Fear of failure is one of the main reasons many people do not even attempt to go after their dreams/what they are passionate about, or stops them from getting to the next level from where they currently are.
As a shy kid who had a fear of authority, I developed a hefty fear of failure which led to what Carol Dweck coined as a fixed mindset.
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them.“ (Dweck, 2015)
I remember that I would only raise my hand in class unless I was absolutely certain that I knew the answer, as to not look foolish in front of my classmates and get approval from the teacher. I would never attempt a guess and learn from the failure as some of my friends did who had more growth mindsets. Not until I became a personal coach did I really understand that failure itself is just a mental construct.
Let’s say you go after a goal to sell 25 of something and you only sell 3, you have the data of selling 3 items, but the emotional pain comes from what we make this data mean. In my case and often with my clients, we can make it mean that something went terribly wrong, or worse yet, something is wrong with us.
This isn’t to say that you don’t need to process feelings of disappointment when something fails, but I really encourage you to stop and notice what you make it mean when you fall short of your goals.
There are times that the more negative feelings we have about failure in general, the more of an aversion we will have about it. When we also try to avoid fear, it decreases our opportunities to grow.
However, when we learn that the more neutral or even positive feelings we can have around it, the more we will be willing to go after our goals, raise our hands in front of an audience, learn what we need to, or move forward.
I have helped myself and my clients shift from making it mean something terrible, to valuable information that you can use to try again the next time with some tweaking.
It is also important to note that there is no human experience that doesn’t include fear. It is programmed into us for survival sake, but if we are willing to allow that fear to come up and not push it away we can listen in to see what we are so afraid of.
The process that I use includes a combination of thought work, shadow work and intuition which really helps my clients succeed in dealing with the fear of failure, as opposed to eliminating it all together. This is what overcoming anything actually requires, a deep understanding of why it exists and then a plan to succeed with it, instead of fighting against it.
Once we have this understanding, we can come up with a plan to overcome it.
If you would like some help in becoming friends with your fear so it no longer stops you from going after what you want, I would welcome the opportunity to coach you on this topic, or any other emotion that is holding you back from getting what you want. You can schedule your connection call with me here.
Mind Your Strength,
Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.