Wayne Ergle
on
August 28, 2023

How to Overcome Fear of Failure – 11 Ways to Overcome Fear of Failing

Have you ever felt that tingling sensation at the back of your neck when you’re about to step out of your comfort zone? That voice in your head that whispers, “What if I fail?” It’s a question that haunts many of us, from the young artist hesitating to share their first painting to the seasoned CEO wondering if their next venture will soar or plummet.

The fear of failing is as universal as the human experience itself. It’s not just a fleeting emotion; it’s a shadow that can cloud our brightest aspirations. But here’s the thing: It’s not exclusive to you, me, or the neighbor next door. Even the most accomplished individuals, those we often place on pedestals, grapple with this fear. The bestselling author? They’ve probably questioned if anyone would want to read their next book. The renowned scientist? They’ve likely faced sleepless nights pondering if their next experiment would debunk years of their work.

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

But what if I told you that this fear, as paralyzing as it may seem, can be confronted, understood, and even harnessed for growth? This journey isn’t about eradicating fear but about understanding it, embracing it, and using it as a stepping stone to unleash your true potential.

So, please grab a cup of your favorite brew, settle in, and let’s dive deep into how to overcome fear of failure and this journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

Key Takeaways: How to Overcome Fear of Failure

  1. Universality of Fear: Everyone, from everyday individuals to renowned figures, grapples with the fear of failure. It’s a universal emotion that doesn’t discriminate based on accolades or achievements.
  2. Self-Reflection is Crucial: By asking ourselves introspective questions, we can identify and acknowledge our fears, which is the first step towards addressing them.
  3. Practical Steps Matter: Overcoming the fear of failure isn’t just about mindset shifts; it’s also about taking actionable steps like positive self-talk, seeking support, and celebrating small victories.
  4. Learning from Failures: Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling faced significant setbacks before achieving unparalleled success. Their journeys underscore that failure can be a stepping stone to success.
  5. Workplace Challenges: The fear of failure in professional settings can manifest differently, influenced by concerns about reputation, job security, and prospects. Yet, confronting this fear can open doors to innovation and growth.
  6. The Hidden Costs: Letting fear dictate our actions can lead to missed opportunities, stagnation, and erosion of self-confidence. Recognizing these costs can motivate us to confront and overcome our fears.
  7. Embracing the Journey: Life is filled with challenges and opportunities. We can navigate our journey with resilience and hope by viewing failures as detours rather than dead-ends.
  8. The Power of Perspective: How we perceive failure as a setback or a learning opportunity can shape our experiences and outcomes.
  9. The Path Forward: Confronting our fears and embracing our potential can lead to a future filled with courage, hope, and endless possibilities.

Self-Reflection: Does The Fear of Failure Hold You Back?

Before we delve deeper, it’s crucial to pause and reflect. Self-awareness is the cornerstone of personal growth. By understanding ourselves better, we can pinpoint the roots of our fears and begin the journey to overcome them.

“I failed my way to success.” – Thomas Edison

So, let’s embark on a brief reflective exercise. As you read the following questions, take a moment to ponder your answers genuinely. There’s no judgment here, only a safe space for self-discovery.

  • Have you ever avoided pursuing a dream or goal because you feared not succeeding? Think about those moments when you felt a spark of inspiration but hesitated to leap.
  • Do you often downplay your achievements or attribute them to luck rather than your abilities? It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel like impostors in our own stories.
  • When faced with a challenge, is your first instinct to doubt whether you’re up to the task? That nagging voice of doubt can be a persistent companion.
  • Do you often imagine the worst-case scenario when thinking of trying something new? It’s human nature to fear the unknown, but sometimes, our imagination can amplify these fears.
  • Have you ever hesitated to voice an idea or opinion for fear of being wrong or ridiculed? Sharing our thoughts can be daunting, especially in a judgmental world.

You’re not alone if you find yourself nodding or feeling a twinge of recognition to any of these questions. Many of us have felt the weight of these fears at various points in our lives. But recognizing them is the first step towards breaking free. It’s a brave act to confront our fears; by doing so, we pave the way for growth, understanding, and transformation.

Practical Wisdom: Steps to Embrace Failure and Grow from It

A photorealistic depiction of a person climbing a steep mountain trail towards the peak of personal growth.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up.” While it might sound cliché, there’s profound truth in these words. Embracing failure isn’t about celebrating mistakes but recognizing them as integral parts of our growth journey. So, how can we shift our perspective and see failure not as a dead-end but as a detour to a more enlightened path?

