How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure and Face It Head On

So many times in life we are afraid to try something new, go after what we really want, and expose ourselves to failure and rejection. So often we find ourselves plagued by fear and afraid to put ourselves out there.  Lately, I have been confronting this issue.  I have been in the process of launching a new endeavor and find that as I put myself out into the world in a new way, old thoughts creep in.

Up until recently I have been a theatre director and so at times like these I tend to reach for theatre analogies.  The whole process of creating something and then sending it out into the world is familiar to me.  This experience reminds me of opening night.  Prior to opening night I have been creating in a cocoon, my struggles have been behind the sacred walls of the rehearsal room.  It hasn’t been easy, sometimes it has been messy, sometimes miraculous, but through it all it has been shielded from outside eyes.  Finally opening night comes and it is time to draw back the curtain. As I sit at the back of the darkened theatre I wait desperately for that first laugh, a tiny reaction, a focused and nerve-wrecking silence - any sign of approval - some recognition that all the hard work was worth it.  Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t, but afterwards I always feel both elated and a deep sense of vulnerability and uncertainty. Elated because I had the courage to do it and vulnerable because now it is out in the world. I am knocking on the door of acceptance and praying for it to open.

The truth is there are no guarantees in life.  We have to learn to be brave even in the face of failure.  So how do we muster up our courage and face our fears, take action, and risk pursuing our dreams – even when we don’t know the outcome.  The truth is, it is easier than you think – below are a few simple things you need to remember to overcome your fear of failure and face it head on.

  1. The ability to take action, take a risk, and put yourself out there is the success. This may sound corny, but it is true.  The outcome is out of your hands, but the ability to take action and live courageously is all you need to succeed in life.  If you don’t try you can never succeed.  Success is more perseverance than talent, it is more perspiration than inspiration.  There is a great quote by Maxwell Maltz that sums this up “Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his idea, to take a calculated risk, and to act.” Think of anyone you admire and you will see the foundation of their success is this principle – their ability to go after what they want no matter the outcome. Guts do equal glory and really our only goal in life should be to take action even in the face of uncertainty.  If we master this, our success is only a matter of time.
  2. You can’t please everyone all of the time, but you’ll probably please someone some of the time.  I think Jack Canfield sums this up best in his – SW.SW.SW.SW saying – Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Someone’s Waiting. 147 publishers turned down Jack Canfield before his wildly popular Chicken Soup for the Soul book was picked up. So many times we let one failure or rejection stop us in our tracks. We decide other peoples’ opinions matter more than our own.  We put so much stock in what other people think, or how we perceive ourselves through their eyes, that we lose sight of the truth – our merit is decided by our opinion of ourselves not others.  Most of the time it is totally random and subjective whether or not we get the job, receive praise, or get recognition for our hard work. If we stop looking at every rejection or disappointment as a sign of our failure we empower ourselves to learn and grow, try something new, and find that someone who is waiting.
  3. The more failure you have the more success is guaranteed. Michael Jordon, one of the best basketball players of all time has a great quote “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” The list is long of great women and men whose failures outweigh their successes.  It doesn’t matter how many times you fail at something, as long as you are striving for your very best.  The only way too succeed is to be willing to fail.  Struggle is part of the deal.  Greatness comes from our willingness to show up, pursue our goals, and never quit.  Failure is a rite of passage and a symbol of intelligence.  As Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Failure is just information presenting itself to us so we can learn what we need to in order to succeed.

I'd love to hear how you've overcome your fear of failure.  Sound off in the comments below and let me know your strategies.

Also, If you are ready to pursue your dreams and face failure head on I'd be happy to help.  Sign up below for a free coaching session so I can help you start paving a path to your dreams.

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9 Responses to How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure and Face It Head On

  1. Cathy says:

    My fear of failure stems from unrealistically high expectations I set on myself. I have found that when working on a new project, the less time I think about how I am to execute it and the more I action I put into the execution, the more I am able to stay out of my own way. I have seen people so afraid of failure that they never try anything out of their comfort zone, thus never succeeding at what they want to do. Even if the chances are 1 in 10 that I will achieve something, the odds are much better than the 0 in 10 if I don't even try. I have found that some the of greatest lessons and growth come from walking through "failure" and those are things you can't get from a textbook or the store!

  2. Laura Young says:

    I can't believe I had never heard the Jack Canfield line "Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Someone’s Waiting". Thanks so much for sharing - that is now copied out and on my screensaver to see every day!

  3. Cathy says:

    I agree that when you try something new the fear of failure can stop you acting in a successful way. I have recently realised I am rather embarrassed by success which can hold me back so that I do not achieve as much as I am capable of. It is easier to anticipate failure and try new things on a very small scale to avoid being in the spotlight!

  4. Janine says:

    I was afraid of failure when I first started my business, and then I realized that my fear was actually resulting in some MAJOR procrastination. Sometimes you have to test and try out new things--and be willing to fail--to ever reach the level of success you desire. Great post!

  5. Susan says:

    What a great post. I think of Michael Jordan and his experience often. It's so motivating and flies in the face of popular wisdom. Another one that helps me is the old saying that a coward dies a thousand deaths. If I'm dreading failure I ask myself if I'm creating a thousand deaths for myself - which is ludicrous enough to snap me out of it. Thanks.

  6. Brilliant post - and we are certainly on the same wavelength as I was just sharing today my own thoughts about failure (or rather the fact that I don't believe we CAN fail - only take action, learn, and grow!).

    Your examples support this beautifully as well - I hadn't heard that about Jack Canfield's experience, but it sets the bar high for persistence, that's for sure!

    Thanks for these reminders, Cathy :).

  7. Amber says:

    These are some great insights into what it really takes to face your fears. Fear is something we all face and we all have to overcome in one way or another. For me one thing that helps me walk through it is to examine what are the worst possible outcomes of the situation. For some reason when you truly look at a problem and see what terrible things may or may not lie on the other side, the fear suddenly loses its power. Because really, what's the worst that can happen? The worst isn't really as bad as your fear lets you believe.

  8. What a great post. It strikes me that going through the process of publishing a blog post is a miniature version of what you describe - though it didn't feel so small the first time. Hitting the "Publish" button for the first time felt like a very courageous act to me, and I extremely vulnerable knowing other people would read my words. To this day, I always have a moment before I publish when that sense of vulnerability returns. I do it anyway 🙂

  9. This is such a common issue - must be why we all write about it so much! Truthfully, I don't know too many people who haven't struggled with a fear of failure. The best way to get over it? Fail and realize you've survived! Fail again and then go on to something very rewarding. Over and over we meet our fear and then go beyond it. I've had plenty of lessons!

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