Fear is a natural human emotion.

Despite having different definitions, this emotion can be so powerful that it overpowers the will to achieve. In addition, many unintentionally harm their prospects of success out of fear of doing things wrong.

Let’s look at what causes fear of failure and why it can pose a major impediment. We’ll also explore ways to overcome your fear of failure and use failure to your advantage rather than letting it control your life.

Note: Atychiphobia, or the irrational and persistent fear of failure, should be treated by a mental health professional.

It’s best to reach out to a mental health expert for additional help if you suffer from extreme fear of failing, have physical symptoms of a panic attack, or have other mood disorder symptoms that prevent you from carrying out your daily life.

Why do you fear failure?

We often hear that being optimistic is important, but to succeed at work and in life, you must also acknowledge the unpleasant aspects of your experiences and life. Not doing this may result in unrealistic expectations for the future and keep you from addressing issues that may contribute to your fear of failure.

Your past failures and relevant experience may have contributed to a fear of failure, which may drive you to focus on avoiding potentially dangerous circumstances with clear benefits. On the other hand, fear of failure can impede you from realizing your full potential because you also avoid events that could have a positive outcome. The fear of failure prevents people from trying, fosters self-doubt, shuts down growth, and may even push you to act irrationally.

What triggers fear of failure? Five of its common causes are listed below:

1. Perfectionism

People typically hesitate to do new things for fear of looking stupid or doing it wrong the first time.

Failure is so horrible and embarrassing to perfectionists that they don’t even bother trying new things because they fear failing. Indeed, it gets scary to leave your comfort zone. Similarly, perfectionism can develop in your younger years if you view anything less than ideal as a failure.

Successful individuals like setting ambitious goals, which is a positive. If someone is always expecting success, that can dominate a person’s life, and it might eventually become a major deterrent to the progress they desire.

Many successful people have a great sense of achievement. They excel in all their endeavors, including school, college, athletics, the arts, hobbies, and employment. Each new accomplishment strengthens the significance in their life.

With all this success, failure gradually becomes unacceptable. These people can lack the experience of overcoming failure because they haven’t yet failed at anything.

The simplest way to avoid failure is never taking a chance, adhere tenaciously to what you know you can do, protect yourself from uncertain situations, check everything twice or thrice, and be the most meticulous and cautious person in the universe.  The problem is that when you work so hard to avoid failure, you often avoid success.

2. Childhood Environment

People’s values and ideas are generally ingrained.

More than you may know, your family’s communication and interaction styles shaped who you are today. We are all products of both our biology and our environments! You, therefore, bring a special take on life to the table, which is wonderful! We can, however, occasionally be held back by our beliefs and past experiences.

If you grew up in an environment where failing is undesirable, fear of failure might have become a learned behavior. In addition, failure-related anxiety can result in various psychological and emotional issues, such as anxiety, low self-esteem, shame, and depression.

3. Ego

The idea of finding life’s purpose in what you can do is easy for many individuals.

However, failure becomes devastating when you unconsciously sabotage yourself by believing that you only have value when you achieve something since you’ve told yourself that it speaks volumes about your character.

You may connect too strongly with failure because of your ego. For example, if you fear that others will see you as a failure, you likely think your losses greatly impact how people see you.

Many people fail due to their ego-driven dedication to what has previously worked. But regrettably, you frequently observe this in people who are further along in their careers, particularly those who rose to prominence by ushering in a significant shift years ago.

They shy away from future innovation because they are terrified of failure. In addition, the success of anything new shows that their earlier accomplishments weren’t all that impressive. Therefore, why take the chance when you can maintain your reputation by staying silent?

These individuals have a strong sense of self-worth and pride in their prior accomplishments. As a result, they would sooner pass up chances for present recognition and progress than run the slightest chance of failing.

4. Toxic Workplace Culture

Organizational cultures of perfection, which hold that any failure is unacceptable, are still prevalent in many organizations today.

Imagine the anxiety and fear within such a company. People working within a toxic workplace culture develop lying, cheating, falsifying data, and suppressing issues until they become catastrophes beyond containment. A mentality sets that it is better to be dishonest rather than admit an error and make it right for fear of being ridiculed, scolded, embarrassed, or even fired.

However, a new perspective from several peer-reviewed studies contradicts this belief. It demonstrates how such a mindset prevents organizations from growing and thriving rather than making successful choices that help team members reduce anxiety.

5. Reduced Creativity

Everyone likes successful people.

You may have a history of success, but if you’re worried about not being able to repeat that, the fear of failure prevails, and a problem arises. You can no longer acknowledge the value of trial and error in coming up with the most original answer or accept the inevitable nature of making errors.

The fact is that you will make more mistakes the more creative you are. So, avoiding making errors would also kill your ability to be creative.

Balance is more important than you would realize. However, a small failure is also necessary to keep everyone’s perspective on success alive.

How can you overcome your fear of failure?

The intense fear of failure has held back many people across different cultures, but this is something you can overcome.

There have been times when things didn’t go according to plan for many owners of successful businesses. Yet, they stood out from those who failed because they got back up, kept going, held on, and were committed to finding the silver lining in achieving their life goals.

