Fear of Failure


(What holds us back - pt 1)

Throughout May, the blog is going to focus on what gets in the way of our goals. Each week, I'm going to take some examples that you shared with me to discuss how you can overcome these obstacles.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is probably the most well-known obstacle to success. Fear of failure can be so great that it stops us even starting. If we don't try, we don't succeed, but we also don't fail.

This can be particularly prevalent if you are someone for whom success is highly associated with aspects of identity. If you're a strong or over achiever, your fear of failure is likely to be high because it is not something you have had great experience with. You may never have learnt to fail.

I was a high achiever academically and never really experienced failure until I didn't pass my driving test just before my 21st birthday. I had no idea how to react to that because I had no experience in overcoming failure. I was very emotional about it and wanted to blame the examiner and everyone else on the road. It took a little while to see that I could blame other people all I wanted, but that wasn't going to get me a licence. When I was able to look at the areas I had failed in and work on those, I was able to move on. I took the test again and passed. But I'll never forget how huge it seemed to me to fail on that.

Failing at something is part of life and we need to know how to deal with it. If not failing is part of your self-identity, then when you do fail, it feels like it says something about you as a person, not just that you had a bad day, or you weren't prepared enough, or that your performance under pressure wasn't sufficient. It can feel like failure makes a lie about who you are because in your identity, you are someone who does not fail.

1. Work