Why People Fear Failure
No-one likes to be thought of as a failure, however failing isn’t always a bad thing. Not succeeding the first or even second time around can help us learn. So why is it that we cringe at the mere thought of failure and hang our heads in shame when we don’t achieve our goals?
Perhaps the greatest problem we associate with failure has to do with how we imagine other people view us. The idea that they may not hold us in high regard can be responsible for us holding back instead of trying something new. It can also be the cause of us feeling wretched and losing confidence when we try but don’t succeed.
Fear of failure is likely to stem from shame. Shame is a useless emotion unless an immoral act is committed and it prevents someone from repeating the performance. Apart from on such an occasion it can cause deep pain and lower self esteem. The shame we believe failure will bring is far worse than not succeeding.
Most people would fear failure much less if they could be sure no-one was going to judge them. Without anyone to see their failure, or think badly of them they would have no reason to worry.
Interestingly the shame many of us feel when we fail stems from an illusion which is self imposed. Much of the time we imagine that other people judge us harshly, or even that they care as deeply about our successes and failures as we do personally. People who really do care aren’t ashamed or disappointed in us if we don’t get things right all the time. The shame we feel can be put down to how we think other people see us.
This is why fear of failure ultimately comes from low self esteem. It is low self esteem which makes us judge ourselves harshly and leads us to imagine other people do too. Once we become more confident we can gain self belief and are less likely to blame ourselves so badly when we don’t achieve our aims.
People who have high self esteem are less likely to look to themselves when a mistake occurs, and they don’t always blame themselves when failure happens. They look outside of themselves for an explanation, and then try again until they succeed. Someone with low self esteem on the other hand disregards outsides influences and immediately sees themselves as the cause of having failed.
If you are afraid to step into the unknown and try new things or to follow your dreams don’t let insecurity hold you back. That nagging, nervous voice inside of you which tells you not to try in case you fail is low self esteem talking, and isn’t an indication of your skills and capabilities.
Everyone fails now and then. Failure is a necessary part of growth, as without it there would be times when no learning takes place. There is no shame in failure, apart from that which you imagine.
Shame from failure is not only a useless emotion, it is also a toxic emotion, and getting rid of the shame just from failure will help you continue on your path without fear of failure.
Another reason for the fear of failure is letting others down. This can be letting your family down, your coworkers down or your teammates down. This is a terrible feeling, but needs to be overcome so you can continue to be motivated to try and try again.
The shame a person feels when they fail at something, is imagined, and the imagination can be a terrible thing at times like this. Our imagination can conjure up all kinds of terrible scenarios that are most likely never going to happen and are way overblown.
There are signs that you might have a real fear of failure, and this fear can hold you back from ever trying and or accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Signs that you have a fear of failure include the following:
- Failing makes you worry that people will lose interest in you if you fail.
- You worry about disappointing people whose opinion you value.
- Failing makes you worry about what other people think about you.
- You tend to tell people beforehand that you don’t expect to succeed in order to lower their expectations. This habit can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where you practically guarantee yourself that you will fail.
- The fear of failing makes you worry about your ability to pursue the future you desire.
- You tend to procrastinate, and get distracted by tasks that prevent you from completing your task.
Just know you have tried your best. Think positive and learn from your mistakes. There is an old saying by Albert Einstein, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” Never be afraid of trying, and if you fail, at least you tried.
There are a couple of ways that can help you overcome your fear of failure.
- Own the fear. This means that is important that you accept that failure makes you feel both fear and shame. The best way to overcome this is to talk it out with someone you fully trust or possibly a therapist. Do not make excuses for the failure of your feelings.
- Always focus on the things you can control. Understand the task or preparation that are in your control and focus on those. Make a written plan to fix what you at first failed at. Plans on paper, make you feel motivated and focused.