Post: Fear of Failure

Fear of Failing

“He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat”

Napoleon Boneparte

Fear is often greater than the feared event itself

Is fear holding you back and stopping you from being the person you know you are inside?

You know what you want to do and you’ve got the skills to do it well, but one thing is keeping you shackled to what you know: Fear of failure.

Fear of failing is the reason why you might be stuck in a thankless job, invested in a loveless relationship, and avoiding certain social situations.  Yet, you weren’t born to fear that you’d fail getting a job you’d be happy in; a relationship you’d be valued in; and social situations you’d be confident in.  Somewhere along the line, you learned that not succeeding was something to be afraid of. As such, you’re living your life based on a thinking error, an irrational thought, and one that is making you procrastinate from doing the very things you want to do in life.

The fact that you can learn from your failures doesn’t seem to hit home.  The strength of the association between your perceived fear and the anticipated bad outcome, whether it’s to do with a change of career direction, separation from your partner, or reaching out to a friend to spend time with them, is so intense that you don’t do what you know would be best for you and make you more contented.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” 


You’ve become socially conditioned to always needing to be seen to be doing well and listening to others warnings about the uncertainty of change. “A rolling stone gathers no moss” was quoted to me when I once told a close family member I was moving jobs as I was miserable. Whilst said with his best intentions in mind, I wouldn’t have been running my own business for the past few years, if I’d have followed his advice. Small failings along the way were inevitable and I embraced them as opportunities for learning.  It worked out well for me!

Fear of failing can seriously limit your life satisfaction

When you were a child, did you dream about the life you might live when you ‘grew up?’ Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Don’t you deserve to have a sense of achievement and be motivated in your work now?
  2. Do you deserve to be loved by someone special, who wants to spend time with you, who shares good times and bad times with you and who gives you positive attention now?
  3. Why shouldn’t you be the same person you are inside and at home when in other people’s company and at social events, able to hold a two-way conversation with another, and make meaningful emotional connections in your wider social circles?

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”

Walt Disney

Your dream of being able to work in a place that uses your strengths and skills, work alongside people who are respectful to you and each other, and secure a vocation that gives you a sense of achievement can become reality if only you let go of your fear of failure.

Your dream of having a loving relationship with that someone special is achievable with the right person and with the right help.  You might be with your soul mate now, but have lost your way together, lost your sense of fun around each other, which can happen, especially if mental health problems have existed, you’ve had a terrible pregnancy and childbirth, and/or there’s been loss or bereavement in the family. You might need to work on your relationship with your partner and there are relationship therapists who can help you with that.

Your dream of being your real, sociable, authentic self with  others is within reach if only you’d kick that Negative Nelly voice to the kerb, the one that’s constantly telling you that you’re not interesting enough, you’ve not got anything funny to say, you’re boring, and that people don’t want to spend time with you.

Get out of your comfort zone

Change can be scary, so you might be avoiding it as the fear is just too bad to contend with. Each time you make a plan to do something differently, those words of doubt creep into your mind telling you you’re going to fail; that things are not as bad as they seem; it could be worse; and that if you do nothing, things may just work out. But what if things don’t get better. Isn’t it worth being in the driver’s seat, steering your vehicle towards the destination of your choice?

Stepping into the unknown

Whilst reaching for the life you want to live might be a scary concept, it’s a choice and therefore you can decide if you want to make changes in your life. I always ask my clients to fast forward to age 70 and look back at their life. If you were asked the same, would you have any regrets? Would you wish anything was different? What could have made your life more authentic?

Tips to overcome your fear of failing

  • Note down the situation you’d like to change
  • Record your specific fearful thoughts (there’s likely to be more than 1)
  • Explore your feelings associated with these thoughts
  • Reframe your thoughts, generating alternative and more balanced thoughts, e.g. about change leading to a more positive possibility
  • Weigh up the evidence for and against the negative thoughts and new, alternative thoughts
  • Practise meditation to help you feel more mentally strong and reduce any anxiety
  • Be your own Miss Marple/Poirot and find out information to answer any questions you have
  • Having weighed up the pros and cons of making the change, decide whether to give it a go

Lasso your dreams

Assess and conquer your fears; dig deep and grab your dreams with both hands; rise to the challenge of a new and more courageous, authentic self; and live your life without the fear of failure.