My sister Lisa wrote a profound post on Facebook on January 1st of this year and three words jumped off the page. DO IT AFRAID. Three words and her infinite wisdom reminded me once again, that words are powerful. In short, words can change lives.
With that being said, words and wisdom often fall on deaf ears. People struggle to change, pursue their dreams or take risks far too often. Why? Because of fearing failure. Most people have experienced the fear of failure at some point in their lives. Fear of failing can be paralyzing and can stand in the way of living life to the fullest. Fear of failure can keep people stuck in a place they no longer want to be. In short, if left unchecked, it can bar people from moving forward in their lives frozen in time and a less than ideal situation.
While fear of failing is normal, it is important to be aware of it and to better understand it. Everyone has different perceptions, beliefs and values. Failing to one person might be devastating while to another it is yet another life lesson of growth. Fear is okay and it happens to most, but fear of failing (also called atychiphobia) can also stand in the way of a person reaching their full potential. Fear of failing can steal even the smallest of dreams.
How many times have you wanted to try something new but you didn’t follow through because you were afraid? Are you staying in a relationship that is toxic because you are afraid to leave and to be alone? Have you passed up a new job opportunity or said no to an exciting adventure because fear stepped in the way?
POTENTIAL CAUSES OF FEAR OF FAILING
There can be many reasons that people feel afraid of failing. Perhaps a person had a parent that was absent, unsupportive or even abusive. Or, a child that is bullied or constantly humiliated and picked on can harbor lifelong fears. Any one of these things that happen in and around childhood can lead to poor self-esteem and a lack of confidence. If one does not believe in themselves in childhood it can easily carry on into adulthood.
Sometimes a traumatic event can lead to an unhealthy fear of failing. For example, say you were a part of a football team and it was down to the last seconds of the game and you needed to make a field goal to win the game. You missed it and your team lost the championship title and the chance to advance to playoffs. While this experience may have happened years ago, it may have been so awful that it continues to haunt you and stand in the way of pursuing other things in life.
For some, a fear of failure is simply a part of who they are. There are people that are prone to negativity and tend to see the glass half empty versus half full.
SIGNS of FEAR of FAILURE
There are several signs that can appear when a person fears failure. You might experience one or several of these things.
- Anxiety and depression
- Feeling stuck and struggling with how to move forward in your life
- Procrastination – putting things off
- Self-sabotage – talking yourself out of something before you even start
- Poor self-esteem and a lack of confidence
- Negativity and negative self-talk such as “I’m not good enough to do that job” or “I will let everyone down if they choose me”
- Feeling alone and like you are not a part of things
- Saying no when you want to say yes
- An inability to make decisions
- Self-doubt and changing your mind
- A lack of follow-through and the inability to finish things or achieve goals
PERCEPTION is EVERYTHING
Fear and failure is something that everyone will experience at some point in life. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Quite honestly, it is impossible to live life and never experience some type of failure. If a person were to never experience failure it would lead me to question if they were living life at all.
So, the question is not if you will fail but what will you do with it.
Everyone stumbles and everyone falls. That is okay. Stumbling and falling are a part of life and it is proof that you were willing to try. It is sometimes because we fail and fall that we are led to discover just how strong we really are. Remember, it is not always the fall but rather if we are able and willing to get back up when we do.
Perception is everything in our life’s journey and for some, failing can feel like life has come to an end. For some, failure can turn their world upside down and it is a struggle to recover from the feelings of loss and pain. But, what if you were able to take those failures in life and use them as a platform for growth and learning? There is often wisdom in our wounds and in our failures. Life’s falls can lead to the most amazing life lessons and it is sometimes those lessons that can lead us to becoming a stronger and better version of ourselves. How cool is that?
There are so many people in the world that have failed at something but instead of giving up they persevered, learned, grew and in the end, let their fear of failure propel them to achieve great success. Instead of letting failure serve as proof of inadequacy they used their fears to overcome barriers and make their dreams come true. Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling and Steven Spielberg to name a few.
