Fear of failure can be truly debilitating. Your negative thoughts can totally keep you stuck in that darkest little corner of your mind. And sometimes, you just sit there, in that corner – alone, frozen. Not being able to do the things you want in life.
Fear of failure can be so all-consuming, that it keeps you from being the magical Silent Superwoman that you really are.
And since that would be such a shame, I decided to write you this extensive post on fear of failure. A guide to reduce self-critical and negative thoughts. And to get you out of that corner and start living your true potential. Because you deserve it – even if it doesn’t feel like you do.
Where does Fear of Failure come from?
Before we start with the actual steps to reduce fear of failure, let me explain a bit about its origins.
Usually, fear of failure is a consequence of a social situation. More specifically: one in which you experienced either rejection or feelings of shame and guilt.
Memories of the Past
In my case, it all got more severe when I was in primary school. I always scored really high on tests. And my notebooks were filled with stickers and pen curls: signs that I did something right.
But I remember that one day, the teacher gave me back my corrected notebook. And she said something like: ‘A bit less than I expected’. I can’t quite recall the exact words… But what I DO remember was the huge impact of the way she said it! My heart started beating really fast. And I was nervous opening my notebook.
When I opened it, I found out that I made a lot more mistakes in my algebra calculations than usual. I felt terrible about it!
It’s one of several school-related events that really pushed me more towards fear of failure.
Can you recall any events that added to your fear?
High Sensitivity and Fear of Failure
There’s three more common things that can really add to your fear of failure. And they are stuff that you’re born with, so to say.
If you’re highly sensitive, your nervous system is a bit different from those of other people. Scientific research has found some evidence that HSP’s (highly sensitive people) have more nerve endings. Meaning that you simply pick up a lot more stimuli from the outside (and inside) world. HSP’s often are more susceptible to the wants and needs of other people. Which makes them more prone to fear of failure, non?
How about AD(H)D and Fear of Failure?
When you have AD(H)D, the receptors in your brain that are supposed to pass on dopamine signals are not working properly. Meaning you are less sensitive to dopamine (= you need dopamine to feel good), meaning you need more ‘dopamine-shots’ than other people. And let me tell ya, criticism from a teacher doesn’t give a child with AD(H)D that much-needed shot… An AD(H)D-brain is good at overthinking. And therefore, it makes AD(H)D’ers more prone to negative thoughts and fear of failure too. Apart from the fact that AD(H)D generally causes different, hyperactive – or the opposite, dreamy – behaviour. Causing teachers and other people to criticise a child with AD(H)D even more, because ‘they don’t behave normally’.
Fear of Failure and the Introverted Brain
As an introvert, your brain is wired differently too. Information from the outside and inside world is processed via a different neural pathway compared to extroverts. Therefore, it takes much longer to process information. This makes it much needed for introverts to spend time alone, by themselves. To recharge their batteries and let the information slowly sink in. And when introverts spend time alone, they generally love being inside their own heads. Thinking, philosophising, coming up with new solutions to problems and so on. This tendency to pull back and be inside their own minds though, also has a ‘dark side’ to it. The pitfalls of introverts can be overthinking and overanalysing. Making introverts more prone to developing fear of failure as well.
How to Fight and Let Go of Fear of Failure?
As you have probably guessed by now: letting go of your fear of failure is far from a simple task. It has probably been in your system for many, many years, and has to do with letting go of control. Every time you need to do a task for work, or help someone out, you’re taking the Self-Doubt Highway. And like any other form of behavioural change, we’re going to try driving on another road. Build a new Highway and use that one instead. BUT: building a new Highway inside your brain takes time. And therefore, it takes a lot of patience…
Patience is your BFF
If you want to learn how to let go of your fear of failure once and for all, you’re going to have to make patience your best friend forever. As human beings, we can be terribly impatient with ourselves when trying to shift behaviour.
Why is that so bad, you ask?
Well, first of all, we tend to take huge steps forward when trying to change our behaviour. We want to be at the end goal now, rather than later. But taking big steps is going to cause frustration, because you’ll end up way too far outside of your comfort zone. Or even inside the pain zone. And that’s an area you don’t want to visit… Because when you’re in the pain zone, all your brain wants to do is to quickly get you back into that comfort zone… Safe and sound. So you end up disappointing yourself, because you feel like you’ve failed. Yet again. And that’s exactly what you’re trying to prevent here (and the second good reason why it’s wise to make patience your BFF)!
Letting go of Fear of Failure: The Next Steps
Ok, so you’ve just befriended your patience. Now what? Try following these steps, to fight your fear of failure and get rid of it once and for all:
Step 1: Know Your Comfort Zone
Get very clear on what your comfort zone is – where do you NOT experience fear of failure?
Step 2: Define Your Pain Zone
Then, define your pain zone – in what situations is your fear of failure the absolute worst? What are the most awful situations that you can think of? (Don’t go there, for now.)
Step 3: Your Growth Zone
The area in the middle is your growth zone – what are situations in which you wish you can let go of your fear a bit more? What are situations you avoid, due to your fear of failure? (Hint: these are often situations that seem hard to you, but not undoable.)
Step 4: Realise it ain’t gonna be pretty…
Realise and accept that you will have to do stuff you don’t like – things, that cause you to feel extra anxiety for a while. This is normal and is part of the growth process! Everyone who goes through this same phase, experiences a similar peak in anxiety.
Step 5: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Start doing things that are within your growth zone – for many people, this means ‘failing’ on purpose (!!). Yes, you read that right. Failing. On purpose. Doing something you’re scared as hell about. Start with something like: being 5 minutes late for an appointment on purpose. Or: making a report but deliberately leaving one tiny thing or detail out. Slowly build it up from there. Or perhaps even: if you’re creative and you love to draw, try just sketching with pen for a bit. If you love making music, try hitting notes off-key.
Step 6: Notice What Comes Up
Notice what thoughts arise – and then challenge them. Are they 100% true? How do you know? What positive or neutral thoughts can you put in place of the negative ones? And so on.
Step 7: Learn Mindfulness
Be mindful – mindfulness really helps to pull you away from your negative thoughts and worries, and put you into the moment. Into the here-and-now, where you belong 🙂 Mindfulness exercises can be found anywhere across the internet.
Step 8: Repetition is KEY
Repeat – repetition and patience are everything. Your brain needs to learn to slow down, and not worry so much. To attain such state of mind, you first have to practice… a LOT.
That’s basically it. Sounds simple, but I know it’s not. I’ve been there, I’ve been you.
But hey, like Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ once said:
You’ll get there eventually, I believe in you.
And if you want help with this: why not book a FREE 1-hour Power Call with me? In which we gain clarity on your business and what is blocking you from creating/manifesting more success and money in your life!
There’s limited spots a month – just 5, actually!! Going fast 😉
With love, Jamila.