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Causes of Fear of Failure

persistence-pays-offFinancial success or any kind of success requires work, effort, dedication, and confidence. Why confidence? The answer is simple. If you can believe it, you can achieve it; but if you don’t believe … then how can you achieve your goals? And what causes fear of failure?

Success is not only financial, it can be many things. Overcoming your fears of failure is already a great success. Finding your true purpose, doing the work you love, knowing yourself, completing a course, building your first website, perhaps even doing a bungee jump – why not? – climbing a mountain, anything really. Success is not always related to money, although becoming financially independent is certainly a big achievement as well.

So, in this post, I’d like to talk about the causes of fear of failure and how to overcome them. I’ll also discuss the different types of success, goal setting, and achieving your goals.

I’m also going to give you a heads up that this article will be a little different from my other ones, since I am going to share a personal experience here.

Table of Contents

  • – Causes of Fear of Failureplan
    • o Childhood Issues
    • o Perfectionism
    • o Lack of Confidence
  • – Overcoming Fear of Failure
  • – Goals and Success
  • – Goal setting

Causes of Fear of Failure

Many of us have been there, this fear of succeeding, this nagging voice in the back of our mind that’s telling us that we’re “never going to have that kind of money”, or we’re “never going to make it”, or – even worse – that we “don’t deserve it”. No, no, no, you have to stop that. I have had such thoughts too, and believe me, they are depressing. Thoughts are creative. You don’t want to make real everything you think, do you?

Well, if you’re thinking about Dracula, then rest assured, that thought cannot turn into reality, but in a way, negative thoughts do have the same effect that Dracula can have on the lithe body of a damsel in distress in a horror movie. Just like our fanged monster, negative thoughts are a different kind of monster that suck you dry of your energy and positivism.

Of course, there are causes for fear of failure. One that has the most lasting effect on an adult’s life is certainly childhood trauma or issues.

 

Childhood Issues

A child or an adolescent should not have to deal with parents’ abuse or issues. It’s hard enough being a teenager, isn’t it? I certainly remember that time. So, imagine going through the normal teenage stuff and then on top of that having to deal with psychological, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse? It is too much. Your childhood and adolescence should bring you warm and fond memories, they shouldn’t be cause for not wanting to remember.

I have been there too. I may not be a psychologist or a counselor, but I was a victim of psychological and emotional abuse in my childhood and adolescence, and it took me a long time to get over that. I did get over it, and I have regained the confidence that had been taken from me in my childhood, but the road to get there was long.

little-boy-afraid

That is why I am tackling this as the first issue in this post. I know how much it can affect a person, years into his/her adult life; and I know how it can drive you to make the wrong decisions and not have the confidence to take the right risks or go after your goals.

Traumas or abuse can make you feel as if nothing you do will ever turn out OK, or perhaps even less than OK. When parents treat you badly during your childhood, deep down you know that it isn’t right, but it is your life, and you know nothing else, do you? This is your world, and it is where you have to live. So, despite the knowledge of living in a bad environment, this abusive home becomes kind of “normal”, at least the kind of “normal” you are used to.

girl-sad

You may look at loving families with envy and feel a stab of pain in your heart, because it is denied to you. You may feel weepy every Mother’s Day when you observe other children get excited to surprise their moms. You may dread going home after school. You may wish for a normal, conflict free Christmas. But this is your “normal”.

Then, you become an adult, and your confidence is gone. You do not believe in yourself, and you end up making many bad decisions. While some people like to post those memes on social media that claim “don’t blame your past, you are responsible for your own decisions“, few understand that although you do make your own decisions, you might have made better ones if you had not been robbed of the one thing that you really needed in life: your confidence.

How do you get over that? How did I do it? It took me years, but I succeeded in making peace with my past. I am confident now, and I am clear about my goals and how I will achieve them. I am happy to say that I have already achieved some of my goals. Please read more on that in Overcoming Fear of Failure (further down in this article)

 

Perfectionism

We all know someone like that, or perhaps we find those traits in ourselves – when everything has to be perfect. Nothing can be left for tomorrow, no loose ends, no unfinished business … On the one hand that can be good, but on the other hand, it can be a factor for stress.

