Wayne Ergle
August 14, 2023

15 Ways to Overcome Fear of Failure (Atychiphobia): A Comprehensive Guide

Failure — it’s a word that many dread and avoid at all costs. Yet, every iconic figure, from Michael Jordan to J.K. Rowling, faced the daunting specter of failure before reaching the pinnacles of their careers. Michael Jordan once confessed,

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six 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.”

This sentiment, echoed by countless successful individuals, underscores a universal truth: fear of failure, known as atychiphobia, is a common emotion many share. Yet, while this fear is natural, it shouldn’t hold us back. Fearing failure can sometimes be more debilitating than failure itself. The journey of overcoming the fear of failure is about achieving success and embracing every learning experience — good and bad.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll dive deep into understanding the fear of failing, its implications in work and in life, and most importantly, ways to conquer this fear and harness it as a stepping stone towards success.

Key Takeaways: How to Overcome Fear of Failure

  1. The universality of the Fear: Everyone, from everyday individuals to iconic figures like Michael Jordan, has grappled with the fear of failure. It’s a natural emotion but can be harmful if not addressed.
  2. Defining the Fear: Fear of failure, or “atychiphobia,” goes beyond simple apprehension. It can manifest in avoidance behaviors, perfectionism, and physical symptoms like anxiety.
  3. Impacts on Life: This fear can hold individuals back both professionally, where they might avoid taking risks or seeking promotions, and personally, where they might miss out on enriching life experiences.
  4. Learning from Failures: Many successful individuals have faced setbacks. Their stories underscore that failure can be a stepping stone to success if approached with a growth mindset.
  5. Strategies to Vanquish: Techniques like positive self-talk, setting realistic goals, seeking feedback, and even professional therapy can be powerful tools in combating the fear of failure.
  6. Resources and Tools: From enlightening books to supportive mentors, a plethora of resources can guide individuals on their journey to face and conquer their fears.
  7. Treatment Options: Therapeutic approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, and even medication can be effective in treating intense fear of failure.
  8. Self-assessment Importance: Tests and assessments can offer insights into an individual’s relationship with the fear of failure, guiding personalized strategies for growth.
  9. The Role of Perfectionism: Striving for flawlessness and setting unrealistically high standards can exacerbate the fear of failure. Recognizing and managing perfectionist tendencies can be crucial in overcoming this fear.
  10. Empowerment through Understanding: The journey to overcome the fear of failure is not just about avoiding setbacks but about embracing the learning and growth that come with challenges.

Understanding the Fear of Failure: Atychiphobia Definition and Significance

Fear of failure, often termed “atychiphobia,” is more than just a fleeting feeling of unease. It’s a deep-rooted apprehension that can impair one’s courage to take risks, pursue dreams, or even complete everyday tasks. This fear, while natural, can become a significant barrier in one’s journey toward self-improvement and success.

But why is addressing this fear so crucial? As Paulo Coelho wisely said,

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

Recognizing and confronting this fear is the first step to unlocking one’s true potential.

Afraid of Failure: Common Characteristics and Symptoms

When gripped by the fear of failure, individuals often exhibit various behaviors and emotions. Some might avoid new challenges, preferring to stay in their comfort zones. Others may become perfectionists, setting unrealistically high standards for themselves, only to be crushed by the weight of their expectations.

Physical symptoms can accompany these behaviors. It’s not uncommon for someone to experience anxiety, restlessness, or even insomnia when faced with a task they fear they might fail at. These manifestations aren’t just mental; they can take a tangible toll on one’s health and well-being.

Root Causes: Why Do We Fear Failure?

Diving deeper, we find that the fear of failure often stems from various sources. For some, past traumatic events or experiences can be triggers. For others, societal pressures and the weight of expectations can create a looming shadow of dread. Perfectionism, a trait that pushes individuals to achieve impossibly high standards, can also contribute significantly. As Robert H. Schuller once said,

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.”

However, it’s essential to remember that while the causes of this fear may vary, the path to triumphing over it remains universally attainable.

Fear of Failure at Work

A young bearded man at work shaking hands with his boss representing overcoming fear of failure at work.

Our careers often stand at the forefront of our identities, making the fear of failure at work especially poignant. This fear can manifest in various ways: avoiding taking on new responsibilities, shying away from voicing ideas, or even hesitating to pursue promotions. As a result, many individuals find themselves stagnant, watching opportunities pass by.

It’s essential to recognize how this fear can hold you back professionally. As Mark Zuckerberg said,

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

Staying in the shadows, driven by the fear of failing, might provide momentary comfort, but it restricts growth and the chance to shine in one’s career truly.

Fear Holds You Back: In Personal Life Missing Opportunities

Beyond the workplace, the fear of failure can seep into our personal lives. It might deter someone from starting a new business, pursuing a passion, or even entering a new relationship. Such avoidance behavior, driven by the fear of adverse outcomes, can lead to a life of regrets and missed opportunities.

