Take a moment. Think about something you really want to do, but haven’t done so yet because you’re afraid…the fear might arise for a number of reasons, but one thing is for sure, it paralyzes you and stunts your ability. Maybe you want to, but haven’t yet:

  • Taken on that new project at work
  • Started your own business
  • Moved to a new city
  • Planned for a new fitness goal
  • Invested in some property
  • Taken time to travel
  • Told that special someone how you truly feel

Your mind is probably repeating over and over:

  • What if it doesn’t work out?
  • What if it’s a big mistake?
  • What if I fail?

Sometimes, when you want to take on something new, your mind might communicate all the reasons you’re not ready and why you shouldn’t. Change and taking initiative towards those desired new experiences does come with some amount of risk, but it also comes with the potential for endless, exciting possibilities. When you fear failure, you remain stagnant and in some cases, you even take steps back in life. In playing it safe, you limit yourself and fear begins to undermine your potential. I also believe that because we’re all connected, if you don’t show up and live your life’s divine assignment, you could potentially prevent someone else from discovering their life’s purpose too.

Why We Fear Failure?

On a surface level that many of us can understand and even explain, making mistakes and “failing” creates unwanted feelings such as disappointment, anger and frustration. It begins with regret of a decision and eventually turns into overthinking what “could” or “should” have been done differently.

On a deeper level, research reports that underneath this stressful feeling of failure is embarrassment or shame. Most of us have a fear of the shame attached to a perceived mistake. Shame for a prolonged period can be a toxic emotion that will distort your self-perception.

Clinical Psychologist Marilyn Sorenson explains,

“Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong. When a person experiences shame, they feel ‘there is something basically wrong with me’.”

At this  point in the “fear of failure cycle,” a person begins to internalize shame and attach labels to who they are as a person – “not good enough,” “incompetent” “worthless” and so on. I’ve been there…can you relate?

In many parts of the world, particularly here in our Western society, failure is something we’ve been conditioned to fear. We all have a demanding, never-ending lists of obligations and “make plans to plan for our plans” in an effort to excel and keep up with all our work-life needs. While structure provides a sense of purpose and stability, have you however, thought that if you didn’t achieve what was on your list, you’d somehow get left behind? Scolded? Be incompetent? Not good enough?

With these and other worries in mind then, you move through each day with caution and attempt to “get everything right.” You stressfully attempt to avoid making mistakes or taking risks. You simply stick to the plan and play it safe.

We eventually associate mistakes with something that’s “bad.” That negative connection is then internalized by our brains and begins to dictate our lives on a sub-conscious level. But think of this…does avoiding failure actually equal success??? NO!!! Fearing failure limits ourselves and our possibilities as well as our potential to impact the lives of others.

Why I Know Failure is Important

As babies, when we first learn to walk, we do the caterpillar and wiggle our way across the room. We eventually get up on all fours and find it’s certainly a more efficient way to get around. We get stronger and wiser. Our brains give our bodies feedback that we have a new ability and we become more confident.  We begin to use the resources around us – grabbing hold of the nearest table, chair or pants leg of mommy and daddy to stand up and duck waddle just a few steps before we plop down our diaper butts. But we giggle and try again. With loved ones continuously encouraging us and in our own perfect timing, we begin to make full blown strides and eventually, we’re running all over the place. We succeed. We’re happy. We’re accomplished. And we haven’t stopped “running” from phase to phase, one baby step at a time since then!

As we grow older, we lose sight of this simple perspective and “fail” to give failure its due importance. What I began to see in my own experiences, from successful professionals and those who simply have a healthy relationship with life’s ups and downs, is that failure is simply a teacher.

When we learn to challenge ourselves and take the leap of faith towards a desired goal, we’ll notice our happiness, performance and other life experiences begin to improve. A few examples I’ve seen:

  • Failure provides a shift in perspective. Sometimes, we avoid stepping out of an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation because we feel that if we do, we have failed. For example, if you feel stuck in a stressful job or an unhappy relationship, you dodge change because quitting the job or ending the relationship might create the feeling that you have failed. It is actually likely, that taking the leap to what you’d prefer instead could lead to a happier and more peaceful life experience.
  • Failure supports active learning. When you attempt something new or challenging, you are engaged in the process of learning. In making a mistake, your mind is able to use that as data and informs you what went wrong. This enhances learning. Failure teaches you to seek alternative solutions which sharpens your creativity and resourcefulness, both of which are life and professional skills that are paramount in almost every way.
  • Failure pushes us beyond our level of comfort and teaches us about our strengths. When we “fail” completely at something or make minor mistakes in life, we realize that we have the inner resources to keep going and move past it all.

It’s like after learning baby steps, we’re taught to believe that failure is the opposite of success, but please take my word for it, failure is a step towards success.

How To Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Like any skill we want to learn – a foreign language, a sport, how to code and develop websites – learning to overcome our fear of failure can be done with intentional practice. Carol Dweck, renowned Stanford Professor and Psychologist, emphasizes the importance of cultivating a growth-mindset rather than a fixed-mindset. In summary, a person with a growth-mindset knows they can always learn from their mistakes. This shift in perspective helps us manage fear and creates a more adaptive response to mistakes – not just behaviorally, but from a neurological perspective as well (think back to my analogy of babies learning to walk)!

