Too Scared to Try: the Fear of Failure

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

Have you ever felt too afraid to try? Too scared to take a chance? Too demotivated to dare taking action? Do you have dreams and aspirations but every time you think about working towards something meaningful in your life a little voice tells you that it will be too much effort, not work out anyway or that you’re not good enough? If any of these sound familiar, chances are that you fear failure.

“I let fear hold me back.”

Like me. And it has cost me dearly. There were many times in my life when I could have made a huge impact, when I could have contributed more, achieved me, had more fun or been more open to new experiences. I knew while I was doing it but continued to do it anyway: I let fear hold me back.

I lived long parts of my life not living how I wanted to live because I could not face the feelings I would have to experience if I felt like I had failed. So to avoid failure, I avoided action and change – main ingredients of vitality and joy.

My main problem was though that I had a different, much harsher perception of my own failure and that I did not understand the fear at all. I did not know where it was coming from; I did not know what I was trying to avoid; I did not know what it needed from me.

To help you become better acquainted with your fear so you can work with it to create a better life for yourself, I am sharing what has helped me.

What is the Fear of Failure?
Fearing failure often does not reflect the reality of the situation. What’s worse is that when fearing failure we often stop taking risks, stop to pursue our goals, undermine our own efforts, sell ourselves short, set unrealistic standards and ultimately succumb to mundane, self-limiting lives.

atychiphobia

Everyone has different definitions of failure and generally speaking no one likes to fail. However, what one person might perceive as failure another might see as an experience or an opportunity for growth. So failure depends on our attitude and which perspective we choose to take.

“The wonderful thing about failure is that it’s entirely up to us to decide how to look at it.”


Fear of failure usually stems from being exposed to harsh criticism during childhood. Every time failure was experienced we associated it with feelings of anger, disappointment, regret, sadness and possible even self-loathing. Essentially the fear of failure is a fear of shame. Not wanting to feel uncomfortable feelings makes us avoid anything that could lead to failure. And so we deprive ourselves of living a full and exciting life.

Signs of fear of failure
• stress responses such as headaches, nausea, sweating
• worrying about what others think about you
• low self-esteem and self-confidence
• worrying about disappointing others or not meeting their expectations
• feelings of dread and hopelessness
• high levels of procrastination
• perfectionistic tendencies and unrelenting standards

What can we do about it?
Follow these three stages to learn how to change your relationship with your fear.

    1. Become Aware
      At this stage we get to know our fear, where it comes from and what it needs.
      We learn to talk to ourselves in a reassuring manner and recognise that fear is a normal part of life we no longer have to worry about.o What triggers your fear now?
      o What is its root?
      o What do you need that you don’t currently get?
      o Familiarise yourself with your fear and normalise those feelings, thoughts and responses.
      o Talk to yourself in a self-compassionate manner.
    2. Plan Mindfully
      In the planning stage we use mindfulness to learn more about ourselves and about what we truly want from our lives. We start to pay attention to our emotions, become mindful and learn to make room for uncomfortable feelings without focusing on them. We learn new skills such as assertiveness and other advanced communication skills to help us communicate more effectively to get what we want.o Pay attention to your emotions and learn to make room for them rather than fighting or avoiding them
      o Explore and reassess your values
      o Introduce flexibility in your life
      o Learn defusion and expansion techniques
      o Identify, communicate and assert your needs
    3. Act Empowered
      This is what we have been working towards! This is where we start to make the magic happen by taking back control over our lives. We start with small changes and keep them going.o Adopt a ‘one day at a time’ attitude a la ‘small and steady wins the race’. Don’t look too far into the future – stay in the present and enjoy the process of becoming who you want to be.
      o Do a little of what scares you every day to build up your confidence and prove to yourself that you can do it.
      o Confidence comes from competence, which comes from action. Don’t wait until you feel confident – it doesn’t work that way round.
      o Stay true to yourself and your goals. Make room for uncomfortable feelings – there is nothing wrong with experiencing the full range of human emotion. You don’t have to ‘fix’ your feelings; you just have to keep moving on in your life.

To help you get started it’s a great idea to get some support. Get in touch with us today and request a date for your free first free consultation with Clarity Crisis Counselling in Burton-on-Trent, Derby and surrounding areas.

Written by Marlena Tillhon

Marlena Tillhon MSc

"I love helping people and I live for deep and meaningful conversations. Being a psychotherapist is my dream job and my greatest passion in life."

1 Comment
  1. Fear is a prison. The feeling of freedom when you eventually break free is immense and exhilarating. I fear nothing nowadays and my life feels full and fabulous. I wish I’d looked for this kind of support when I was much younger.

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