Both successful and unsuccessful people deal with the same problems and challenges. However, how the two of them address challenges that arise is different.

Here is a step-by-step tried-and-true process to help you pick yourself up when you feel afraid or like you’ve lost.

1. Find the root cause of your fear.

Which potential causes of your fears ring true to you?

Try to see your fear from an outsider’s perspective and note where you suspect it originated.
For instance, you may pretend that you’re working to help one of your closest friends. Perhaps something like a traumatic event from your childhood or deep-seated insecurity is the source of your fear. Anxiety loses most of its strength when you focus and identify the root cause of your fear.

2. Redefine your goal-related mindset.

Sometimes having an all-or-nothing mindset leaves you with nothing.

Consider being open to learning something new as a part of your goals while still having a clear picture of what you want to achieve.
This perspective incorporates the possibility of failure, but if they accomplish their goal of producing amazing results, all the roadblocks are just opportunities to develop. Having a growth mindset makes you considerably less likely to fail.

3. Embrace positive thinking.

You must understand and learn to live with the idea that even the most successful people experience failure, despite humanity’s obsession with success.

A newspaper once let Walt Disney go because they felt he lacked imagination. He later launched a successful animation studio.
Disney wouldn’t have succeeded if he had paid attention to the unfavorable reviews and stopped moving forward as a fear response.
It’s completely up to you to become aware of and recognize catalysts for your self-assessments. The voice in your head significantly impacts your abilities.

Having a positive mind about yourself and the situation should be able to replace your negative self-talk. In addition, you’ll be able to write a new mental script that you may use whenever you detect the onset of your negative thoughts.

4. Think of all the possibilities.

You might hesitate to accept a new job out of fear of failing or the unknown. Consider the disadvantages and potential outcomes of giving into these fears before making significant decisions that could warrant lifestyle changes. Being aware of possible consequences can support you in breaking out of a rut.

5. Imagine the worst-case scenario.

Sometimes the worst possible outcome may well be disastrous. However, it won’t always be the end of everything if something horrible happens.

Knowing how horrible the worst-case situation would be in the big picture of your life is important. Problems occasionally receive more authority from us than they ever have before. A failure, however, never lasts forever.

For instance, starting a new enterprise is inherently a learning process with many risk factors. So even though you’ll occasionally make poor judgments, the stress is usually just fleeting.

Changing your attitude and slowly eliminating any irrational fear will help you bounce back faster. In the worst-case scenario, even if the perceived failure resulted in the closure of that business, it may serve as a launching pad for something bigger than you’ve ever imagined.

6. Prepare a Plan B.

Having a fallback strategy never hurts. However, quickly looking for a solution is the last thing you want to do when the worst has happened- let the dust settle, reflect on what happened, take a breath and figure out how to move on.

You are more likely to move forward and take reasonable risks if you have a backup plan. For example, suppose you’ve submitted for a grant to sponsor a work-related activity. If the worst happens and you don’t win it, are there other ways you could acquire the funds?

A plan B is a fantastic method to lessen your fear of potential failure because there are typically numerous approaches to solving an issue.

7. Learn from your experience.

Even a less-than-perfect scenario can give you a wonderful opportunity to grow.

If you look hard enough, you’ll surely see the bright side of things. You get over your fear of failing when you realize that it’s not the end of the world if you fail, but rather an opportunity to improve.

Life Tip: Even if it feels scary, do it.

You may begin to conquer your fear of failure by identifying its cause and reshaping how you feel about it. After considering all the options, failure becomes an opportunity for progress, and it will become easier to overcome your fears in the future.

Maintain an optimistic attitude, prepare a backup plan, and gain knowledge from every experience. Then, instead of making you feel inferior, your setbacks will serve as sources of inspiration and enlightenment.

Doing what you’re scared of is the only thing that can make fear disappear. The decision to enter the race, take the public speaking stage, launch a business, or get yourself out there ultimately rests with you.

Your journey through your fear is entirely up to you. Even if you feel unable to go on, pressured to self-sabotage, or scared of accomplishing manageable chunks of what you desire, you have no obligation to stay there. You don’t need to wait until you’re filled with confidence to act on your goals.

Don’t put off doing what you want to accomplish until you’re no longer afraid. Then, do it despite your fear. Remember, something wonderful awaits you on the other side.

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Dr. Mary

Dr. Mary Coussons-Read, a Ph.D. in Psychology and an accomplished Professor and Higher Education Leader, brings extensive experience to her role as a Certified Professional Personal and Career Coach. With over 30 years of leadership and organizational development consulting in academic and corporate settings, Dr. Mary is well-equipped to guide higher education professionals toward envisioning and achieving positive change.

In addition to her academic background, Dr. Mary has a personal understanding of weight management challenges. Her transformative journey has inspired her to support successful individuals struggling with obesity. Through her expertise and compassionate approach, she helps them explore long-term options, including bariatric surgery or alternative strategies for lifelong weight management.

With her unique combination of academic knowledge, coaching skills, and personal experience, Dr. Mary is committed to assisting individuals in realizing their goals and making significant transformations in their lives.