Have you ever been so afraid of failing at something that you decided not to try it at all? Or has a fear of failure meant that, subconsciously, you undermined your own efforts to avoid the possibility of a larger failure?
Many of us have probably experienced this at one time or another. The fear of failing can be immobilizing – it can cause us to do nothing, and therefore resist moving forward. But when we allow fear to stop our forward progress in life, we’re likely to miss some great opportunities along the way.
Causes of Fear of Failure
To find the causes of fear of failure, we first need to understand what “failure” actually means.
We all have different definitions of failure, simply because we all have different benchmarks, values, and belief systems. A failure to one person might simply be a great learning experience for someone else. Many of us are afraid of failing, at least some of the time. But fear of failure is when we allow that fear to stop us from doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.
Fear of failure can be linked to many causes. For instance, having critical or not supportive parents is a cause for some people. Because they were routinely undermined or humiliated in childhood, they carry those negative feelings into adulthood.
Experiencing a traumatic event at some point in your life can also be a cause. For example, say that several years ago you gave an important presentation in front of a large group, and you performed very poorly. The experience might have been so terrible that you became afraid of failing in other things. And you carry that fear even now, years later.
Symptoms of Atychiphobia – How you Experience Fear of Failure
You might experience some or all of these symptoms if you have a fear of failure:
- A reluctance to try new things or get involved in challenging projects.
- Self-sabotage, procrastination, excessive anxiety, or a failure to follow through with goals.
- Low self-esteem or self-confidence– commonly using negative statements such as “I’ll never be good enough to get that promotion,” or “I’m not smart enough to get on that team.”
- Perfectionist– A willingness to try only those things that you know you’ll finish perfectly and successfully.
It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure. People who do so probably live so cautiously that they go nowhere. Put simply, they’re not really living at all.
But, the wonderful thing about failure is that it’s entirely up to us to decide how to look at it.
We can choose to see failure as “the end of the world,” or as proof of just how inadequate we are. Or, we can look at failure as the incredible learning experience that it often is. Every time we fail at something, we can choose to look for the lesson we’re meant to learn. These lessons are very important; they’re how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again. Failures stop us only if we let them.
Overcome the fear of failure
Thinking rationally in the below points can help us understand the situation and act accordingly:
- Own the fear: Fear can be good too sometimes. The butterflies in the stomach before exams or the ones before interview help you alarm all your senses. So, the first step is to accept it as a positive to know how important is your next action for you.
- Think and prepare for the worst case scenarios: If the things you want to achieve are critical, it always helps to be prepared for the worst case scenario. For example, if you appear for an interview, what is the worst thing which can happen? You might not get selected, but that is not the end of life. You can always apply and line up more interviews and maybe you fail once or twice, but ultimately you will land up with a job.
- Contingency plan: If failing in what you want to achieve will have serious outcomes, it always helps to have a contingency plan. For example, you taking the exams such as CAT, GATE, GRE etc after your bachelor’s degree, but what if you do not score well in any of these. It would always help to secure a job in the final year so that in case you could not go for higher studies the same year, you will have a job to keep your morale boosted and you can definitely retry the next year.
- Positive Outlook: Incorporating this in your life is definitely easier said than done. Practicing yoga, reading, exercising, eating healthy food and keeping around good company always helps in maintaining a positive outlook towards life and getting over the fear of failing!!
“No man ever achieved worth-while success who did not, at one time or other, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure.” – Napoleon Hill