Living in fear often means living in restraint. As Jim Carrey poignantly said,

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.”

It’s crucial to recognize how this fear might shape our choices, often at the expense of genuinely fulfilling experiences.

The debilitation of one’s self-confidence and self-esteem becomes evident over time. The constant dread of making mistakes or facing criticism can erode our belief in ourselves, leaving us questioning our worth and capabilities.

Changing the Narrative: Learning from Failure

Behind every tale of success are often untold stories of failures, setbacks, and lessons. Embracing and learning from these experiences is a hallmark of growth and resilience. By changing our perspective on failure, we can shift from seeing failure as a debilitating end to viewing it as a stepping stone toward greater achievements.

A close shot of a lightbulb with an out of focus background.

Consider the story of J.K. Rowling, who faced numerous rejections before “Harry Potter” became a global phenomenon. Or think of Thomas Edison, whose countless failed attempts eventually led to the invention of the light bulb. As Edison famously remarked,

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Such examples underscore a vital point: Failure, in its essence, isn’t a dead-end but a detour to success. It offers insights, molds character, and provides invaluable life lessons that textbooks or success alone can’t teach.

Reframing the Definition of Failure

To truly overcome the fear of failure, it’s essential to reframe our understanding of what “failure” means. Instead of seeing it as a mark of incompetence, we can choose to see it as a learning experience. As Winston Churchill aptly put it,

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Overcome Fear of Failure: Draw Inspiration from the Greats

Many of the world’s most successful people have faced significant setbacks. Michael Jordan, often regarded as basketball’s most outstanding player, was once cut from his high school basketball team. Yet, these setbacks didn’t define them. Instead, their response to failure did. They saw each setback not as a barrier but a challenge to overcome, a lesson to learn from. Their stories serve as powerful reminders that the path to success is often paved with experiences of failure.

The Blueprint to Triumph: 15 Ways to Overcome Fear of Failure

A mountain climber hanging vertically while scaling a mountain.
  1. Embrace Positive Self-Talk: Channel your inner dialogue toward uplifting affirmations. You are replacing negative self-talk with empowering beliefs that reinforce your capabilities.
  2. Visualize Success: Regularly imagine yourself achieving your goals and give yourself permission to succeed. This mental exercise can boost confidence and reduce anxiety associated with potential failures.
  3. Adopt a Growth Mindset: Embrace challenges as learning opportunities and a way to boost low self-esteem. Understand that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and effort.
  4. Set Realistic Goals: Break down your aspirations into achievable steps. Work toward and celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, to keep motivation high.
  5. Educate Yourself: Equip yourself with knowledge. Understanding a task or challenge can reduce the anxiety of the unknown and increase your chances of success.
  6. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences: Foster relationships with those who uplift and inspire you and are not afraid of failing. Their encouragement can be a beacon during moments of doubt.
  7. Reframe Failures as Lessons: Instead of seeing setbacks as defeats, view them as learning opportunities. Every failure carries a lesson that can guide future endeavors.
  8. Practice Resilience: Cultivate the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Remember that every challenge is temporary, and your response determines the possible outcome.
  9. Seek Feedback: Constructive criticism can offer valuable insights. Use it as a tool for growth rather than a source of discouragement.
  10. Limit Exposure to Negative Media: Reduce your consumption of news or content that amplifies fear or negativity. Focus on uplifting and educational content that reinforces positivity.
  11. Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge every achievement. Recognizing and celebrating progress boosts morale and motivation.
  12. Accept Imperfection: Understand that no one is perfect. Embrace mistakes as part of the growth process and focus on continuous improvement.
  13. Take Action Despite Fear: Push yourself to act even when fear tries to hold you back. Often, taking the first step can diminish the fear significantly.
  14. Stay Present: Concentrate on the current moment rather than getting overwhelmed by potential future failures. Being present reduces anxiety and enhances focus.
  15. Seek Professional Help When Needed: Recognize when it might be beneficial to consult therapists or counselors. They can offer tools and strategies to cope with and overcome deep-seated fears.

Taking Steps: Resources and Tools to Overcome Fear of Failure

An athletic man running up concrete steps representing taking action.

Embarking on the journey to overcome the fear of failure is commendable. But remember, you don’t have to tread this path alone. Numerous resources, mentors, and tools are available to guide and support you through this transformative journey. If you are looking for simple ways to take action, check out our article “How to Take Action in Life: 19 Simple Steps to Get Your Ass in Gear.”

Books to Enlighten and Inspire: Dive into the wisdom of experts and thought leaders. Books like “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck, “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown, or “The Fear of Failure: How to Become an Action Taker, Stop Worrying, Overcome Procrastination and Perfectionism” by Wilda Hale offer profound insights into embracing failures and fostering a growth mindset.

Courses to Equip and Educate: Online platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer courses on personal development, resilience, and positive psychology. These can provide structured learning paths to help you confront and manage your fears effectively.

