Hello, hello! How are you feeling today? I hope its on the fantastic side of the spectrum! And in case it’s not, I’m glad you’re here because I’ve written this blog to make you feel absolutely fearless and awesome. In this blog, we’re discussing the fear we’ve all once had, yup, the fear of failure. Last few weeks, I ran some polls with my Instagram audience: asking them what usually stops them from taking a leap ahead in life, what is a common fear they have and what they would like me to talk about on my podcast and blog. A common theme through all these answers was the fear of failure. Fear of failure manifests in many ways, it can show up as anger & resentment towards the action that you’re avoiding or towards the people who push you to take that leap. It can manifest as low self esteem and low sense of confidence. It can also manifest as excuses and eventually, self-loathing. Anger, resentment, lowered self esteem, self-loathing: well, isn’t all of that the exact opposite of self love and self improvement?
That’s exactly why I wanted to address the fear of failure today, in this blogpost. I want you and me to be able to fight our fears, especially our fear of failure today as well as long in the future, if it ever manifests again.
Let me begin with a personal story this time. People who have known me for years will probably tell you that I always dive in head first into every opportunity. It’s hard for them to even notice a glimpse of this fear of failure in me. And that’s partly true. I’ve been brought up as a star child, even though that has its cons, the upside was that my parents always made me believe I can do anything. So, even if I was failing, which I have many times in my life, I always looked at the silver lining and literally grabbed onto it.
Now, I understand not everyone has the star child syndrome, and that’s why this story is not about the lack of my fear. It’s actually about the biggest fear of failure i’ve had for years! Maybe since I 2012. Yup, ever since I moved back home from having stayed in the hostel in 12th grade, I have had the most ginormous fear of failing at everything physically demanding. Be it sports, weight training, running, or even house chores that demand a bit more from your body than usual.
The failure I can keep imagining is running out of breath and blacking out. And it has happened a couple of time, which had nothing to do with my endurance but a combination of anxiety and being terribly low on salt. This fear of failing at anything physically demanding manifested in many, many ways. First of which was physical of course. I gained a lot of weight over the years, got into toxic eating and starving habits to look a certain way and gave all sorts of excuses to not workout.
Rationally, I know that failure is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s an inevitable part of life and even a necessary step toward success and achievement. But, Irrationally, I still fear failure. And I know I’m not alone.
At some point or another, almost all of us have experienced nagging self-doubt, made negative comparisons between ourselves and those around us, or felt like we’re not talented, smart, or disciplined enough to reach our goals.
The irony is that these fears tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. That means that the more anxious we feel about failing the reach our goals, the less likely we are to take action toward achieving them. That’s what was happening with me for over 9 years. It’s a completely irrational reaction, but — as anyone who has experienced this kind of paralysis can tell you — it’s a hard one to resist.
Fast forward to today, I am diligently weight training, doing high intensity functional fitness and even got myself a year long commitment for personal training. It’s been one month and I feel strong like I’ve never before. Your definition of failure might not be the same as mine, it could be about failing at a job, at an entrance exam, in a relationship or while starting up a business. But it doesn’t mean the fear is any different. So, what does it actually take to overcome this nagging fear of failure and self doubt? I’ve put together an exercise to combat fear of failure in a way that’s going to apply to most of you. So here it goes:
The first thing to do in order to overcome the fear of failure is to Understand where the fear is coming from: Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.
Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider, as a third person. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity you developed growing up.
Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.
The second thing you need to work on is Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal, Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include space for learning something new along the way, even if you don’t succeed at once.
If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.
Third, don’t bottle up your fears. Teams are often stronger than individuals, so if something is worrying you, talk to someone like a parent, friend, teacher or coach. These people can give advice, support, or even just listen to you. Using the support available to you will help you combat the irrational aspects of your fear.
And finally, accept that everyone fails and it’s okay to have a Plan B. I always have plans A, B, C, D… but hardly ever need them because of the frist three points I just mentioned. Plan for the plan not going according to the plan. And in that case, write down the worst case scenario and have a plan ready to bounce back from it. This way, you have a parachute even if you fall from a great height.
Failure in itself isn’t threatening. It is the negative consequences that we think will follow what we fear. The most common of these is the fear of shame and embarrassment which ou might think follows failure. However, knowing that everyone fails, even the most successful people in the world today have failed numerous times helps gain perspective over our fears. It also helps us plan how we can bounce back, in case we face a failure.
That brings us to the end of this blogpost. I really hope everything I shared resonated with you and you are able to use these steps to overcome your fear of failure. If you think this blog will help someone you know, please share it with them! Let’s reach more people and help them lead their best lives.