Dealing with the fear of failure is not everyone’s cup of tea. Walt Disney got fired from a job because his editor found him ‘unimaginative’.
He also lost his rights to his first cartoon character that became popular – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! It was only his resilience to the fear of failure that led him to come up with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and eventually – the Disneyland.
Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft), Steve Jobs (who founded Apple Inc), David Sanders (who started KFC at the age of 65), and JK Rowling (the impoverished divorced lady whose stories made her wealthier than the Queen of England in due course) are just some brilliant examples of people who changed their lives by not letting their failures come in the way of their success.
Thomas A. Edison, the very famous scientist who invented the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, famously said:
Atychiphobia or the Fear of Failure is a real thing. It can be the most crippling emotion that you experience – making you avoid the challenges or opportunities of life almost subconsciously.
Below are some of the ‘symptoms’ of the fear of failure. These signs indicate that you might be hampering your own success just because you are not ready to ‘fail’ again:
You Doubt Your Capabilities:
When we fail once, we often form false and limiting conclusions such as ‘I am too young or too old or too stupid to do a certain thing‘. We also fall into the trap of telling ourselves ‘I can’t do a certain task’ and avoid learning it. These self-limiting beliefs may be a result of experiences or criticism you may have faced earlier in life or the social norms and values you grew up with.
It is important to recognize which of these beliefs are valid and which of these are just inhibitory in nature and keeping you away from your success.
You Fall Sick at the Last Minute:
We all have experienced last-minute jitters and butterflies in the stomach just before entering the examination hall or going on stage or before proposing to the love of our lives. Most of us overcome it, square our shoulders and go ahead with whatever needs to be done.
Those who have fear of failure may experience actual physical symptoms such as the sudden onset of a headache, stomachache or nausea – anything that can give them an excuse to stall the task.
If you are feeling ill all of a sudden just before a major presentation, you might be suffering from a psychological problem rather than a physical one.
You Procrastinate Tasks:
As early as in 1992, researchers at New York University found that procrastination has its roots in the fear of disapproval and failure. The study covered 131 youths and found that the ‘urge to be perfect’ and ‘procrastination‘ often went hand-in-hand.
Suppose you are a management student who is a perfectionist. But then, you are afraid that even if you give your best to a particular project, you may end up failing or not get decent grades. You delay researching and writing papers on one pretext or the other (such as ‘I have other work which is more important’ or ‘I just don’t feel like doing it right now’) until the last minute.
In the end, you seek management assignment help from others. In this way, if you do fail, you could always have an excuse that ‘you didn’t have enough time’ or ‘those who helped you with your assignment did not guide you correctly’.
If you put off things until the eleventh hour too, you might also be suffering from the fear of Failure.
You are a Changeling:
There are people who have a solid self-identity and are always authentic in nature – even if others around them don’t approve of them. And then, there are those who change their appearance, their opinions, and their favorite teams or political parties or bands according to the crowd they are in.
If you find yourself lying or morphing to fit your social surroundings, you might be afraid that people won’t like you if you stick to your guns. The price of this fear is that you either become fake or you turn into an introvert. In the first instance, you lose the respect of others and in the second instance, you start avoiding social situations.
You feel ashamed of your quirks and this shame and embarrassment trigger unnecessary stress responses. You keep guessing about what the other person is thinking rather than what you should be doing at the moment.
You Do Not Want to Disappoint People You Love:
Mike Robbins, the leadership coach, says that “it’s okay to disappoint people”. The disappointments are inevitable. When we are afraid of disappointing our family, friends, teachers, clients and all those who matter to us, we start withholding our expectations, our desires, and our true selves.
In the end, it is we who get the most hurt and disappointed and stressed out because we feel weighed down by others’ expectations and hopes. If you feel burdened by your parents’ or your spouse’s expectations too, remember what Dr. Seuss said:
You are Afraid of being Unwanted, Unloved or Abandoned:
The pain of being ignored, neglected or unwanted runs deep. The wounds of being considered unworthy or the second-best can not only affect one emotionally and psychologically but also physically and spiritually.
If you are bearing mistreatment or avoid doing things that feel right to you just because you don’t want others to avoid you, you are likely to get stuck in the cycle of self-pity, misery, and resentment. It is high time that we realize that as adults we do not need others to feel whole and complete.
We are capable of judging our own truth and be our own companion. Do not let this fear withhold you from taking steps that are necessary to achieve what you want in life.
You Forecast Your Failures:
Do you tend to tell others that you don’t expect to succeed in a particular contest or competition to lower other people’s expectations from you? This might be a symptom that you are anxious and doubtful about your success in it. Remember, these forecasts are hardly ever based on facts or realistic assessment of one’s abilities and yet, they are detrimental to one’s real performance.
Any time you take away from actual practice or hard work and the negative feedback you give to yourself (about what you can do and cannot do) will only add pressure and stress to your current situation. A positive attitude and complete focus define all the difference between success and failure.
You Seek Perfectionism:
The last words of Leonardo Da Vinci, the greatest painter of all times who is famous for works like ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘Mona Lisa’, were:
Perfectionism is a folly when it is accompanied by anxiety, fear, and stress. When we define our self-worth from the eyes of others and we fail to meet their standards, we feel ashamed and unworthy. Brené Brown, a shame researcher at the University of Houston, says that the shame is nothing but ‘an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.’ She also says that Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we carry around to minimize criticism, blame, and ridicule.
If perfectionism is what drives your life, there is a high probability that the fear of failure is the annoying backseat driver you are towing along too – and you are just not happy with the quality of work you do – ever.
You Just Cannot Imagine Your Way to Success:
When do you really fail? It’s when you give up.
Suppose you had a very, very ambitious goal for yourself – something that borders on being insane – such as you going to Mars. Your life and the life of everyone you love or like depends on you depended on it. What would you do?
You would totally focus on being successful rather than worrying about the million ways in which you can fail.
Most of us fail to reach that level of concentration because we get distracted by our past failures and stop trying to think of new ways to succeed. Beware of such a tendency!
Fear of failure is quite common. Every entrepreneur or achiever I know has experienced it firsthand. We feel scared to step out of our comfort zone. We tend to associate our self-worth and identity with the work we do and when things don’t turn out as expected, we feel that we are ‘losers forever’.
It is time we are aware of our fear of failure and takes steps to overcome it. If we want to be successful and happy, we need to get over our dread of being imperfect and turn each ‘failure’ into a learning experience. It means that each time we fail; we find something of value to learn from it and take another step towards our success and happiness.
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