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How to Overcome the Fear of Failure? 10 Proven Strategies Explained

By Editorial Team | Updated on July 27, 2023


Breaking Down Fear of Failure: Here’s What You Need to Know

We’ve all had that sinking feeling in our stomachs, right? That moment when we’re scared of messing up or not living up to what’s expected of us. This worry, known as ‘fear of failure’, is not just about stressing over small mistakes. It’s actually a big deal that can stop us from chasing our dreams and being our best selves. The experts from the American Psychological Association tell us that this fear can seriously get in our way of doing well.

Let’s chat a bit more about this, backed up with some real-deal research.

Picture living in a home where you’re always pushed to meet sky-high standards. Your folks might mean well, but sometimes they might expect too much, and this can stifle your creative side rather than boosting it.

A study mentioned on ScienceDirect talks about this. Being pushed too hard can make us scared of failing, and this fear can stick with us long after we’ve grown up.

This fear of messing up isn’t just a home thing. It happens in sports too. Think about a coach who’s always on your case, controlling every move. This kind of coaching can make athletes scared of failure, which can then make them less committed to their sport. That’s according to a study on Frontiers in Psychology. The takeaway here? We need more supportive and understanding coaches, both in sports and in life.

Let’s not forget about school either. How we feel about failure can play a big role in how we act in the classroom. According to SAGE Journals, students who aren’t scared of failing are more likely to be innovative, take risks, and show initiative. On the flip side, students who are scared of failing might not reach their full potential and miss out on different learning experiences.

Also, our own goals can make us feel anxious, especially when we can’t meet them. A ResearchGate study found out that individuals can get anxious when they can’t hit their own targets. How much we fear failure can change based on what’s happening around us, which shows that our feelings towards messing up can change over time.

So, this fear of failure thing is pretty complicated and it affects lots of parts of our lives. Understanding it can help us bounce back, deal with success in a healthier way, and importantly, not be so scared of making mistakes.

Because let’s be real, messing up is part of life and it’s totally okay not to be perfect. As the old saying goes, “The only person who never makes a mistake is the person who never does anything.”

How to Overcome the Fear of Failure?

1. Recognize it.

The first step in tackling the fear of failure is acknowledging its existence. It’s akin to navigating an unfamiliar territory; the first step is to understand where we are before we chart the route to our desired destination.

Accepting the presence of this fear is essential. It’s not about self-deprecation or perceived weaknesses. Instead, it’s about honesty and self-awareness. Everyone has fears, and failure is one of the most common ones. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with this disorder at some point in their lives

The first step isn’t just recognizing the existence of this fear but also understanding that it’s a completely normal part of life.

There are telltale signs that can help us spot this fear. For instance, are you constantly worried about making mistakes in your professional or personal life? Do you find yourself overthinking every decision you’re about to make, playing out all possible outcomes in your head? Or are you avoiding challenges, even when you know that tackling them could lead to personal growth?

Recognizing a fear of failure isn’t always straightforward, especially if it’s been part of your life for a long time. It might feel normal, even comfortable. But if you find yourself shying away from opportunities because you’re scared of messing up, you’re likely dealing with a fear of failure.

Recognizing this fear is the first significant step towards overcoming it. Armed with self-awareness and a willingness to change, you’re ready to face your fear head-on. And remember, you’re not alone in this journey. We all struggle with fear, but with the right strategies and support, we can triumph over it. Ready for the next step? Let’s go!

2. Understand Failure as Part of Life

Here’s a fun fact: failure isn’t the enemy, and it definitely isn’t the end of the world. Quite the opposite, actually. Failure is simply a part of life. More importantly, it’s an essential part of the journey towards success. Confused? Let’s break it down a bit.

Think about the people you admire, those at the pinnacle of their fields. It could be sportspersons hitting home runs, entrepreneurs building billion-dollar empires, or artists crafting masterpieces. What do they all have in common? They’ve faced failure at some point. And not just once or twice. These individuals have experienced failure over and over, learning from each instance and growing stronger as a result.

Take basketball legend Michael Jordan, for instance. He once famously said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Jordan’s perspective is a powerful testament to the role of failure in achieving success. Instead of being a deterrent, failure is an opportunity – an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to better prepare for future challenges.

There’s an insightful article by Forbes that shares inspiring quotes about failure from famous figures. These quotes aren’t just motivational mumbo-jumbo. They are real-life experiences from successful individuals, emphasizing that failure is not the end but a crucial stepping stone towards success.

So, the next time you find yourself staring at a setback, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that failure is a part of the journey. It’s an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to take one step closer to your ultimate success. Embrace it, learn from it, and keep going. After all, the road to success is always under construction. And guess what? You’re the architect of your journey!

3. Positive Thinking and Visualization

Who hasn’t felt the flutter of anxiety spiral into a whirlwind of worst-case scenarios? Often, we fall into the trap of anticipating everything that could go wrong, letting fear take the driver’s seat. But what if we tried a different approach? What if, instead of obsessing over failure, we start imagining success?