HOW TO DO IT AFRAID
Fear can be a powerful enemy but there are things that can be done to fight this internal battle that can stand in the way of living the life we so badly want and deserve. Fear can stop us only if we allow it to.
- Negative self-talk is an ally to fear. It is estimated that human beings have an average of 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. That is a lot of noise playing loudly in our heads every single day. Some researchers estimate that 90 percent of these thoughts are negative. Think about that. 90 percent! It is no wonder it is a struggle to feel positive and stand up to fear. It is difficult to change something if we are not aware of it. Pay close to attention to your thoughts and set a goal to practice replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Positive affirmations on sticky notes can serve as a great reminder of what is good about who we are. Put them everywhere; your bathroom mirror, desk, car dashboard.
- Set realistic expectations and achievable goals. Often times, people will bite off more than they can chew and set unrealistic goals. Sadly, people often quit before they ever start and failure quickly becomes a reality. It is when goals are too broad or too big that people end up feeling overwhelmed and attempting to change something or trying something new overloads their plate. Start small and set small goals to start. Take a “one step at a time” approach and “chunk it down”. With each win or accomplishment it will build confidence and improve your self-esteem versus tear it down. Believing in yourself and self-confidence are powerful opponents against fear.
- Talk to others. Remember, everyone experiences failure. You are not alone. Share your feelings and your fears with those you trust or can rely on. Talking through our fears and the why behind them can help us to gain perspective and to address underlying issues that might stand in our way.
- Taking risks can lead to amazing opportunities in life. I have heard so many heartbreaking stories about people who lived their entire lives stuck in a job they hated, stayed in a toxic relationship because they were too afraid to be alone or never pursued a life long dream for fear of failing. It is important to find the courage to take risks and it is sometimes shutting one door that leads to opening another that can change our lives. Don’t let fear bring missed opportunities to your life. Face your fears and take a chance. You never know what amazing things lie on the other side of that door. Life is full of opportunity and you deserve to live life to the fullest. Take a chance and see what happens.
- Think it through and have a plan B. There is a chance that you might fail. It happens to everyone and it can be devastating. However, avoid being impulsive and think through ALL the scenarios including the “worst case one”. Even if you fail it does not have to be the end of your world. It means you had the courage and motivation to try. You should be proud of that and if you are able to “learn” from the failure, it can actually help you to become stronger and try again. Have a plan B and remember nothing new pursued or tried has to mean forever. If you take a new job and it doesn’t work out, there are other jobs out there. When you write your first novel and it never sells, write another one. If you get divorced, fall in love with yourself and when ready meet new people and enrich your life. When you try a new diet and it fails search out someone who can hold you accountable and try a different approach.
- Be Kind to yourself. Failure can sting and sometimes failure can lead to feelings of loss and grief. Don’t minimize the tough feelings and know that it is okay to grieve a failure when it happens. Failure is never easy and it can pack a stiff punch that when left unattended to, can lead to life altering issues that will stand in the way of our happiness. If you fail, be kind and loving to yourself. Take the time to grieve and feel all of the emotions you need to feel. If you cannot move past it, let go or move forward talk to someone or get help. Whether it is a friend, family member, clergy, counselor or life coach; you do not have to deal with it alone.
Fear of failure is real and if left unchecked, it can rob us of life’s joy, opportunities and steal our dreams. Fear of failure can stand in the way of living life to the fullest, trying new things and experiencing some of life’s greatest gifts in this journey we must all walk.
It is okay to feel afraid. It is normal to feel afraid but the question that one must ask is, “am I allowing my fear to stand in my way and keep me stuck in a place I no longer want to be?” “Is my fear keeping me from living life to the fullest and pursuing my dreams?” “Is my fear of failure keeping me from finding true happiness?”
If you answered yes, find your courage, face your fears, let them motivate you to take a chance and as my sister said, take the leap and DO IT AFRAID.
In Peace and With Love,