Fearing Failure November 19, 2014 – Posted in: Confidence – Tags: , , , , , ,

Many of the people I see in my coaching practice suffer with a fear of failure. In fact, I reckon if we all peeled back the layers of our psyche we’d likely find this fear of failure in some form or another. Fear of failure is a fear of being exposed or a fear of not being good enough. It’s also a fear of the unknown based on the belief that you ‘wouldn’t cope’ if you did fail. And, as with all psychological fear, the evidence we produce for ourselves is pretty flimsy. After all, fear is usually False Evidence Appearing Real.

So, what can we do about it?

I think the thing to remember with emotional fear or anxiety is that it is often a primitive reaction we are having to a new or a stressful situation. It is triggered by the same part of our brains that tells us to run if the house is on fire and it causes a similar biochemical reaction. However, our emotional fears need handling differently than to those fears produced when we are in physical danger. So, by all means run if the house is on fire but stop and question your belief system if your fear is based on something non-physical.

Here’s an example. I had a client who had always wanted to work for herself but had remained stuck in a job she found unsatisfying because she feared starting a business because it might fail. When challenged about this fear she listed about twenty things that ‘might happen’. These ranged from, “I might not be able to pay the bills” to “I’ve never run a business before – what if no one likes what I do?”. Of course, these are genuine concerns that need working through before taking the plunge into self-employment. A savings pot and a good business plan are great ways in which to mitigate potential pitfalls along the way. But, should these fears stop someone from doing what they really want to do? No!

My client’s deepest fear was what her father would think of her if she failed. He had instilled a deep fear of financial insecurity into her, which she realised had served her thus far but was now holding her back. She is, after all, not her father. If he chooses to be ruled by financial insecurity then that is absolutely his right. But she doesn’t have to follow suit. In fact, allowing herself the opportunity to ‘fail’ enabled her to take risks and engage in the thrill of building her own business.

Does she have financial security? No, not yet. Is she free and living life on her own terms? Yes! Is she happier and less afraid? Totally.

Now, that’s what I call living!


This blog post first appeared as an article in my Life Column in The Bath Magazine.

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