Fear of Failure

Acknowledging this fear in the first place, continues to be the best way to address it.

Failure is a word most of us can relate to and understand.

Many of us have experienced failure time and time again throughout our lives. Failure is also regularly discussed within society and by the media so we hear about it often.

Defined as ‘lack of success’, failure begins at such a young age and is embedded in our childhood. The education system in particular often doesn’t embrace and encourage failure. Sir Ken Robinson (international advisor on education), describes in his well known Ted Talk, how the school systems don’t encourage creativity and are outdated. Children are taught early on that ‘failure’ is about being incorrect, rather than being that important stepping stone to success.  

Many people have had a fear of failure at some point in their lives because failure isn’t regarded as an important lesson and valuable way to learn how to succeed. 

For some of us, that fear of failure still holds us back even as adults. When I reflected on my fear of failure from my past, I thought I had dealt with it and figured it all out. I naively believed I could cross that off my list of painful lessons to learn. However, recently, I was prompted to reflect further on my diminishing, but at times still ever present, fear of failure. This prompt was something very simple and was right in front of my eyes. My baby girl sat in her highchair eating peas! 

One lunchtime I was watching my daughter eating her lunch. She picked each pea up with her thumb and forefinger, one by one, and tried to put them in her mouth. It was slow and at times a fruitless process, with probably only a 30% success rate at best. But this did not deter her. She was not bothered. In fact, she was even having fun. She laughed as she missed her mouth entirely and dropped them on the floor for me to pick up. You see she wasn’t afraid of failing or getting it wrong, she just kept trying. She also wasn’t concerned about what I thought of her or what she was doing. 

As adults, we can be guilty of talking ourselves out of attempting something for fear of making a mistake or looking foolish.

We often prefer not to try. We don’t want to get it wrong and we worry what others will think of us if we do. Our ego steps in to protect us. Better to stick with what we know, even if we don’t like it, than experience something new or challenging, especially if it doesn’t work out the way we had hoped.

However, fear of failure can cripple and freeze us in a time and place we don’t want to be.

I have been as guilty of this as the next person. I am a recovering perfectionist who has lived with a big fear of failure. I have spent years hiding myself, worrying too much what others think of me, what I do and how I live my life. I have been fearful of judgement or even worse, being ridiculed by others. So finally stepping out of my own shadow, giving things a go and picking myself up each time I fall, has been a slow and challenging process. I don’t claim always to get this right. I am still learning, but I am much better at this than I used to be. When I feel myself going off track, I can catch myself much sooner. I also don’t judge myself in the same way. Judgement isn’t helpful and only makes us and the situation feel much worse.

Many of my clients are afraid of failure.

Acknowledging this fear in the first place, continues to be the best way to address it.

They can then begin to work through their limiting beliefs and blocks. Being prepared to give new things a go and follow their passion also means they have moved one step closer to erasing the fear of failure in the long term. Unfortunately, however, this journey isn’t something that just happens overnight and it can often be full of setbacks. But the good news is that it is possible.  With enough determination, my clients have shown that every person can not only eliminate their fear but also achieve their dreams and ultimately set themselves free.

So I’m sure that many of you can relate to a fear of failure. However, you too can get one step closer to realizing your dreams if you are prepared to try. Being willing to get it wrong and not worrying so much what others think of you, just like my baby girl eating peas, is also paramount. Learning that it’s none of your business what others think of you, is probably one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself. Doing these things and also remembering that ‘Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right’ (Henry Ford), will help ensure fear of failure does not remain with you as you travel through your life. How liberating would that be!

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Sarah Willoughby

Sarah Willoughby is a Spiritual Development Mentor and Writer with a passion for inspiring and empowering people all over the world to be the best version of themselves. Also a Reiki Practitioner and Intuitive Healer, Sarah is committed to helping people to live more loving and peaceful lives.

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  1. I Am Old All Alone And Out Of Work Broke And Have Humongous Debt” I Have A Humongous Fear Of People” I Have Been Offered An Awesome Opportunity To Get Out Of Debt “Merchant Processing” With The Best Of The Best” Top Merchant Processing Company There Is” My Problem Is To Make The Call” Just Pick Up The Phone And Make The Calls” I Am Afraid” I Needs This So Bad But I Am Afraid To Do It”???…

    1. Hi Don, I’m sorry to hear you are having a difficult time. When the Universe presents us with opportunities we need to walk towards our fears so that we can move past them. I understand how hard this can be so be gentle with yourself and breathe. Go out into nature and clear your head, this will help you connect with your soul which has all the answers. Good luck Don, Sarah

  2. Beautiful article is so meaningful to me. Life is hard enough without having other things like illness to deal with , it makes it that more challenging yto cope with. Like myself I have to deal with a cancer one that attacks the with plasma making you an anemia , are having frgile bones which could break just by sneezing. I’ve had at least four rounds of radiation to decrease the pain and kill the myeloma cell on the bone. It has not been easy I’ve been taking chemo meds several of them to help decrease my myeloma numbers in my blood so that I can get ready for the stem cell transplant using my own stem cells, it’s just seems like everytime I start my treatment plan the chemo meds cause my immune system to get so low I picked up puenomonia just this last two months I was put in the hospital for two weeks put on three types antibiotics twice a day. Thank God I got better. Now I’m starting over again with chemo meds to get my numbers down. I pray and hope this time I’m stronger to with stand the meds and finally reach the goals to be ready for stem cell transplant. I’m not always strong and times I ask God to give me the strength to endure , but I’m do tired I want to give up fighting , I have no support usually I go along for treatments and drive myself which isn’t good because I could be weak after treatment. But God has always seen me through even though I don’t see him I know he’s willing me. I’m thankful to God for being with me by my side in the midst of trails , suffering , pain. I’m fearful at times that after going through it all it may not heal my disease. I’m praying that my faith will get even stronger to heal my disease in Jesus name Amen. Please keep me in your prayers that I w reach my numbers and get the stem cell transplant and stay in remission for many years to come. Thank you !!! God bless all of you !

    1. Dear Trina, thank you for your feedback and taking the time to share your story. I am so sorry to hear how challenging life is right now, I will keep you in my prayers. Wishing you all the best for the future, Sarah

  3. Today i thank McGill family for sharing this powerful motivating message …your concern for us who are going through this extremely worse relationship and wants to quit as soon as possible… yes i am an acute victim of it… I want to live again ..start a new life …i know its not easy..i hv to fight many more legal sessions…but i hope that god will sail me through…and some wellwishers like you all will be there to pray for me….thanks once again to all of you…

  4. Faillure is also a lie imbedded in us in our society ,we are forced to accept , no more that is wrong as turn on a crooked road , i refuse to except that ever 000

  5. Great article. Working with NY Times best selling author, Neale Donald Walsch I have come to know his understanding his words of, “There is no such thing as failure,” However, society does call it that.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Laurie. Yes I agree, every ‘failure’ only takes us one step closer to success but society doesn’t always see it that way. Great to connect with you Laurie, Sarah

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