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

11 Ways to Overcome Fear of Failure

1. Reframe Your Perspective on Failure: Instead of seeing failure as a negative outcome, view it as feedback. It’s information that tells you what didn’t work, guiding you closer to what will.

2. Engage in Positive Self-Talk: Replace thoughts like “I can’t do this” with “I’ll find a way to make it work.” Our inner dialogue shapes our external reality.

3. Seek Support: Surround yourself with positive influences—friends, mentors, or coaches who uplift you and provide constructive feedback.

4. Celebrate Small Victories: Every step, no matter how tiny, is progress. By acknowledging these moments, you build momentum and confidence.

5. Understand That Everyone Fails: Even the most successful individuals have faced setbacks. What sets them apart is their resilience and determination to push forward.

6. Embrace Lifelong Learning: Adopt a growth mindset. See challenges as opportunities to learn and evolve.

7. Limit Exposure to Negativity: Whether it’s negative people or constant exposure to demotivating news, limit these influences. Focus on what uplifts and inspires you.

8. Visualize Success: Imagine a future where you’ve achieved your goals. This visualization can serve as a powerful motivator.

9. Set Realistic Expectations: It’s okay to aim high, but also understand that perfection is a myth. Strive for progress, not perfection.

10. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Understand that you’re human, and it’s okay to make mistakes. What’s important is how you respond to them.

11. Take Action Despite Fear: Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the decision that something else is more important. Take small steps, but keep moving forward.

Remember, failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s a part of it. By embracing this mindset, we unlock a world of possibilities, learning, and growth. The road might be bumpy at times, but it’s on these uneven paths that we often find our most profound discoveries and insights.

Living in Fear: Why We’re All Afraid to Fail

The fear of failure isn’t just a fleeting emotion; it’s deeply ingrained in our psyche. But why is this fear so universal? Let’s dive into the psychological and societal roots of this pervasive emotion.

A lifelike portrait of Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher, captured in exquisite detail. The concept presents Confucius in his traditional attire, with a serene expression that reflects his wisdom and contemplative nature.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Confucius

The Psychology Behind the Fear

At its core, the fear of failure isn’t just about the dread of not succeeding. It’s more profound than that. According to Dr. Guy Winch, a prominent psychologist, the fear of failure is essentially a fear of shame. It’s not the basic emotions of disappointment, anger, or frustration that we fear but the deep-seated shame that makes us question our worth. Instead of feeling bad about our actions or efforts, shame makes us feel bad about who we are. It strikes at our self-esteem, our identity, and our emotional well-being.

Societal Pressures and Expectations

In today’s hyper-competitive world, the societal pressure to succeed is immense. From a young age, we’re taught that success is paramount and that failure is not an option. This mindset, perpetuated by societal norms, amplifies our inherent fear of failure. We’re constantly bombarded with success stories, making us feel that anything less is unacceptable.

High Standards

 Setting high standards for oneself can be a double-edged sword. While it pushes us to achieve excellence, it can also amplify the fear of not meeting those standards, leading to undue stress and anxiety.

Perfectionist 

Being a perfectionist often means relentlessly chasing an ideal, sometimes at the cost of one’s mental well-being. It’s crucial to understand that perfection is a journey, not a destination, and every step taken is a success.

Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can act as chains, holding us from pursuing our dreams and aspirations. They often magnify our fears, making challenges seem impossible when, in reality, they are just hurdles on our path to success.

The Hidden Cost: What Happens When You Let Fear Hold You Back

An artistic portrayal of the concept "Practical Wisdom" as a surreal landscape. The scene showcases a towering tree with branches that transform into various practical tools like wrenches, gears, and compasses.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

Fear, when left unchecked, is like a creeping vine. It starts small, perhaps with a single doubt or hesitation, but over time, it can grow to envelop our entire being, casting shadows over our dreams and aspirations. The cost of letting this fear dictate our actions is more than just missed opportunities; it’s the gradual erosion of our very essence.

Missed Opportunities

Imagine all the doors we never opened, the paths we never took, and the dreams we never pursued—all because of the looming fear of failure. Every time we let this fear hold us back, we’re not just missing out on potential success; we’re also missing out on invaluable learning experiences.

