Fear of Failure: How to Keep Going When You’re Afraid of Failing

Rachel Sharpe

Fear of failure holds people back in life. We all want to become successful and enjoy enriching lives. Maybe we’ve always wanted to learn a new skill, such as playing the violin, but we fear we’re too old and it would be embarrassing if we were terrible at it. However, the whole point of life and being on this wondrous planet is to experience it. So, it’s time to take calculated risks, push our boundaries out, and explore the world. In this article, we’ll explain why people fear failure and how to overcome a fear of failure.

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What is Atychiphobia?

Atychiphobia is a fear of failure. You may experience it regularly every time you embark on something new or prevent yourself from trying something different due to the extremity of your anxiety.

atychiphobia definition

Why Do People Fear Failure?

1. They’re Perfectionists

People fear failure when they strive to be perfect in all that they do. However, perfectionism is a mask people wear rather than what they really are. No one’s perfect, and everyone’s going to fail many times. 

2. Their Support System Isn’t Supportive

We often fear failure when those closest to us are constantly chirping that we aren’t good enough, we’re poor people, or that successful people are evil. Ultimately, these types of scenarios hold us back from accomplishing things that would help us break those stereotypes and finally succeed. 

3. Their Previous Failures Scared Them

Fear of failure often comes from previous failures. After all, if you’ve never failed before, what would you be so afraid of? In the end, when you realize that failures are part of the story to get to your end goal, you become less scared of the big failures you were so ashamed of. 

4. They Don’t Realize Everyone Fails

We only know what happens in our minds in our lives. The reality is that every single person fails at some point or another—literally, everyone. So, instead of thinking you’re the only person who can mess up, remember that everyone who succeeds had to fail to get where they are today. 

5. You’re Afraid of Negative Feelings

One of the most powerful negative emotions is shame. We often experience it when we experience something embarrassing– even if it wasn’t our fault. However, it’s important to acknowledge that we’ll realize that all negative feelings eventually pass if we practice guided meditation.

fear of failure causes

How to Overcome Fear of Failure

1. Accept That Failure Is Part of the Process

You can overcome the fear of failure when you finally accept that failure is part of the process. It’s impossible to succeed without failing along the way. The more you fail, the more you understand people, products, businesses, and life. Life’s best-kept secrets are found in our failures. Our successes merely give us this temporary joy that reminds us we’re on track. Rather than fearing failure, integrate it into your big plan. You know, that business or life plan you’ve created. Throw in some failure timelines in there, too, because it’s bound to happen to get you on track. 

fear of failure and success

2. Aim for Growth, Not Targets

So many people will tell you to create smart goals. You know, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. Those are really great at helping you create a clear vision of what you want. But what happens when you don’t hit your target goal by your timeline? Do you give up or keep pushing? That’s why sometimes it’s better to aim for growth instead of specific targets. Self-improvement is all about growing, not immediate results. As long as you’re getting better, increasing your numbers, or improving your game, then you’re on the right path. 

3. Practice Positive Visualization

When you’re experiencing a fear of failure, it’s key to practice positive visualization. Imagine yourself at your best. How do you feel? How are you dressing? What’s your posture like? What’s on your face: is it a smile, a frown, makeup? Where do you live? Who is by your side: family, friends, a new significant other, children? How successful are you? How well are you taking care of yourself? Ultimately, your visualization should include all the things that bring you up a few levels from where you are now. Are you even able to imagine yourself that happy, successful, and with inner peace? You can try a guided meditation for visualization or this visualization for confidence video.

4. Replace Negative Thinking

To replace negative thinking so you can overcome your fear of failure, you’ll have to come up with evidence that the negative thoughts are untrue so you can believe the new happy thoughts.

What is the evidence for and against your current thought? For instance, if you constantly think, “I’m going to embarrass myself if I publish a book about my life,” what is the evidence against that? Some examples could include: a book editor will help you omit things that might make you look bad, you can control what you write, if it fails no one will have heard of it so it won’t be too bad, many popular books were rejected hundreds of times before developing a fanbase, and so on.

When it comes to replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones, you might tell yourself, “If I never publish this book, I’ll never know what level of success I’m capable of” or “This story of my life could put me in the history books.”

5. Show Self-Compassion

When you experience a fear of failure, it’s important to be self-compassionate with yourself. Here’s a quick self-compassion video you can follow along to. You might try some positive self-talk to show yourself this compassion. You might tell yourself, “This is a moment of anxiety and fear. Experiencing fear when trying something new is normal. May I treat myself with kindness right now. May I show myself compassion as I face my fear of failure.” This quote has been slightly altered from the Self Compassion book by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. You can show yourself compassion but acknowledging your fears, and speaking to yourself with kindness as you would support a friend experiencing the same fear. 