Mentors to Guide and Support: Seek out individuals who’ve successfully navigated their fears and achieved their goals. Their experiences can provide invaluable lessons, and their guidance can be a beacon in moments of doubt.

When to Seek Professional Help: Recognizing when you need a helping hand is a sign of strength, not weakness. Consider consulting a therapist or counselor if your fear of failure feels overwhelming or debilitating; they can offer tailored strategies, coping mechanisms, and a safe space to explore and address your fears.

Can Fear of Failure be Treated?

While fear of failure is a natural emotion experienced by many, for some, it can intensify to debilitating levels, affecting their daily lives and well-being. The good news is that, like many fears and phobias, the fear of failure can be treated and managed effectively.

Therapeutic Approaches: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for many anxiety disorders, including an intense fear of failure. Through CBT, individuals can identify and challenge negative thought patterns, replacing them with healthier beliefs and behaviors.

Counseling and Support Groups: Talking about your fears in a safe, supportive environment can be incredibly therapeutic. Support groups offer the chance to connect with others facing similar challenges, while individual counseling can provide personalized strategies and coping mechanisms.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Techniques such as mindfulness meditation can help individuals stay present, reducing anxiety associated with potential future failures. By focusing on the current moment, individuals can gain clarity and calmness.

Medication: In cases where fear severely impacts one’s daily life, a psychiatrist might recommend medication to manage anxiety symptoms. It’s crucial to understand the potential benefits and side effects and to consult a medical professional.

Remember, seeking treatment isn’t a sign of weakness but rather an acknowledgment of one’s commitment to personal growth and well-being.

Fear of Failure Tests and Assessments

Understanding the depth and nuances of your fear of failure can be crucial in addressing it. Fortunately, several tests and assessments are designed to gauge one’s relationship with this fear, offering insights that can guide personalized strategies for growth.

Standardized Psychological Assessments: Several standardized tests, such as the “Performance Failure Appraisal Inventory” (PFAI), have been developed to measure the fear of failure in individuals. Such tests can provide a structured understanding of how this fear manifests and its underlying causes.

Self-assessment Tools: Online platforms and self-help books often offer self-assessment tools, quizzes, or questionnaires. While not as rigorous as standardized tests, they can provide valuable insights into one’s relationship with the fear of failure.

Feedback from Trusted Sources: Sometimes, insights from close friends, family, or mentors can serve as a valuable assessment. These individuals can provide an external perspective on how the fear of failure might influence your behavior and decisions.

The Benefits of Understanding Your Fear: By gauging your relationship with the fear of failure, you can tailor your approach to overcoming it. Recognizing specific triggers, behaviors, or thought patterns allows for a more targeted and effective strategy.

While these tests and assessments can provide valuable insights, it’s essential to approach them with an open mind. No test can define you or your potential. They are tools to understand oneself better and pave the way for personal growth.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure Conclusion

The path to overcoming your fear of failure is undeniably challenging, but it’s a journey filled with growth, self-discovery, and empowerment. As you navigate this path, remember that failure, in all its forms, is not a measure of your worth or capabilities. Instead, it’s a stepping stone, a teacher, and sometimes, even a blessing in disguise.

As the legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said,

“Failure is an event, not a person.”

Embrace the lessons that come with setbacks, cherish the growth accompanying challenges, and most importantly, believe in your boundless potential.

In this quest, arm yourself with knowledge, positivity, and never hesitate to seek help. Fear of failure might seem like a formidable foe, but with determination, understanding, and the right strategies, it’s a battle you are destined to win.

Here’s to embracing the journey, learning from every stumble, and rising, time and again, with renewed vigor and determination. Because in the grand tapestry of life, it’s not the failures but how we overcome them that truly defines us.


What is perfectionism, and how is it linked to the fear of failure?

Perfectionism refers to the constant pursuit of flawlessness combined with critical self-evaluation. Many individuals who exhibit perfectionist tendencies often fear mistakes or being seen as less than perfect, leading to an intensified fear of failure.

Is living in fear of failure common?

Yes, living in fear of failure is a common experience for many individuals. While the intensity may vary, this fear can manifest in various areas of one’s life, from professional endeavors to personal relationships.

Is it normal to experience fear of failure when trying something new?

Absolutely. Many individuals experience fear of failure, especially when venturing into unfamiliar territories or trying something new. It’s a natural protective response, but managing this fear is crucial so it doesn’t hinder growth or opportunities.

What are the primary causes of the fear of failure?

Several factors can cause the fear of failure. Past traumatic experiences, societal pressures, perfectionism, and high personal standards are just a few of the common triggers. Understanding these causes can be the first step in effectively managing and overcoming this fear.

Wayne Ergle

Wayne firmly believes that each of us possesses extraordinary gifts and talents, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world. But life's hurdles often obstruct our path to greatness. That's why he birthed Be Your Own Invention – to ignite the flames of motivation in everyone's transformation journey. Wayne’s transformation story includes conquering a 20-year battle with severe alcohol addiction, emerging triumphant and sober since 2018.