So, what’s my advice? Redefine what failure means and you will begin to shift your response to “perceived” mistakes.  Here are 6 steps to help you overcome your fear of failure:

  1. Failure is Inevitable, But Temporary

Pause. Stop and think. Isn’t it silly to fear what you can’t avoid? No matter how cautious you move through life each day or how much you stick to “the plan,” life always brings unexpected “detours” that you won’t be able to control. We’ve all experienced crumbling walls at some point in different areas of our life. But living an extraordinary life of passion and purpose, simply means detours and failures will be inevitable. Embrace wherever you are in your journey – the high or the low – because you’re always right where you belong. You’ve got to fuck fear and go for what’s really calling you. Failure from time to time is a necessary for growth and achievement of your version of happily ever after!

  1. Crack the Code

As you know but may have a tendency to forget, we ALL fail at something. What’s more important is learning to “crack the code.” Make time to sit and reflect. Where does your fear of failure come from? When you’re completely transparent with yourself and reveal the answers to this simple question, you begin to reclaim your power! You will see a shift in your thoughts, a confidence in how you show up in the world and ultimately, the kinds of experiences you have in life. Take time to crack the code on your fears’ root causes. Be mindful of what you see, hear and feel. Was it an overprotective parent, a relationship that ended on a bad note, a job loss? Invest in yourself and your future by making time to demystify your fears as they have a significant impact on how fulfilling your life will be.

  1. Beliefs are Thoughts We Consistently Choose, Choose Wisely

Did you know that both faith and fear require us to believe in something that we don’t see? Or have you ever thought of it that way? Well you should because it’s true. Faith and fear are simply directions we choose to go in our thought process. Why waste your energy and thoughts on fears that shackle you to uneasiness, lack of fulfillment, confusion? You can simply choose to think, see and go after the desires of your heart because we have free will in our thoughts. Yes, it may sound strange to hear that you have control over what comes into your mind and how those thoughts make you feel, but you do. Just know, it takes practice to retrain your brain to consistently choose faith over fear!

  1. Janet Jackson Said It Best, “CONTROL!”

Baby steps are still steps. And all of those steps matter! When it comes to learning something new and challenging, it can create an unnerving reaction. But to start living your life by design and not by default,  I suggest creating a list of the desires and changes you’d like to experience. Be as clear and excited about this process as possible, then get started right away. Remember that you are doing this to establish a new thought pattern and ultimately shift from where you are to where you want to be in life. So prioritize small changes…remember the baby steps! This allows you to easily identify areas that are within your control, so focus your attention and energy on those aspects. Trust the process and yourself. You were chosen and you are capable so just do it!

  1. Adopt an Accountabil-a-buddy (or Buddies)

If you’re anything like I used to be, you have probably felt as though you’re expected to know everything, you get caught up in a perfectionists mindset, while “doing it all” independently for fear of turning to others for support. Can you relate? It is imperative to reach out to others because it makes the journey to our happily ever after less stressful. With a network of “accountabil-a-buddies” we’re reminded that every day, others are stepping out of their comfort zone as well.

Why struggle in silence? Why would you want to go far (or nowhere) alone when you can look to those in your network for advice, inspiration or encouragement? Putting yourself out there to ask for help may also provoke anxiety and fear  – I too know this from experience- but practicing vulnerability (and humility) will only make it easier the next time you need to lean on someone (we all need one another sometimes). Opening up will also create an opportunity to get additional insight that you wouldn’t have had you kept your mouth closed!

  1. It’s Just a Teachable Moment

Life is a continuous ride…a never-ending book and you’re always being prepared for each new chapter of your existence. There’s only so much you can learn from others – at some point, you have to learn from your own journey. The learning and skills you acquire from personal experience is invaluable – not just for our own understanding, but to be a resource for others as well. Each of us through our life experiences is a library of information and that is why I decided to share my stories of failures, detours, valley moments…my crumbling walls. I wrote the double-sided book so that whoever you are, wherever you are and plan on heading, you feel encouraged to pursue life  to its fullest without getting hung up on past or potential mistakes.

Celebrate ALL of your life, all of what makes you and your journey YOURS! You being you, THAT is your superpower! We live once, so why not go after your heart’s desire even if the path to get there looks different from others or different from how you thought it might look? Simply by “going  for it,” you are improving. And no matter how slight those improvements may seem, growth is growth. Remember the baby steps! Embracing all of life’s lessons, liberates you and opens up so many doors that you never could have imagined existed. What we tend to call failure is just a teachable moment! So, don’t give up on your goals and dreams or any part of your life because success isn’t about getting where you want to be, but instead about accepting and appreciating where you are at each point along the way.

So there you have it, my 6 steps to overcome your fear of failure. Remember to allow some room for error and shift your thoughts so that you now see failures as points to guide YOUR individual path.

Have you found strategies to make it easier to overcome your fear of failure?

What will you be striving to accomplish today, this week, this year despite your fears?

Share your comments and, if you know anybody who would benefit by reading this article, please do share it with them. Until then, fuck fear and enjoy the ride!


Ms. Marisha

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