Fear of failure, or atychiphobia, is one of the biggest roadblocks we face in life. It keeps us from achieving greatness and living to our true potential. But if we can learn how to deal with and overcome this fear, we can live a better life and take more risks, which will ultimately give us greater chances for success.
Ever heard of atychiphobia?
What is atychiphobia?
It is an irrational and persistent fear of failing.
Whatever you call it, self-doubt can hold you back in both your personal life and your career.
You may miss out on promising opportunities or unintentionally sabotage yourself to prove that your negative outlook is correct.
For some fear of failure pushes you to go forward. But for others, it can be such a hindrance that it allows the fear to come true.
An unhealthy fear of failure can actually cause you to fail if you let it!
It’s time to put a stop to your atychiphobia, or fear of failure!
Why Does Fear of Failure Exist?
The actions or criticism from adults of children can impact the perception that they have of themselves in adulthood.
This then causes children to feel the persistent need to seek approval and reassurance. This need for validation is then carried into adulthood and serves as a barrier to achievement.
Being a Perfectionist
Perfectionism can stem from childhood experiences as well. Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.
For perfectionists, failure is so frightening and potentially embarrassing that they don’t try.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone then becomes terrifying.
False Sense of Self Confidence
People with true confidence know that success won’t always be the outcome. Even when they put their best foot forward.
A person lacking self-confidence avoids risks at all costs. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.
When I was 17, a newly high school graduate I head off to college eager to get my degree.
I knew nothing about college or what it took to get to the finish line, but since I was starting, I just assumed that I would finish.
At what should have been my senior year, I had changed my major at least three times, was pregnant with my child, and was nowhere near completion. I felt like a failure.
But the only way I would stay a failure (in my mind) is if I did not complete what I had started.
Some strategies for overcoming your self-doubts and how they helped me not let my fear of failure have control of me
At year four, seeing many of my friends' graduate, I wanted it so bad. I knew where my weaknesses resided. The main one was that I did not know how to study to retain information.
I put strategies in place to overcome that challenge.
Successes and difficulties can both make you stronger depending on how you react to them. When things don’t turn out the way you planned, figure out what you need to do differently next time, or to move forward.
Develop contingency plans
You’ll feel more confident taking risks if you consider your possible outcomes in advance. That way, you can be prepared to switch your approach if needed.
For me, the outcomes were few – finish my degree or not.
Because I now had motivation beyond myself, my unborn child, I looked at what each of those outcomes would look like and how they would not only impact me but my child as well.
Finding external motivation is sometimes helpful in getting fear out the way.
Start off small
I began to focus on each semester in front of me, rather than the finish line as a whole.
In doing that, I was able to give all of my attention to the task at hand – the present semester. And as I made it through each semester, my confidence in my ability to reach the finish line increased.
If you’re paralyzed by doubts, break your tasks, projects, or focus down into more manageable steps.
Hold yourself accountable
Acknowledging your mistakes is the first step in being able to learn from them. Take responsibility for your actions and choices.
I had to pay attention to the fact that when I changed my majors I set myself back. Furthermore, when I failed my first class, instead of figuring out why and getting help, I kept doing the same thing and hoping to get different results.
I had to acknowledge that in order to be able to do something different.
Identify factors within your control
Target areas where you’ll enjoy the most payoff. Science was my weakness. Those were the classes I struggled with the most. I sought out help in the form of study buddies, meeting with teachers, and spending extra time on those things that I struggled with.
Those were areas that I had control over. I could not change the class material or structure. But I had full control over how I approached it.
Remind yourself of what you have to gain. Give yourself credit for stepping beyond your comfort zone.
Change your self-talk
Pay attention to the way you talk to yourself.
Are you reinforcing your doubts or giving yourself encouraging and affirmative messages? Choose words that inspire and reassure you and ditch the negative self-talk.
Reach out to others
Let others know that you welcome constructive feedback (but that means you have to actually welcome it).
Thank them for their input and tell them when their advice helps you to perform more effectively. Even if it is not right away. Sometimes we have to sit with criticism before we can fully do something with it.
One of my professors told me that I seemed distracted because I was in the back of the class. From then on, I sat at the front of the class, which was hard for me. And I immediately noticed that I no longer was apprehensive about raising my hand, my professors saw the confusion on my face and would check in, and I overall was grasping the information better.
Overcoming Fear of Failure
Explore root causes
It may help to know where your fear of failure came from so you can spot your triggers. Maybe you became reluctant to try new things after your parents or an elementary school teacher criticized you harshly.
Maybe you’re feeling shaky after a recent divorce or layoff.
When you determine the source of your fear it begins to take away the power it has over you,
Procrastination is one common symptom of fear of failure. If you put things off because you feel anxious, start writing out timelines that will help you buckle down and stay on track. And then actually start checking things off the list.
Focus on progress
Instead of trying to be flawless, take satisfaction in setting challenging goals and making an effort to achieve them.
Compete with yourself instead of trying to meet unattainable standards.
Determine the cost
While you’re contemplating what could go wrong if you speak up at meetings or ask someone out for a date, you may be overlooking the price of failing to act. Imagine what you could be missing out on each time you hesitate or fail to act.
In my undergraduate example, the cost of giving in to my fear would be to actually negatively impact the life I could offer my child. I wanted her to see me work hard to complete that degree. I wanted her to know that hard things can be overcome and that her mom fought for us.
For me, the cost of giving in to failure was far too high.
Picture what your life would be like if you had the confidence to pursue your goals and live out your dreams.
The images brought to mind may help you to illuminate your priorities and understand where to channel your efforts.
Enjoy more happiness and success by coming to terms with your fear of failure. When you commit yourself to learn from experience, you may still feel unsure of yourself sometimes. However, you’ll stop letting your doubts get in the way of pursuing and accomplishing your goals.
What stops you from living up to your potential and going after what you really want in life?
Need support in getting past fear?
Book a discovery call to see if we would be a good fit to work together. Or start by grabbing your copy of the Self Awareness Workbook – Who Are You? Designed to help you journal your way into a greater space of self-awareness, overcoming your fears, and living the life you desire.