6. Remember That Failure Is Not The End

Most people think of their failure as the end. But as long as you’re still breathing, the end isn’t here. Failure is merely one milestone in your journey. Yes, a milestone. When you have your first failure, that’s not the time to think, “okay, we tried our best, time to pack it in, folks.” You aren’t a quitter; why are you thinking like that? Instead, think to yourself, “Alright, awesome, one failure down until we finally figure this thing out. Only 99 more to go!” And believe it or not, you probably won’t have to fail 99 more times because you’ll figure it out a bit sooner. Think of failure as experiments. Ask yourself, “what can I learn from this” not “how can I make this stop?” You’ve still got a long journey ahead of you. Keep pace.  

7. Who Instilled This Fear In You?

Who instilled a fear of failure in you? It likely wasn’t you. Have you ever realized you’ve been repeating the same thoughts in your head for years at a time, not remembering that you weren’t the source of the thought. Always ask yourself if the source of the thought is credible. Do parents always know best? No. Do therapists, doctors, teachers, or other people in respected positions sometimes say things they later regret? You bet. Do you sometimes repeat the same thought out of habit, even if you’ve grown and changed a lot over the years? You know, people do get better with practice and time. So maybe all those “I suck” thoughts need to be replaced with new thoughts you’ve come with. Stop replaying someone else’s words in your head. 

8. Use Setbacks As Life Lessons

When you’ve experienced a fear of failure, remember to think of setbacks as life lessons. For instance, Thomas Edison failed to create the lightbulb 1,000 times. And each time he failed, he would go back at it again with the knowledge from those previous failures. The failures you experience can be your building blocks to bring you closer to figuring out what works. Many popular writers write hundreds of articles or books only to go viral for the first time after three to four years. You don’t win without context. Let experience guide your context so you can get better at your craft or skill set. 

learn from failure

9. Be Inspired By People’s Comeback Stories

Whose story do you prefer hearing: the person who never struggled on the way to the top or the person who failed, had tons of setbacks, experienced trauma, some more setbacks, and then finally succeeded. The best life stories contain chaos, madness, emotions, and pain. But what makes them remarkable is that through all of that messiness, they somehow pull it all together and make it through. The comeback story is one of the most popular stories. We all cheered on Britney Spears when she survived 2007 and 2008. People are cheering her on now as she fights her conservatorship. People love seeing people overcome obstacles; it reminds them that they can do it too. 

10. Find A Mentor, Therapist, or Coach

Finding someone to support you as you experience a fear of failure is crucial. You can find a therapist who can help call out when your thinking structure leans critical or negative and help rewire the brain. A mentor or a coach can help give suggestions on taking the next steps to fix your current situation. They may give you actionable advice that you can implement to learn from past failures and set you up for success moving forward. 

11. Do A Little Everyday

Fear of failure can prevent you from starting something. However, a big beginning isn’t necessary for moving forward. You can set up these micro-steps for yourself to take action. For instance, if you wanted to launch a blog for the first time, you would start with a domain name and then buy it. Next, you would sign-up for a hosting account. Then, you would find a content management system. You could break all these things up, so you do one small five-minute task every day. And eventually, you start designing your blog and publishing your first post. Divide any goals you have into microtasks to help ease you into it. You don’t have to launch an award-winning blog or project on day one. 

growth

12. Think Back to Positive Outcomes of Failure 

Have you ever failed, and something good came out of it? For instance, failing a class and then changing programs and realizing your real passion. As you grow older, you start realizing that sometimes positive outcomes come from failure. Failure pushes you in a new direction to explore, whether it’s learning something new or finding an exciting new path. And that can be filled with excitement. 

13. Your Success Can’t Happen If You Never Start

You’ll never succeed if you never stick with something long enough. Every successful person trains, practices, studies, and experiments for years before they finally make it. The longer you take to start, the harder it becomes to master something. But even if you start late, you can still achieve success. But starting is the key point. If you never build anything, no one will find it. 

training for success

14. Play Behind the Scenes First

When we have an intense fear of failure, we often think it’ll be embarrassing if people find out. But what if they never know? You can use pseudonyms or an alias for your website; you can practice or study something private or in your home. Ultimately, there are ways around not letting people find out you’ve started or explored something new. You can hide behind a fake name or a closed-door until you’re ready to show off your success. 

15. Don’t Tell Anyone Your Aspirations

The big success secret no one talks about is that you shouldn’t tell anyone your goals or aspirations. The second you tell someone, “I dream of being a famous YouTuber,”  “I want to be the biggest Twitch streamer,” or “I want to be a billionaire,” people will either laugh at you or tell you to quit dreaming. The world has changed a ton in the past couple of decades, so today, anything is possible. Dream big, but don’t brag about your dreams. Keep quiet until you’ve built something up. People need proof of concept before they’ll invest in you.

dream big

Conclusion

Yes, you can overcome your fear of failure. You can achieve big things in life, challenge yourself to grow, and become the person you aspire to be. You can succeed in life. Don’t let your fears hold you back. Don’t think about worst-case scenarios because they don’t usually play out, and you can generally handle things better than you think. Challenge your negative thoughts, haters, and inner critic. Ultimately, you are good enough. We need you to share your talents with the world. Make us laugh, teach us, or be our role model; these are all things you can give back to the world. 

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