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3 Strategies To Overcome The Fear Of Failure

Written by: Catherine Elizabeth Wood, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Has the fear of failure ever stopped you from doing something? Perhaps you made the decision not to even start to do something because you have undermined your efforts to the possibility of a larger failure at it?

The fear of failure can mean we resist moving forward because it can cause us to do nothing.

What is fear? What does fear mean? How can we overcome it?

We all have a different perception as to what fear is. This is because we all have different benchmarks, values, and belief systems. When one person feels they have failed at something, this could be a great learning experience for somebody else.

The fear of failure can be linked to many causes including unsupportive or critical parents, a traumatic event, or mistakes we have made as adults for example. How we felt during these types of experiences can be carried through our lives impacting the way we live by holding us back.

You may experience unhelpful thought cycles around the fear of failure. If you do notice you have negative thought cycles which are impacting your daily functioning, then it may be time to seek the help and support of a qualified health professional. This is because some past experiences may need addressing before you can be in a mental space where you can work on moving forwards and this is ok.

Symptoms of the fear of failure include:

  • Perfectionism – setting unrealistic expectations for things you think you can finish perfectly and successfully.

  • Self-sabotage – procrastination, failure to follow through with goals, excessive anxiety.

  • Reluctance – avoiding new things such as challenging projects.

  • Low self-esteem/self-confidence – negative self-talk/statements e.g. “I’ll never be able to do this.”

Maybe you can relate to one or more of these symptoms. Recognising the symptoms of the fear of failure will enable you to identify what it is that has been a stumbling block for you. This will enable you to begin the process of changing the way you respond to the fear of failure by reshaping your thoughts and what you say to yourself.

We all experience failure in our life. People who try to avoid failure perhaps live very cautiously which is not living at all.

Our perception of the fear of failure drives how we respond to it. We can use reframing to change our perception of situations where we would usually be fearful, to enable us to choose how we want to respond. The process begins with identifying a different viewpoint about the situation where we are experiencing a fear of failure. Notice your thoughts and challenge these to create a realistic perspective about the situation.

Map out possible outcomes

Write down all the options you can think of which are possible outcomes in a situation where you are experiencing a fear of failure. What could you do? What is one small step you can take to change the way you think about the situation?

Set clear goals

Having a vision for what you want to achieve can help you to gain momentum in pushing through your fear of failure. Be clear in what your goal is and all the steps you need to take to achieve this.

Take small steps

It is important to keep moving forwards when you are experiencing the fear of failure. Taking small steps is better than not taking any steps at all towards your goal. Focus on what you can control.

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Catherine Elizabeth Wood, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Catherine Wood, is a leader in mental resilience, science-based coaching through neuroscience, and creating new habits for behavior change. After an acute brain injury as an adult left her having irrational thoughts and self-doubt, Catherine developed an interest in neuroplasticity to understand how she could challenge her self-beliefs, promote helpful thoughts and create new habits for behavior change. Catherine has since dedicated her life to helping people to establish their self-belief in who they are as their best self to drive helpful thoughts and create new habits for behavior change in the workplace and in their personal life.

Catherine is the Founder of Life Renewal, the online coaching business combining leadership coaching and team coaching with evidence-based techniques in neuroscience. Catherine helps leaders drive employee engagement by modeling leadership behavior across 7 key leadership skills. Catherine has helped clients through her own coaching programs, workshops, and digital courses including "Mastering Emotional Competence in Leadership." Catherine has been a guest writer for Thrive Global which included an article on "Seeking Opportunities While Navigating Uncertainty", and she hosted a resilience series including "The Neuroscience of Resilience".

Catherine's mission: Science-based coaching for collaborative leadership behavior.



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