Stagnation and Erosion of Self-Confidence

Staying in our comfort zones might feel safe, but it’s a double-edged sword. Over time, avoiding challenges and risks can lead to stagnation. We stop growing, learning, and evolving. And with each missed opportunity, our self-confidence takes a hit. We begin to question our abilities, our worth, and our potential.

Low Self-Esteem 

Low self-esteem can be a byproduct of repeated failures or constant self-doubt. It’s essential to remember that our worth isn’t determined by our setbacks but by our resilience and ability to rise after every fall.

The Subtle Ways Fear Affects Our Decisions

It’s not just the big decisions that are impacted. The fear of failure can seep into our daily lives, influencing even the smallest choices. Maybe it’s the hesitation to speak up in a meeting, the reluctance to try a new hobby or the self-doubt that stops us from reaching out to make a new connection. These subtle, everyday decisions, when influenced by fear, can shape the trajectory of our lives in ways we might not even realize.

The Greats Fear Failure Too: How Successful People Navigate Failure

It’s a common misconception that once someone reaches the pinnacle of success, their fears and doubts magically evaporate. In reality, even the most accomplished individuals, those who’ve reached the zenith of their fields, grapple with the fear of failure. It’s a universal emotion that doesn’t discriminate based on accolades or achievements. However, what sets these successful individuals apart is not the absence of fear but their approach to it. Let’s delve into the stories of two iconic figures to understand how they navigated the treacherous waters of doubt and emerged stronger.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Michael Jordan: From Cut Player to Basketball Legend

Most of us know Michael Jordan as the basketball legend who could fly. But before the championships, MVP awards, and iconic slam dunks, a young Jordan faced rejection. Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team in his sophomore year. Instead of letting this setback define him, he used it as fuel. He practiced relentlessly, honed his skills, and returned with a vengeance. Today, he’s often hailed as the greatest basketball player of all time. His journey is a testament to the fact that failure isn’t a full stop; it’s a comma, a brief pause before the next chapter.

J.K. Rowling: From Rejection Letters to the Wizarding World

Before the world was introduced to Harry Potter, its creator, J.K. Rowling, faced numerous challenges. She wrote the initial ideas for the series during a particularly tough time in her life, dealing with unemployment, divorce, and being a single mother. When she finally penned down the first book, it was met with a string of rejections. Twelve publishing houses turned it down. But Rowling’s belief in her story was unwavering. The thirteenth publisher took a chance, and the rest, as they say, is history. Rowling’s journey reminds us that the path to success is sometimes paved with rejection and perseverance.

Fictional Case Study 1: Emma’s Literary Journey

A lifelike portrait of Emma, a passionate bestselling author, captured in a serene and contemplative moment. The concept showcases Emma seated at a vintage wooden desk, surrounded by stacks of well-loved books and scattered sheets of paper.

Emma had always been passionate about writing. Her debut novel was a bestseller, earning her accolades and a dedicated fanbase. But as she sat down to pen her second book, doubt crept in. What if her next book didn’t resonate with readers? What if she was a one-hit wonder? The weight of expectations paralyzed her. She began to procrastinate, fearing that every word she wrote would be scrutinized and criticized.

One day, while sifting through old letters, she stumbled upon a fan letter from a young reader who shared how her book had provided comfort during a challenging time. This letter was a stark reminder of why Emma began writing in the first place—to touch lives and share stories. With renewed vigor, she embraced her fears, channeled them into her writing, and produced a masterpiece that resonated with her readers and healed her own doubts.

Give Yourself Permission

Sometimes, the biggest hurdle is our self-imposed limitations. Give yourself permission to fail, to learn, and to grow. Doing so opens the door to possibilities, discoveries, and personal growth.

These real and fictional stories underscore the idea that failure, doubt, and rejection are mere stepping stones on the path to success. It’s not the setbacks but how we respond to them that defines our journey.

The Workplace Dilemma: Confronting the Fear of Failure at Work

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller

In the professional realm, the stakes often feel higher. Every decision, every project, every pitch can seem like a make-or-break moment. The fear of failure in such settings isn’t just about personal setbacks; it’s intertwined with concerns about reputation, job security, and prospects. But just as in other facets of life, the workplace offers opportunities for growth, learning, and transformation—if we dare to confront our fears.

