How to Overcome Fear of Failure

When you fall on the street the first feeling is usually embarrassment. Embarrassment and shame will become first, even before the pain.How to Overcome Fear of Failure

The first reasonable thought would be to check do you have any broken bones, or did you get any scratches, but your first thought will be “did anyone see that I did fall?”

After you check that there is nobody around, nobody is watching, you will check your clothes. If your clothes are dirty, it would be embarrassing to walk with dirty jeans whole day. You are not that worried of your knee that hurts like hell.

Similar behaviour applies to any failure or fear of failure – officially called as Atychiphobia. You are not afraid of actual failure. You are afraid of the embarrassment and shame. You are worried what people will think of you. You will think your credibility or authority will decrease.

So, how to overcome fear of failure?

Unless you are pilot or surgeon failures do not really matter. Most of us do not work in positions where every minute would matter or mistakes would be life threatening.

If you need to avoid constantly the failure, it becomes very stressful and heavy for you. It is like walking all the time on ice so that you need to avoid falling. You wont advance fast and it takes a lot more strength to go forward. Same thing applies to life and work. If you need to work and live so that you avoid failure all the time, you wont go forward, you wont develop and you will become stressed.

Causes of extreme fear of failure are deep and usually tied to your childhood or to failures that have placed you to uncomfortable situations. Our brain emphasizes bad experiences, and if you are not exposed to similar situations without failure,  your fears will  grow inside your mind.

A fear of public speaking, even it has its own name glossophobia, is one form of fear of failure. You can be afraid of several aspects of public speaking, but mostly you are afraid of making some sort of mistake that makes you look ridiculous.

Abnormal fear of failure can be diagnosed as mental problem  and there is no cure or medicine that would help you to overcome it.

Even in bad cases of any phobia the methods are more in your hands.

1. You need to meet the situations you fear
2. You need to be exposed to your fears – which means you should fail more often.

People who can cope with failures are most likely be more successful in life. If you think of athletes, that are constantly exposed to failing. If athletes would be afraid of failing, they could not go to competitions at all. For them failures are part of life, which causes disappointments, but also makes the success more worth it.

Fear of failure is a modern problem. Media and we in social media are building a picture of some imaginary life where everything is perfect all the time. We live in full happiness, without failures and success always follows us – and if not it is the end of the world.

Methods and practices found to help fear of failure are:

1. Define the worst case scenario. What will happen if you fail? Usually the worst case scenario is not that bad or is a lot better than you think.

2. Define what is even worse than worst case scenario. If you think what would be worse in life or work than your failure. How you could fail even worse. It will help you to put your failure in scale.

3. Split things  and work to smaller pieces. When you do smaller and smaller things, you can’t fail badly.

4. Practice and be well prepared. This applies specially to presentations and public speaking, but also many aspects of other work. In IT we have sometimes big upgrades, migrations or releases. If you practice and prepare you won’t have unexpected failures when you are performing the real work.

5. Define what failure means to you. If you define what failure is to you, you can work more precisely on how to overcome and avoid it or how to accept it.

6. Try to fail on purpose. If possible, fail deliberately. You will learn to fail and see nothing really happens.

7. Follow how others fail and take notes (at least in your mind). Easiest way to see how others fail is public speaking. Failures are everywhere.

8. Don’t hide your failures. Share them. They often turn to something you can laugh together with your friends and colleagues.

9. Remember that the expert is the person who has done all the failures already.


Here are three videos of well-known masterminds talking about success and failure. I hope they help you to accept failing.

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