This technique is called positive visualization, or mental imagery. It involves painting a vivid mental picture of successfully achieving our goals. It’s not mere daydreaming; it’s immersing yourself in every detail of your success, from the steps you’ll take to the triumph you’ll feel.

Why does this work? Here’s the thing: our brain struggles to differentiate between reality and imagination. So, when we visualize success, our brain processes it as a real experience, enhancing our self-confidence and performance.

Sounds intriguing, right? Well, there’s scientific backing to this approach.

A study highlighted by Johns Hopkins Medicine showed that people with a family history of heart disease who maintained a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years compared to their more negatively inclined counterparts.

In the professional realm, too, positivity plays a crucial role. IE University Insights states that achieving workplace positivity is about understanding neuroscience and psychology, not leaving things to chance. Positive thinking and visualization can shape our work environment, enhancing productivity and fostering a culture of success.

So, next time you find yourself drowning in worries about failure, take a moment. Take a deep breath and replace those fears with vivid images of your success. Feel the thrill of achieving your goals and let this positive energy guide your actions. Remember, your mind is an incredible tool. Harness its power to transform your fear of failure into a journey towards success.

4. Set SMART Goals to Avoid the Fear of Failure

Think of your life journey as a long hike. You wouldn’t expect to reach the summit without pacing yourself, taking small steps and breaks, would you? That’s where setting realistic, achievable goals comes in. They are the small steps that help us climb the mountain without feeling overwhelmed, enabling us to tackle the fear of failure effectively.

Why is setting realistic goals important? Consider this: each goal is like a marker on our hike, showing us we’re moving forward. Every time we reach one of these markers, it boosts our confidence and motivation, reassuring us that success isn’t a far-off dream but a series of reachable milestones.

According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, goal setting and its consequences significantly impact our motivation and behavior. When we set and achieve realistic goals, it positively affects our self-esteem and encourages us to take on more significant challenges. Conversely, if we set overly ambitious goals and fail to meet them, it can negatively affect our motivation and self-perception.

So how do we set realistic goals? Here’s a useful approach described by Open Polytechnic, often referred to as SMART goals:

  1. Specific: Be precise about what you want to achieve. For instance, ‘Complete Modules 1 and 2’ is more specific than ‘Read the first part of the learning material’.
  2. Measurable: Identify how you’ll track your progress or know when you’ve achieved your goal. For example, if your goal is to ‘Complete Module 1 by Friday’, you’ll know whether you’ve achieved it when Friday comes around.
  3. Achievable: Ensure your goals are realistic and achievable within your timeline.
  4. Relevant: Make sure each goal aligns with your overall objectives. For instance, will achieving this goal help you complete your broader project or keep you on track with your overall plan?
  5. Time-bound: Set a realistic deadline for your goal. This gives you a clear timeframe to work towards.

By setting realistic, SMART goals, we can transform a daunting journey into manageable steps, each one a mini victory against the fear of failure. So start small, be specific, measure your progress, ensure your goals are achievable and relevant, and set a clear timeframe. Then, watch as each achieved goal propels you further up your mountain of success.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect.” This saying has been with us for centuries, and for a good reason. Practice is how we learn, grow, and eventually master skills. It’s the process of trying, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again. And in this process, the fear of failure diminishes.

Think about the time when you were learning a language as a child. You didn’t become fluent overnight, did you? It was a step-by-step journey, a process outlined beautifully by the British Council. They describe the stages of learning English (or any language) as a process involving silent periods, beginning to talk, building up language skills, understanding, frustration, mistakes, and finally, mastery.

Each of these stages presents its challenges. There’s the initial struggle to understand and make sense of the new sounds (silent period). Then, there’s the phase where you start forming words and simple sentences (beginning to talk). As you continue practicing, you start to build a richer vocabulary (building up language).

With time, you understand more and more (understanding), but this may also come with frustration as you grapple with complex grammar rules and exceptions (frustration). Through all these stages, making mistakes is common. But with each mistake, you learn something new. Ultimately, you reach the stage of mastery where you can comfortably express yourself in the language.

This is just one example of how practice helps us grow and conquer our fears. So whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, present an idea, or start a business, don’t shy away from practice. Embrace the journey with all its highs and lows. Recognize that making mistakes is part of the process, not a sign of failure. The more you practice, the better you become, and the less room there is for fear. Remember, practice does make perfect.

6. Don’t Let Fear of Failure Dictate Your Actions

Fear can be a bit like a backseat driver, constantly nagging and filling us with doubts about our abilities. If we let it, fear can dictate our actions, stop us from taking risks, and keep us trapped in our comfort zones. But here’s the deal: we’re in the driver’s seat, not fear.

Think about this: what would you do if you weren’t afraid of failing? Maybe you’d take up that art class you’ve been thinking about, or maybe you’d finally start that business idea you’ve been pondering. Whatever it is, it’s essential not to let fear of failure hold you back from pursuing these opportunities.

Instead of running away from the fear of failure, it’s time to face it head-on. We can challenge ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zones and taking calculated risks. Sure, the fear might not completely go away, but that’s okay. The key is to act in spite of the fear. After all, courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the ability to push forward despite it.

