Overcoming my fear of failure

Overcoming my fear of failure

 “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”

Roy T. Bennett

Life is in stages, where you are right now is exactly where someone else wants to be. Does that mean you should stop aspiring for more? Should you let the fear of failure hold you back?

No, if you want more, aim for more!!!

This is a fact applicable to everyone and something I started telling myself because I have had a lot of struggles with fear and I have been badly affected by it, in so many ways.

My spiritual life

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My family is fairly religious, so praying and church activities aren’t new to me. I always believed that whenever I prayed, my prayers will always be answered….

Until I began to worry that they may not be answered, and I got afraid of what would happen if I don’t get what I pray for.

Gradually, I let that fear dictate the path I took. I started to pray less and go to church less. I went from going to church weekly (some times twice on Sundays) and on some weekdays to not going at all for months at a time.

Went from praying whenever I felt anything (happy, sad, confused, nervous, troubled, etc.) to just saying Thank you Jesus when I felt those things.

Majority of this happened within my Ph.D program. I am not happy that this happened but sometimes some deep personal crisis can manifest itself in so many ways.

Mine always latches on to a weakness I have which is fear. I am always afraid of almost everything. (Apparently fear of failure is also called Atychiphobia.)

Other aspects of my life

I am generally afraid to let myself or the people who care about me down. While many others will handle this differently and thrive to be better, not me, I’ll fall deeper in it, freeze and do nothing.

In my head, I’ll rather do nothing that fail at it.

This is a very dangerous place to be. I was so afraid of failing that I wouldn’t even try because I know that if I start, I won’t quit so rather than focusing on the fact that I will not quit if I start, I focus on  what might happen if I fail.

As irrational as it is, I would be afraid of what could happen and what wouldn’t happen. I would figure out the worst case scenario first before I try to convince myself that I was wrong. Many times, I fail, a few other times I succeed.

I would find myself saying things like:

“if I don’t pray about it, I won’t be upset if I fail”

“if I don’t apply for that job, I won’t be sad if I’m not called for an interview”

when I do get an interview I think “if I decline this, I won’t be upset if I don’t get the job”

You can see how limiting and terrible these thoughts are, I am basically telling myself

“if I don’t try at all, I won’t be upset if I don’t get the desired outcome”. In the end, I don’t try and then I beat myself up for not trying.

Why I didn’t get help

In all these thoughts, I didn’t think anyone could help because I couldn’t properly articulate what I was feeling, so I buried it for years.

Even when I tried to explain it to someone, I would be told “there are lots of opportunities for you, why aren’t you taking advantage of them?” or

“what do you mean by you are afraid, there’s nothing to be afraid of” or “feel the fear and do it anyway”

While all these might be true, they didn’t get me any close to getting out of the hole I had dug for myself. I was sinking deeper while I watched the hours go by, days and then weeks till I’m behind on everything I need to do.

Eventually, I get to them and do a fairly good job even with the limited time I have, which means that if I gave myself more time by starting earlier, I would do an even better job. Then I beat myself up for not starting sooner and the cycle continues, round and round it goes.

You see being afraid of failing or of things that may or may not of even happen, makes you afraid of what you have, afraid of what you don’t have, and even afraid of what you could lose if you try, without any proof that any of it makes even the smallest of sense.

It is very irrational and illogical. Its like being afraid of existing.

What I am doing about my fear of failure

I eventually found what could help, I started journaling….for real this time. I wrote down my thoughts about things I didn’t do, things I want to do, what/who I want to be and who am I right now and why I didn’t do most of the things I wanted to do.

I began to slowly figure myself out layer by layer and understand my thought process. It dawned on me that most of my choices were rooted in fear (and imposter syndrome).

My fear was paralyzing and if I was going to get out of this, I needed genuine help. So in addition to journaling, I began to remind myself of the things I was initially worried and terrified about that I got done and eventually excelled in. I also got myself a mentor.

Another thing I’m learning to is to be my own parent, this has nothing to do with losing my parents. It is more about the discipline we instill on the people for whom we are responsible.

We can easily tell children to go do their homework, wash the dishes, go to bed on time and even regulate their play time, why not do that for yourself?

Gradually I found myself stepping into things I was putting off, which included starting this blog (I was worried that no one will read it). I just told myself that if no one reads, I will.

In a nutshell, my biggest resistance comes from fear – my fear of failure and the unknown. Rather than starting or following through with my plans, I’ll look at the amount of work it’ll take to get it exactly how I want it. Then I’ll wonder if I’ll get it right which leads to fear and then I don’t bother.

The major things I hope that you get from all this rambling is:

  1. It’s okay to be afraid but it is very dangerous to let that fear hold you back.
  2. When someone tells you that he/she is afraid, believe him/her, the person is probably more terrified than he/she is letting on.
  3. If someone tells you she/he is struggling, believe her/him, it’s not very easy to be vulnerable and admit failure.

I’m an expert in “fear of failure” so I’m not going to give you any tips on how to overcome it just yet because I’m still working on that.

I will however share what I’ve learnt so far:

  • Journaling helped me identify the cause.
  • I remind myself that failure is inevitable.
  • Failure is temporary so no matter what, I will succeed more times than I fail.
  • Lastly, it’s okay to fail. After all, it gives me room to improve.

When I figure out how to completely  get ahead of the fear I feel every time I want to start something new. I’ll be sure to share that.

My uncle once told me that success has no excuse only failure does. I remind myself of that often as I try not to use fear as an excuse, rather as a reason to succeed.

Yes, I’ll fail a few times like I had done many times before but I am here despite the fear and I’ll keep growing  regardless.

For you

What have you been afraid of doing? Have you gotten to the root of your fear? Take some time to yourself, you may use the questions here as a guide to get to know yourself a bit better, and help yourself out of that crippling state.

Yes, we all need support but changing the course of your life, starts with you.

And remember, many people don’t know what they are doing, they just make it up as they go along.

“Life is not easy for any of us, but what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted in something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

Marie Curie


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Feature photo by Pixabay

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  1. The opening quote is one of my favs “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”I found myself nodding to almost every paragraph of this piece. Thank for sharing your experience and steps you have taken. I will definitely revisit Journalling and this time I hope for real.

    1. Yea Henny, Please start journalling again. When you get an answer please share. I’m still looking for more tips.

      Thanks for stopping though

  2. Thank you so much Chigo, I needed this. I’ve been so paralysed by fear. Thank you for the guidance on how I can do a thorough self introspection.

  3. I relate to this so much! I get bogged down by fear and stop trying, thinking if I don’t try, I won’t be hurt by failure. It doesn’t make me happy and I’m attempting to work my way through it. I may try some of your suggestions. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Veronica. I hope the suggestions work for you. So far these have been helping me through but I also still have a long way to go.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! It’s so easy to let fear dictate our lives. These past few years I’ve really been trying to make an effort to not let fear keep me from “living” and doing things that I know will be good for me in the end

    1. Yes it is very easy to let fear dictate our lives, it literally requires no effort.

      I’m glad you are making an effort too. We’ll both win this.

      Thanks Kalin for stopping by. (I got your message about the accidental anonymous comment)

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