How to Handle the Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is a powerful force that keeps many people from moving forward in life. When not controlled, it can immobilize you and cause you to give up on your goals even before trying. People develop the fear of failure due to different reasons. For some, it could be as a result of being criticized and undermined in childhood. Such people are likely to carry feelings of inadequacy into adulthood. For others, fear of failure could be caused by a traumatic event such as performing poorly in an important interview.

Fear of failure manifests itself in different ways. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • Low self-confidence and self-esteem - People who fear failing usually have low self-confidence and self-esteem. They are likely to make negative statements such as ‘I’m not good enough to get that job’ or ‘I don’t have the eloquence to make that presentation’.
  • Self-sabotage – Due to fear of failure, many people sabotage their success through procrastination or simply unwillingness to follow through with goals.
  • Playing safe – The fear of failure causes people to play safe and avoid risks. As a result, they are unwilling to try unfamiliar things or undertake challenging tasks.
  • Perfectionism – In many cases, perfectionism is just a cover-up for the fear of failure.

Here are some steps you can take towards overcoming the fear of failure:

1. Take action

Fear of failure can paralyze you and cause you to do nothing. Therefore, one of the best ways of dealing with it is taking a bold, decisive action. If you are afraid of asking your employer for a raise, just get up and do it. If you are afraid of speaking in public, find an opportunity to speak to a small audience. If you don’t succeed, learn from your mistakes and try again. The bottom line is DO SOMETHING NOW!

2. Consider the cost of missed opportunities

Think of what you stand to lose if you don’t take action due to the fear of failure. Many people end up losing great opportunities for career growth. In many cases, the high risk opportunities come with the biggest rewards. Therefore, to enjoy these rewards, you will need to come out of your comfort zone and try something new.

3. Evaluate all potential outcomes

Many people are unwilling to step out and take risks due to the fear of the unknown. One of the best ways of overcoming this fear is by considering the different possible outcomes of your action. Be sure to analyze both the potential positive and negative outcomes. This will enable you to put things in perspective, and thus make a logical decision.

4. Have a contingency plan

Another great way of dealing with the fear of failure is having a backup plan. Taking action does not mean that you have to risk losing everything. Instead, you could find a way of taking a risk while maintaining a safety net. This way, if your first attempt fails, you will still have something to fall back on.

5. Appreciate the benefits of failure

Many successful people failed many times before they succeeded. In the process, they learnt many valuable lessons which they applied to their enterprises. To overcome the fear of failure, you need to begin seeing failure as an opportunity for growth.

In everything we do in life, there is a possibility of failing. Therefore, we need to embrace failure courageously and learn the lessons which we need for future success.


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