How to Overcome the Fear of Failure
Most of us are crippled with fear of failure. Self-doubt and being afraid that we will fail keeps you, and many others from working towards what they really want. How can you overcome the fear of failure? How can we work towards our goals without the crippling feeling that we will fail? Here are some tips to help you overcome the fear of failure.
Develop a growth mindset
According to psychologist Carol Dweck, there are two kinds of mindsets. A fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A person with a fixed mindset is set on worrying about how their abilities are not enough. They are afraid of failure and hardly ever bounce back when faced by challenges.
A person with a growth mindset is open to failure and understand that failure does not dictate the end but it is part of the process. Developing a growth mindset meaning your mindset to one that does not seek perfection but takes failure as part of the learning process.
In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck shows that developing a growth mindset helps us perceive fear differently. What exactly are you afraid of? Looking stupid? Not being perfect?
There was no single person who was born knowing everything. Everyone learned what they know at some point. Fearing failure is like fearing to learn. A growth mindset will help you understand your fear and change your thinking about it. Here are some ways through which you can develop a growth mindset.
Remove shame from failure
We fear failure because of how it makes us look to others and how it makes us feel. No one wants to feel or look stupid. However, we have been brought up in such a way that failure is associated with shame. We are taught that we should be embarrassed by failing and consciously or unconsciously, we live by this narrative.
To overcome the fear of failure. We must remove shame from failure. We must be ready to fail over and over and keep rising no matter how many times we fail. A toddler that is learning to walk does not decide, ‘well, this walking thing is not for me’ when they fall for the umpteenth time. Instead, they still keep going with their dignity intact.
These four books address how we can remove shame from failure;
- Daring greatly
- You are a badass
And in this Ted Talk, Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit, discusses how we need to be ready to fail over and over, and still rise and push on.
Another way to overcome the fear of failure is to embrace fear. Most people that succeed don’t do so because they are not afraid, they do despite their fear. They embrace fear and learn to work even when they are afraid.
In his book, Originals, how non-conformists move the world, Adam Grant says that non-conformists are afraid. They have self-doubt. However, despite this, they still do what they need to do, with all the doubt and fear still hovering over them.
The same is echoed by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. He says that fear comes to us in the form of resistance. Rather than admit that we are afraid, we find other things to do. We procrastinate.
Fear of failure does not come out easily and shout ‘I am the fear of failure’. Instead, it comes in the form of avoidance, procrastination, not having ‘time’ to do what we need to do.
I have discussed how to embrace your fear to stop it from crippling you. Learn how to work with your fears and become equipped enough to overcome the fear of failure.
- The war of art
‘The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt’- Sylvia Plath
The same way you embrace your fear, you need to embrace self-doubt. Doubting ourselves comes because we are afraid. We are so afraid of not being enough that we choose not to try rather than trying and failing.
You can embrace and overcome self-doubt and stop feeling like an impostor. You can develop more belief in yourself and your abilities. Self-doubt will kill more dreams than inability ever will.
Improve your skills
It is good to have a positive attitude and optimism to overcome the fear of failure. However, blind optimism is futile if you are not good at what you do. Improving your skills and expertise will give you more confidence to attempt what you need to. It will give you more tools to achieve what you want.
To overcome your fear of failure, work on improving your skills. Embrace deliberate practice and master your skills. If you are a writer, write more and become better at it. If you are any form of creative, work on mastering your art and become better at it.
Improve your skills through self-education. You can become better at anything by taking courses in this area. If you need to improve your communication skills or leadership skills, take courses in this and educate yourself. The better you get at your skills, they seem to become more natural and effortless and you gain more confidence in them.
Less worrying and thinking, more action
Overthinking will only inject you with more fear. The more you think about something, the more you will find loopholes in it. Overthinking will make you think that you are not good enough. It will make you worry more and do less.
To overcome the fear of failure, it is time to stop worrying and thinking too much and focus more on the action. Start getting things done. Clarity comes with action.
Do you want to write a book? Dou you want to publish a paper? Get started. Do you need to start a blog, get started? Do you to start a business, get started. You will never know what happens until you start.
What if you fail? True, you could fail, but what if you succeed? Overthinking makes you look at the negative sides of everything and ignore all the possible positive outcomes.
Start doing. This is what we call getting things done, in spite of fear.
Stop seeking perfection
Are you constantly seeking to be perfect? This could be standing in the way of your creativity and productivity. Fear of failure also comes from thinking that your work will not be perfect.
To overcome this fear, stop seeking perfection. Seeking perfection stops you from getting things done.
First, the people who seek perfection have a fixed mindset. They think that they will be judged on what they produce and worry so much about appearing perfect. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are not worried about being perfect or being number one, because they take their work as a learning process.
Secondly, seeking perfection keeps you from producing, or what David Allen calls ‘Shipping’ in his book Getting Things Done.
In his book, Originals, Adam Grant says that the best people in their field didn’t succeed because they spent a lifetime working on one piece of art or publication. No. they wrote many of them, it’s their audience that determined what the masterpiece is.
Albert Einstein wrote many papers, but just a couple are popular. Maya Angelou has written 6 biographies but we know her through ‘I know why the caged bird sings’. This means that seeking perfection and working on one thing over a while will deny you the time you could have used making other arts and your audience will choose what they love.
To overcome the fear of failure. Stop seeking perfection. Get to work, produce more and start shipping. When you are busy producing, you think and worry less about how perfect your work will be. You hit two birds with one-stop, you stop fearing failure, and you get work done.
Be open to criticism
We all receive criticism and feedback differently. Some are inspired by it, some are broken by it. One of the reasons many of us fear failure is because we are more afraid of how others will say about us.
You have to be open to criticism. Whatever you do, there will always be feedback and criticism. Be open to criticism. I discussed earlier how to receive feedback and criticism like a boss. Once you learn how to take in criticism, you can focus less on worrying and more on getting things done.