The Unique Challenges of the Professional Sphere

In a professional setting, the fear of failure often manifests differently. There’s the fear of making a mistake that costs the company, the anxiety of presenting an idea that might be rejected, or the hesitation to take on a challenging project due to doubts about one’s capabilities. These fears are amplified by the collective expectations of colleagues, superiors, and, sometimes, the entire industry.

Yet, it’s essential to remember that innovation and progress are often born from taking risks. The most groundbreaking ideas were once mere thoughts in someone’s mind, fraught with uncertainty and doubt. By confronting and overcoming our professional fears, we open doors to opportunities, collaborations, and achievements that can shape our career trajectory.

Fictional Case Study 2: Alex’s Leap of Faith

A meticulously captured portrait of Alex, a young marketing executive, in a moment of focused contemplation.

Alex, a young marketing executive, stumbled upon a groundbreaking idea that could revolutionize the company’s outreach. But every time he thought of pitching it, he was paralyzed by a barrage of ‘what ifs.’ What if his idea was rejected? What if it was implemented and didn’t yield the expected results? What if his colleagues thought less of him?

One evening, while discussing his dilemma with a mentor, Alex received advice that changed his perspective: “Every idea, no matter how great, carries the risk of failure. But it also carries the potential for success, innovation, and change. Which side of the coin do you want to focus on?”

With renewed determination, Alex fine-tuned his pitch, gathered data to support his idea, and confidently presented it. To his surprise, not only was his idea accepted, but it also became one of the company’s most successful campaigns, earning him recognition and opening doors to new opportunities.


With its unique challenges and dynamics, the workplace offers a fertile ground for personal and professional growth. By confronting our fears, seeking guidance, and believing in our capabilities, we can turn potential setbacks into stepping stones for success.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure: Face Your Fears – The Path Forward

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

Life is a series of peaks and valleys, moments of triumph interspersed with challenges. But within these challenges lies an opportunity to rise, learn, and grow. The fear of failure, while daunting, can also be a catalyst, pushing us towards introspection, resilience, and, ultimately, our true potential.

Every setback, every ‘no,’ and every missed opportunity carries a lesson. And it’s in these lessons that we find the seeds of growth, innovation, and transformation. We unlock a world of possibilities, adventures, and discoveries by choosing to see failure not as a dead-end but as a detour.

So, as you stand at this pivotal moment, remember: Your unique experiences, with all their ups and downs, shape who you are. Embrace them. Celebrate them. And most importantly, believe in them.

The path forward is filled with challenges, but it’s also rich with opportunities. Opportunities to shine, make a difference and truly tap into the brilliance within you. So, take that leap of faith, confront your fears, and step into the boundless horizon of what’s possible.

Because in the grand scheme of things, it’s not just the moments of success but the journey through failures, learnings, and growth that truly defines us. Here’s to a future filled with courage, hope, and endless possibilities.

FAQs

What is atychiphobia?

Atychiphobia is the clinical term for an extreme fear of failure. It’s more than just occasional nervousness or anxiety; it’s a persistent and debilitating fear that can hinder personal and professional growth.

How can I overcome a fear of failure?

Overcoming a fear of failure often involves a combination of self-reflection, positive self-talk, seeking professional guidance, and taking actionable steps to confront and address the fear head-on.

Is procrastination linked to the fear of failure?

Yes, procrastination can often be a symptom of the fear of failure. When individuals are afraid of failing, they might delay or avoid tasks to prevent potential setbacks or adverse outcomes.

Why am I so afraid of failure?

Being afraid of failure is a natural human emotion. It can stem from past experiences, societal pressures, personal expectations, or a combination of factors. Understanding the root cause can help in addressing and managing this fear.

Does living in fear mean I’m experiencing atychiphobia?

Not necessarily. While atychiphobia is an intense fear of failure, living in fear can encompass various anxieties and phobias. It’s essential to consult with a professional to determine the specific nature of your fears.

Is it common to experience fear of failure in the workplace?

Yes, many individuals experience fear of failure in professional settings, worried about setbacks, judgments, or potential impacts on their career trajectory.

What causes the fear of failure?

The fear of failure can be caused by past negative experiences, societal or familial pressures, personal perfectionism, or a combination of these factors. It’s often rooted in a person’s perception of their self-worth and abilities.

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.