirmations for Success
- Affirmations for Love and Relationships
- Improve Self Esteem
- Affirmations for Health and Healing
13. Consider the worst-case scenario
One of the most powerful questions you can pose to yourself or your team could be: What is the worst that could happen? What would be total damage? How long will it take to recover? The answer may surprise you as it is probably less than you expect.
How hard would it would be to find another job in case your start up entrepreneurial venture fails? Chances are you could get a job within a few weeks whereas you expected and prepared for a few months. So ask yourself are these few rough weeks strong enough to keep you in a mediocre situation indefinitely?
14. Do Meditation
Meditation is an excellent self help method to connect with your sub conscious mind and reprogram it. Meditation will definitely be helpful in removing the self sabotaging belief systems either given by someone or self acquired. Click here for Meditation to Overcome Fear of Failure and Fear of Rejection.
15. Keep plan ‘B’ ready
This means that you should make a solid contingency plan also. This is one more way to overcome the fear of failure by reducing the downside.
Even if your first option fails, with a solid backup plan you would have option to maintain the status quo. If you manage risks intelligently, you can get the benefits of risky opportunities while getting yourself a safety net.
16. Burn the bridges behind
When ancient Greek armies traveled across the sea to do battle, the first thing they would do after landing on the enemy shore was to burn the boats, leaving themselves no return path. With no way to make it home unless they win the war, the motivation level of the soldiers was strengthened. When success and failure are the only options, you have no choice but to go through and win.
If you are clear on your goal, but are afraid to commit, force yourself into action by burning the boats. Sign up for a course or an exam in advance if you want to learn a useful skill but are afraid to go back to college. Set a deadline to move to a new city and do not renew your current lease agreement. Fear of failure disappears when you realize it can’t save you.
17. Seek professional advice
After having read the entire article, if you still feed that you can’t do enough on your own or you just lack the will power to do it alone then don’t delay taking the advice of an expert in the field of your specialization or a counselor. Should you decide to follow the steps in this article also then the work of the expert shall reinforce your personal efforts.
Video: How to Overcome Fear of Failure
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