If you’re one of those people who cannot go home unless a certain task is completed, you need to relax. While it is certainly commendable to want to finish all pending issues on the same day, you can’t put that pressure on yourself. Aren’t you expecting a little too much?

arrowIt is OK, even recommended, to finish some important things at once, but it is also perfectly understandable if you’re leaving some pending stuff for the next day. They’re not going to run away. They’ll still be there in the morning. And it’s important to know that this controlling urge to end all pending work/projects today is easily abused by others.

What does this have to do with fear of failure? Well, it’s this need to control, born from the fear of not meeting your or someone else’s standards. It could perhaps even be a need to please others (your boss, partner, family, …) You do not have to please anyone but yourself. And never mind meeting someone else’s expectations. Sometimes you won’t ever satisfy anyone’s demands, and that’s OK too. Perhaps it is time to ask yourself what you want, and stop trying to please everybody else.

 

Lack of Confidence

We often tend to think that our work is not good enough or that it could be better. How often have I seen a teacher complementing the work of a student and the student answered “Really? I think this is terrible.”

When someone gives you a complement, be it about your work, your smile, eyes, legs, or whatever else it could be, you accept that complement. Thank the person. Why would you destroy this kind gesture by stressing how hairy your legs are or how mediocre you think your work is? If someone tells you that you shine, you smile and say thank you.

smile

As mentioned before, lack of confidence can come from childhood issues, bullying in school or at work, the “perfect”, “happy”, and skinny people that are depicted in magazines, or perhaps an innate belief that people in position of authority “know better”.

Chin up, smile, and strut your stuff. If you have a story to tell, write it down. If a painting is waiting to be born, then dip your paint brush in colors and start attacking that canvas. If you have a brilliant idea during a meeting, don’t be intimidated by others’ so called experience, tell them your idea. Put yourself out there.

Overcoming Fear of Failure

That’s all easily said and done: put yourself out there. It’s not that easy for many people, especially if you have spent years, or maybe even decades, in insecurity. Even worse, what if others close to you – such as parents, teachers, or friends – have continuously told you that you weren’t going to make it? What if they made you feel bad about yourself, your ideas, your work, your beauty? How do you get over that?

How did I get over it? How did I recapture the confidence that had been stolen in my childhood? Let me tell you that it wasn’t simple, and it took me years, but when you manage to shake the demons from your past, it feels as if you’re literally pulling a weight off your shoulders. If you carry a weight that is making you crouch, or if you know someone who is burdened by such a weight, then please continue reading. I will tell you what I did.

vision

Step 1

The most important thing is to want to do it. If you want to achieve something, then you will do it, it is that simple. The desire to succeed is an integral part of dropping the burden from your back.

Step 2

I cannot give you an exact step by step guidance, because everyone is different, but there were several things that worked for me. I will list them here and give a brief explanation.

  • Surround yourself with the right people. Well-meaning friends who will tell you that “everyone is going through their own stuff” are not helping. We all know that others have issues to deal with. Life’s problems don’t spare anyone; that doesn’t mean that we have no permission to feel bad about our own. People who listen, who are there for you, who believe in you, who know you, and who have faith in you, are the ones that you need. There are friends and then there are friends.When going through hard times your friends will fall through an invisible friendship sieve and the ones that get through to the bottom are the ones that you should keep. Be with people who are on the winning path. Why pull yourself down by surrounding yourself with people who are always complaining about the unfairness of life, and who do not do anything to better their own circumstances? As much as they have a right to complain, they also have to come to a point where they should just move on and get on with life. Don’t be burdened by toxic friends.

upset

  • Find peace. You can do that by listening to your favorite music and also calm, relaxing music; going for longs walks in the forest or at the beach (if you live near one); meditating; yoga classes, or any other classes that relax you or bring you peace of mind.
  • Forgive. I forgave my parents, but it took me years to get there. The last time I saw my father alive, he apologized to me. I think he knew that it was the last time we were seeing each other (I didn’t know it at that time – and we lived in different countries, so visits were rare). I forgave him at that moment and I got my peace. He passed away months later.

