Overcoming Fear of Failure

Jun 18, 2015 | Anxiety, Blog

overcome fear of failure
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Fear of failure is something that everyone experiences from time to time (yup, even mega successful people apparently).

However if you’re of a more sensitive nature (like me!) it might be that a fear of failure is something that really causes you problems, holding you back and making your life a daily struggle.

A few years ago had been putting off delivering group workshops, for fear of no one showing up.

As I finally summoned the courage to get started, I put in weeks of promotion, posting up flyers, a Facebook ad and several emails to my past clients. After all that, a grand total of 1 person showed up (plus a few others made up of my friends and family).

Needless to say, I was devastated.

I saw it as evidence of my incompetence and started drawing all sorts of conclusions, from my inability as a therapist to the fact that I should give up completely on workshops for good as it was NEVER going to work.

It actually felt physically painful for me. The sting of failure!

However, later that day I decided, as I often do when something is troubling me, to take pen to paper and work through my thoughts and feelings.

What I discovered was that it was the meaning I was giving to what happened that caused the pain. I had felt that:

Only one person showing up to my workshop = I am a loser. I’m no good. I’m not enough.

But, when I really thought about it, I knew that that couldn’t be true.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a very practical minded and confident boyfriend. He is very used to failure, he tells me, since from a young age he had grown a thick skin from having his advances toward so many women rejected (not that I needed to hear about that!)

He often reminds me that, in fact, failure is great, because it gives us something to work with. Some tangible feedback which we can use to get better.

If we can take away the incorrect meaning that we give to failure (I am a loser) and instead re-frame it as valuable feedback that we can use to get better, we turn a failure into a win.

Failure is only temporary, just a stepping stone on the way to success.

I realised there was loads I had to learn about running a workshop and made a long list of things I could try the next time to make it a success. The next time I did it, I utilised everything I’d learned from my past failure, and I had a much better turnout.

So, here are a few key points to bear in mind next time you’re fearing failure:

  • If you don’t try something, you have already failed. You may as well try and get a shot at success. Even if it doesn’t work out the first time, you have a starting point on which to improve on. See it all as an interesting experiment.
  • You don’t need to be perfect, aim to just make progress a little at a time and keep moving forward.
  • If you fail, it doesn’t make YOU any less. You’re still awesome, you just need to refine what you’re doing a bit. You’ll get there. Be kind to yourself.
  • Famous ‘failures’ include – Henry Ford’s first two auto-mobile companies failed. Michael Jordan has missed over 9,00 shots in his career. J K Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers before being accepted. Marilyn Monroe was dropped by 20th Century-Fox for being unattractive one year into her contract. Thomas Edison made over 1,000 attempts at the light bulb before finding one that would work. Ok, you get the picture.
  • Re-frame failure as ‘Great, I have something to work with here’. Onwards and upwards!
  • Life a constant process of refinement, make little adjustments as you go.
  • It might be a bit painful, but you can handle it, and you will feel better afterwards. There is an amazing sense of achievement at trying something you are a little scared to do.

Remember: It’s not a failure if you learn something. It’s a win!

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I’d love to know, what fears around failure do you have? Have you ever learned anything useful from a so called failure? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Christian

    Good to know I’m not the only one… ;-(

  2. Robert

    I don’t recall learning anything from my failures. But I sure feel the sting from them. And each time I realize I’m a failure it stings more.

    When I look at those around me I feel I’m the only one struggling. Everyone else seems to be living a care free life. Sure, they have challenges along the way but their ‘inner peace’ doesn’t seem to be affected.

    • Chloe B

      Hi Robert, are you sure you didn’t learn anything about what to do better next time from failures? Often we are learning and making progress without even realising it.

      I promise you that with many many people, although they seem ok on the outside, that they are struggling with similar things are you.

      Keep trying and know that as a human being you are valuable and no ‘failure’ ever alters your value.

  3. Krissan

    Failure is a process in becoming successful. We often fail many times in things before we get them right. Because what we think or imagine has to be changed into something realistic or that can be applied. The same way a baby learns to walk. The baby falls many times and makes many attempts. But the baby is not embarrassed about falling down. In fact, the baby laughs. And then gets right back up again. And continues to try and walk. Also the parents continue to encourage the baby. Giving encouraging words constantly. Give positive feedback. And not focusing on the faults. Saying thing like “Good try”, “Try again” & “You can do it”. All these things are apart of the process on the way to success. Of course eventually the baby learns to walk. But it doesn’t happen straight away. It takes a long period of time. And sometimes we don’t even give ourselves enough time to become successful. We expect too much of ourselves too quick. And we fail to take our time and have patience. Because we compare ourselves to other people. And we think that being successful is to be like others. But being successful is being the best that you can be. And even if you are not as good as other people, that does not mean your are not successful. As long as you do your best, you are always successful. So failure has taught me, as long as I did my best I am always successful.

    • Chloe B

      Great insight Krissan, thanks for sharing that 🙂

  4. karen

    My fears are around not being to cope with illnesses and my full future being a failure


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