8 tips to overcome your fear of failure and to see failure as a good thing
Fear of failure is extremely common, even in seemingly very successful people and it can manifest in many different ways. For me it manifested as perfectionism, being a workaholic and putting unnecessary pressure on myself. I know now that it was all my way of seeking approval from others.
Fear of failure begins in early childhood where we are encouraged to achieve both academically and in sports as well as to compete with others. If we aren’t good at something we’re criticised or marked down. As we grow into young adults, our childhood dreams and passions can fall by the wayside and are often replaced with ambitions to attend college and enter into a career that offers security or prestige. By this stage, we have learned to obey the rules and do what’s expected of us either consciously or unconsciously. We then enter the world of work and if we don’t meet our targets, we might miss out on that promotion or worse, be demoted or risk losing our jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating complacency, lack of drive or motivation to succeed, quite the contrary! However the culture we live can and does create a fear of making mistakes or of trying something that doesn’t work out. Our resulting perfectionism, putting too much pressure on ourselves and / or staying within our comfort zone can prevent us from seizing new opportunities, having the confidence to speak up, meeting our perfect partner, going after our dreams, following our passion and generally becoming the best version of ourselves!
This was me. I spent years worrying about losing my job because deep down I was telling myself I was a failure. I didn’t think I deserved the career I had and I went all out to prove to everyone else that I was ‘good enough’. I became a perfectionist and constantly sought approval. Like everyone, I had my strengths and weaknesses yet I focused on the weaknesses. I beat myself up about them because I wanted to be good at EVERYTHING. I took things personally if I was criticised yet my worst critic was myself!
So what happened to that baby or toddler we all once were that wasn’t afraid to make mistakes? The one that when learning to walk and fell down just got right back up again until they had mastered the skill? They didn’t worry about being a failure every time they fell down. They didn’t tell themselves they were stupid or that they should stop trying because they were setting their sights too high and being unrealistic. They didn’t worry about what everyone else thought of them. They simply learned and improved until eventually they could walk. And that’s what life is all about – we learn new skills or professions, we learn how to interact with others, we make mistakes along the way and we learn from them. We are always learning throughout our lives.
Failure is just a learning experience – nothing more! Our fear of failure is the biggest obstacle to our success. So what can we do to stop it from holding us back?
1. Accept that making mistakes will happen.
Accept that making mistakes will happen, especially if you step out of your comfort zone. Tell yourself that it’s just a learning experience and that you’ll be a much better / stronger person as a result of your mistakes. Remember that all the successful entrepreneurs have failed many times before they succeeded.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
It’s not a weakness, it’s a strength. Helping others is emotionally rewarding and we all love to do it. So when you ask for help or advice, remember that the other person is likely to be really pleased that you asked them.
3. Break down your dream / goal / task into manageable steps.
Set yourself actions and deadlines to complete each step ensuring that whilst these steps are challenging they are still achievable. Then celebrate achieving each step – give yourself a pat on the back as this is another step closer to your overall goal.
4. Connect with your passion.
Write it down, focus on it every day and make sure you take regular, consistent steps to achieve it. This will help you to deal with your fears to ensure that one day your dream will become a reality.
5. Let go of your limiting beliefs such as I’m not good enough.
Limiting beliefs like I’m not clever enough, I’m not attractive enough, I’m not funny enough – these are all just beliefs NOT facts and as such can be changed. To do this write down these beliefs and then challenge them with questions like ‘Who says I’m not good enough?’ ‘When did you decide you weren’t good enough?’ Write down positive statements or affirmations instead such as ‘I am talented at xxx’ ‘I am successful at xxx’ (use your strengths for this), ‘I’m a good person’ etc.
6. Don’t try to be fearless.
We all feel fear. It’s about not letting that fear paralyse you into inaction. If you feel that something isn’t right in your life or you’re feeling like a failure then chances are it’s your fears or fear-based stories that you’re telling yourself. So tune into them, accept them and then challenge them. Unless you are presented with real physical danger, a fear is just a belief in your head, nothing more. So recognise that and decide what you’re going to do to move past it such as doing the thing you’re afraid of. If you’re struggling to do this without any help then you can use the services of an NLP Life Coach.
7. Consider what’s the worst that could happen?
Chances are, it’s not anything like as bad as you think. So what if people judge you or don’t approve of what you are doing? So what if you make a mistake or don’t do something perfectly? Just learn and move on. You’ll never receive everyone’s approval. Peoples’ opinion of you is none of your business and if they are judging you negatively, it has more to do with their own insecurities than it has to do with you. When you have self-belief and continue on your path then you’ll soon find that others look to you for advice or inspiration.
8. Imagine if you could do anything you wanted without feeling any negative feelings.
How good would that feel? What could you or would you do? Let your mind roam free and think big. Visualise this scenario and tell yourself that you CAN do it.
Remember, the only person stopping you from achieving your dreams is YOU. YOU are creating your fears – and your fears are not facts. When you change how you look at your fears and don’t let them control you, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish, how many more doors will open and how your life can change for the better.
To loving your work, loving your life, living your dreams.