yoga-peace

  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. It really doesn’t help. A glass of wine may have a calming effect, but if you must have some, keep it to just one glass, perhaps two at the most 😉 , but no more than that.
  • Spoil yourself. Dedicate a certain amount of time to yourself every day. Regardless of how hard you work and how busy you are, reserve at least 30 minutes that are just for you. In that lapse of time you can pamper yourself a little, perhaps with relaxing music, lying in a hammock, cuddling with your kitty or with your dog, giving yourself a nice pedicure, a little foot bath (soo relaxing), anything that will give you that special royal treatment you deserve.

woman-in-hammock

  • Seek professional help. There is no shame in seeing a psychologist. You’re not crazy, you just need someone who will listen to you without judging you, and who will help you overcome your inner demons. It is their job to help. Find a psychologist you feel comfortable with.
  • Read self-help books. The ones that worked wonders for me were Gabrielle Bernstein’s books. I came across one by chance, or perhaps it wasn’t really such a coincidence. Perhaps I was meant to find that book on top of that pile in the office. I picked it up and read the title, “May Cause Miracles”, “a 40-day guidebook of subtle shifts for radical change and unlimited happiness.” I knew I had to take it home.When I saw that book, I was going through severe burn out, and Gabrielle’s book came as a gift from Heaven. I read it and followed her guidelines during 40 days. I did all of Gabrielle’s assignments, and I wrote quotes on post its and taped them to my kitchen cabinets. I bought a second book by her, and a third one. I love her work! Gabrielle knows what she is talking about. She is genuine and real, and if there is a self-help book that will help you find confidence and inner happiness, then it is certainly Gabrielle Bernstein’s.


On top of buying her book(s), you also get access to her website and may enjoy some free seminars. It sounds like I am promoting her now. I would never have ended up promoting her if her books hadn’t provided such an incredible help. I also lent a copy to a friend and I bought another copy of “May Cause Miracles” for my boyfriend. Both have given me positive reviews 🙂

Goals And Success

Set goals for yourself. Goals are not wishes, but they are objectives that you will reach. It is nice to have a wish, but a wish implies that it isn’t always possible, doesn’t it? A dream can become a goal, and a goal can be achieved. It is important to have goals to work towards. Like I mentioned before, surround yourself with the right kind of people, the kind that will support you and cheer you on. What is better than moving towards your successes together, in a constant, supportive community?

Goal Setting

Set your goals. Write them down. It is a good idea to set short-term and long-term goals. You could make a Word document or write it in a notebook and list your daily goals, weekly, monthly, your goals in six months time, in one year, even in two years. Why not? Once you have written this down, you have goals to work towards. They can be personal or business related. It could be about building your house, renovating your bathroom, smiling more often, writing that poem, a financial goal, finding your own apartment, anything.

Set your goals and then you do what you need to do to achieve them. Work, have the right mindset, put your goals out to the Universe, and be confident that you can reach them. There you are, here comes that confidence again. It is an essential ingredient for your recipe to achieve your dreams.

How Do We Conclude This?

I think that there isn’t a concrete way to write a conclusion to this. Everyone has their own ways of overcoming certain fears and working towards their goals. For some, all the methods I mentioned work; for others, only a few, or perhaps just one will be enough.

Remember, to overcome fear of failure, take back that confidence if it was taken from you. Achieving that is already a huge success. After one success, more will come.

20 thoughts on “Causes of Fear of Failure

  1. I really enjoyed stumbling across this article as a lot of people including myself have dealt with facing failure.  I feel like attitude is everything and it is better to fail that not try at all.  I feel the only true failure is when we give up. Moreover it is when we fail we learn invaluable lessons we never would have otherwise.  With that being said I agree with you 100% about surrounding yourself with the right people.  

    1. Hi Pamela, 

      I agree, the only true failure is when we give up. And sometimes failing at things can lead us to better opportunities. One door closes and another one opens, right? With every experience, we learn invaluable lessons, and it is important to remember that many failures lead to success. 

      Thank you for your great comment! 

  2. I really enjoyed reading your article and all your precious and helpful tips. We all have to deal at some point in our life with the fear of failure. I now know how to overcome it but it is not the case yet for my oldest daughter. She has been criticized and judged by her grandfather for several years and she has a very hard time dealing with it. She lost her confidence and she is constantly afraid to fail. I will certainly get the book you recommended knowing that it will help her. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Hi! I feel for your daughter, being afraid to fail. Have you talked to her grandfather about this? The book is great and it helps to regain confidence and love for oneself.