Remember, the biggest risk in life is not taking risks at all. So, don’t let fear of failure stop you from chasing your dreams. Step out, take that leap, and remember: every setback is a setup for a comeback.

7. Learn from Your Mistakes

Failure and mistakes – they’re not the most pleasant experiences, are they? But here’s an interesting thought: mistakes are a gold mine of learning opportunities. If we can dust ourselves off and look closely, every failure, every blunder, has a lesson hidden in it. So, the trick is not to avoid mistakes but to embrace them as stepping stones towards success.

When we trip up, it’s easy to get down on ourselves, but that doesn’t really help us move forward. Rather than dwelling on the disappointment, we can shift our perspective and see the situation as a learning moment. This is all about analyzing what went wrong, what we could have done differently, and how we can avoid similar mistakes in the future.

For instance, let’s say you flunked a job interview. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, you could reflect on the experience. Did you stumble with a particular type of question? Were you unprepared for certain topics? By identifying these areas, you can work on improving them for future interviews.

This process of learning from failure is widely advocated by experts and successful individuals alike. The Harvard Business Review, for instance, talks about the value of viewing failure as a learning opportunity. It can lead to growth, improvement, and ultimately, success.

So the next time you stumble or fall, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, the path to success is paved with failures. Learn from them, grow with them, and keep moving forward.

8. Seek Support When Needed

Life is a team sport, and there’s no rule that says you have to deal with everything on your own, especially when it comes to fear and anxiety. If your fear of failure starts to feel too heavy to carry alone, it’s perfectly okay to reach out for help.

Sometimes, having an objective third-party perspective can be incredibly helpful. A professional, like a psychologist or a career coach, can help us see things from a new angle, provide tools and strategies to deal with fear, and support us on our journey towards overcoming it. There are several reliable platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace that offer online counseling services.

Talking to someone about our fears doesn’t mean we’re weak; it means we’re human. It shows that we understand our limits and know when it’s time to seek support.

If you’re not comfortable with professional help right away, that’s okay too. You could start with talking to a friend or family member about what you’re experiencing. Sometimes, just verbalizing our fears can make them seem less daunting.

So remember, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. We all need a little support sometimes, and that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to face your fear of failure alone. There are even supportive communities like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America that provide resources and forums for those experiencing anxiety and stress related to fear of failure.

9. Stay Motivated

Keeping the fire of motivation burning bright can be an effective tool in our battle against the fear of failure. It’s the fuel that drives us forward, that pushes us to keep going, even when the road gets tough and the fear of failure starts whispering in our ears.

Think about it: why did you start your journey? Was it to create a better life for yourself and your family? To prove to yourself that you could do it? Or maybe it was to make a positive difference in the world. Whatever your reason, hold on to it. Let it serve as your guiding light in the darkest times.

Imagine your ultimate goal. Visualize what it would feel like to achieve it. How would it change your life? How would it change you as a person? Keeping these things in mind can help you stay motivated and focused.

But motivation is not just about the big picture. It’s also about celebrating the small victories along the way. Did you finish a challenging task? Did you make progress towards your goal? Pat yourself on the back! Celebrating these small wins can boost your confidence and keep you motivated.

Remember, motivation is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And with strong motivation on your side, the fear of failure won’t stand a chance.

For additional motivation and inspiration, you might want to explore Ted Talks on motivation. They can provide an extra boost when your motivation levels are waning.

10. Embrace Change and Be Flexible

Life is a roller coaster ride, full of unexpected twists and turns. So, the last piece of advice is to embrace change and be flexible. No matter how well we plan, things might not always go as anticipated, and that’s okay. The key is to be able to adapt to changes.

Consider it like water flowing down a stream. The water doesn’t stop when it encounters a rock; it finds a way around it, over it, or under it. It adjusts its path without losing its essence. Similarly, being adaptable allows us to navigate through life’s challenges without losing sight of our goals or who we are.

This flexibility can make us more resilient. It helps us to deal with uncertainties without panicking or feeling overwhelmed. And when we’re not scared of unexpected changes, we’re less likely to be scared of failure.

In the grand scheme of things, failure is not the end of the world. It’s a bump in the road, a learning experience, a stepping stone to success. Remember, it’s not about how many times you fall, but about how many times you get back up.

So, embrace the change, be flexible, keep learning, and keep moving forward. With these strategies, you can begin to overcome your fear of failure and stride towards your goals with newfound confidence.

For more insights on embracing change and being flexible, you may want to check out Ted Talks on embracing change. Stay strong, stay positive, and remember, every journey towards success begins with the decision to try.

Check out other articles by best-selling authors:

Dawn Rasmussen – Top Five Questions About Resumes Answered

Sunny Lurie – Eight Proven Strategies to Open the Door to a Vibrant New Career

Stacia Pierce – How to Search for a Job During the Holidays

Dawn Quesnel- Helpful Hints for Job Seekers

Stacia Pierce – Conceit vs. Confidence