Why you have a Fear of Failure

14th July 2023
Read time:  2 min 5 sec

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s not achieving what I set out to.

Failing.

However, as I and many guests on the podcast would note, you can’t hide from it.

Yet one truth remains: every single time I’ve failed, I’ve learnt and I’m still here.

But that doesn’t stop the idea of it feeling less daunting.

So let’s explore why we fear failure, how failure helps us and what to do moving forward.

The Causes

First off, it’s natural – we’re hardwired to fear threats. And failure is often seen as a threat.

Yet a bigger question should be, what is it a threat to? Is it our ego? Our expectations? Other’s expectations? Other’s opinions? Our own fear of not being good enough.

Past failures

If you’ve had something happen in the past where you’ve failed, it’s easy to think how you can fail again.

Tip: If you have had a failure in the past, visualise it happening again, what would you do differently? How do you want to respond to a situation like that this time?

Perfectionism

At the heart of being a perfectionist is the fear that the perfect outcome might not happen, which makes us hold off taking action, doubt ourselves and possibly miss an opportunity. Fearing failure is a big symptom of the perfectionistic mindset.

Tip: Embrace an imperfect self, celebrate the fact you’re human and able to get things wrong. Check out episode 163 & 164 of Raising Your Game for more on perfectionism.

Lack of skills

You may not feel equipped to deal with the situation in front of you. That feeling of incompetence can make you feel as if you’re not going to succeed if you try.

Tip: Make your training specific and challenging enough so that you feel you’ve achieved under difficult circumstances and gained confidence from that.

Yours and other’s expectations

Expectations are killings us. We set a level that we think we should be achieving when the reality is very different. We also feel the expectations of others and what failing could mean to them and our relationships with them.

Tip: Lower your expectations, but aim up. Set small achievable goals to get the ball rolling, and realise that others expectations of you are not in your control.

Lack of perspective

When failure is a possibility, or has happened in the past, it can make us feel that everything is a failure. When reality is that it’s a small moment in the grand scheme of things.

Tip: Take a moment to zoom out, look back over the last year. Are you in a better place than you were last year? Even if you’ve lost a lot, have you learn’t new ways in how not to do things? If the answer’s yes, you’re making progress.

How fear of failure can be a good thing

Eliminating wrong solutions

If you fail, you’ve learnt one way not to do something, moving you towards what could be the right way.

Drive us to improve

A different perspective to have of fearing failure is that it sets a high level of drive and motivation towards our goals.

The trick here is that we don’t allow this to take off and become unrealistic.

Having drive towards goals is great, but being paralysed by how big they are is not.

Finding new ways

Maybe the fact that we have failed is due to not adapting or perhaps our current ways are outdated.

This can drive us towards a needed change.

And that change could be exactly what we needed to hopefully create better outcomes.

How failure helps us

Fixing what could be the problem

When we fail, something may have gone wrong. There also may have been something out of your control.

But failure comes with a potential of something not going well for us.

So where may we be able to improve? What areas could I possibly be insufficient in?

In answering those questions, you’ll find action to work towards on what you can begin to do.

We learn about ourselves

When we fail we learn so much not only what we could fix, but more about who we are in the face of adversity.

We learn how we deal with challenges, how we manage ourselves in the times that are challenging.

Opportunity to stand out

While many others will fall to to the fear of failure, being able to embrace it provides a massive advantage.

If you’re courageous enough to embrace the fact that you might fail but in doing so you’ll be able to get to where you want to be sooner, you’ll gain headway on others.

Moving forward

It all starts with a change in perspective.

Starting to view failure as no longer an attack on your ability or who you are.

We often inadvertently place our self worth on what we achieve.

In other words, in order for us to be someone we feel we have to achieve something.

The trouble with this view is that, it’s not fully in our control. Outcome and results are not fully guaranteed, regards of how hard we try.

But what is in our control is our mindset, how hard we work and what we think of ourselves (our controllables).

Think about how your approach with failure will offer a chance to strengthen your character.

Another way to look at it is, the more you get your failures out the way, the closer you can get to what makes you more successful.

Whenever you're ready, there is a couple of ways I can help you:

MindStrong Sport App – Mental Skills Training for Athletes

Personal Mindset Coaching - Contact for more

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