  3. Hi Christine,

    Thanks for your insightful article.  The childhood issues have affected so many of us and I really feel you have got to the heart of the issues here.  How you point out that childhood, especially adolescence is hard enough for youngsters, but then when you add psychological, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse – I really realise the responsibility we have as parents.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story here and I’m glad you have recovered from those issues.  They affect so many people.

    Your steps on overcoming fear of failure are so helpful.  I didn’t expect the “desire to succeed” to be step one, but am pleased to see it!  Your steps and guidance are very thorough and give readers so many options and angles to take their inner healing and peace issues from.   Some may add religion to this list and their faith can be a great source of strength in hope, forgiveness and healing.

    I look forward to reading more articles from you. Thank you! 

    1. Hi John,

      It is true, as parents we have such a huge responsibility …  And you’re right, for some people religion and faith are also an important healing factor. It helps so many people. 

      Thank you for your great comment!

  4. number one solution to overcome fear of failure is to build self confidence. Human beings hide because are scared of having bad result. Should stop hesitating and quit having self doubts.Inspire yourselves that you could really do it.Accept the fact of who you are.

  5. Failure is just like a feather tied to a rope that flies to different places depending on where the wind blows it but it never gets out of hands, this means that if you let go of your fear and barriers, you’ll release fear off your life and focus on achieving that greatness. The causes of fear of failure that you shared are true and realistic, thanks for explaining in details, I’ve learned a lot.

    1. I like your comparison, “failure is like a feather tied to a rope …”  It is true, once you let go of fear and barriers, you’ll release fear of life. One just has to make that decision.

      Thank you for your great comment!

  6. Hello Christine, this post is very nice because it talks about an issue that not so many people know about themselves because some do not know they fear failure. For one to find out, ih might be something that will trigger it. You had given the features of people like this. My former boss was a perfectionist and it seems to me like he really did fear failure. One good thing is that you could come up with a solution to the problem. That’s nice, thanks.

    1. Hi Henderson,

      I can imagine that it may sometimes be challenging to work for a boss who is a perfectionist. 

      Thank you for stopping by!

  7. Thanks, for this post on what causes failure , i have failed a lot in life so much that sometimes i do think am a failure , but when I see a post like this it brings me back up. I wanna ask a question if I have a positive mindset about my business and it eventually comes out negatively what can cause it and is it a failure ? Because I had a positive mindset .

    1. Hi Rose,

      A positive mindset is important. A business also takes time and effort, and it may take time before you see positive results. Perhaps the negative result was not really a result but an obstacle to overcome. Some obstacles are a little harder than others. Don’t give up. Your work and time for your business will yield good results. The important thing is to stay positive and see bumps in the road as obstacles instead of “problems”.

      Wishing you all the best! 🙂

  8. Ive enjoyed reading through your article, it’s a blessing to me and I know to many others. Causes of fear of failure are things that literally draw us away from our main essence. I find it really important to emphasize that experience shouldn’t be allowed to dominate our future possibilities of achievement. It was a good thing to share your experience to help others, thanks for that.

    1. Very true, fear of failure draws us away from our main essence. And experience from the past should indeed not influence the present … I think that’s one of the biggest lessons to learn.

      Thank you for your great comment!

  9. Hmm, the fear of failure. This is a very interesting topic you have chosen to speak about here. I have to say that it is nice when a person can teach us how to deal with issues. I do not think that those very successful people today reached those heights by being scared of failure or having all this traits. I am happy that you mentioned how to come out of the fear. I would share this definitely.

  10. Hi Christine! This post was meant for me. I’m glad I came across your site. Perfectionism is one of my main difficulties to over come. Most of the time I find myself trying to please others and neglecting to fight for my goals. I’ve noted that others easily abuse when they detect this vulnerability.

    1. Hi Ann,

      Very true, others tend to abuse that trait. I hope that some of my tips are of help to you. Remember, the nr. 1 person in your life is you.

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