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Kicking Fear of Failure Into The Long Grass

Written by: Jo Uff, 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.


Several years ago, I worked with a woman who shared that she had always dreamed of moving abroad and setting up a small B&B, offering tourists a cozy and comfortable retreat away from the typical tourist scene. The way she described it to me sounded idyllic, and I would have been one of the first in the queue to stay there! When I asked her why she had not jumped in with both feet and followed her dream, she said she was worried about failing or being seen as a failure if it wasn’t a success.


It left me pondering what it is about the need for achievement and success that causes so many of us to fear failure? To not even start the things we dream of doing, just in case it’s not an overnight triumph.

Interestingly, if you search for the synonyms for failure, you are faced with words like defeat, collapse, catastrophe, disaster, or fiasco! Being unsuccessful or failing brings with it a whole host of negative thoughts and feelings when in reality, it’s simply feedback that it hasn’t worked.

Why do we fear failure?

Fear of failure often surfaces in one of two ways: the fear outweighs the courage we need even to get started, or we try and do not succeed the first time, so give up believing we will never be able to succeed.

1. Fear over courage

Where fear outweighs the courage needed to get started, this can sometimes be because of a perfectionist ego. Perfectionists have an internal expectation that they must be successful at everything they do and that people will think less of them if they are not. It is impossible to be successful at everything, so they are often left feeling inadequate, a failure, or stressed and overwhelmed.

A perfectionist ego often comes from the beliefs we have developed during childhood experiences. Praise and rewards are seen by many as a great way to incentivize and recognize children. However, in many cases, constant praise like ‘you are amazing,’ ‘you’re brilliant’ can have a detrimental effect. It gives children an expectation to live up to, making them feel that they have to be that great at everything constantly. It can also prevent them from taking part in new things that they don’t believe they will be perfect at or achieve straight away.

2. Giving up

When we try something new and fail, giving up can seem like the best or, indeed, the easiest option. Trying again takes perseverance and resilience, determination, and an ability not to make comparisons with others.

We all make comparisons; it’s a natural human trait, and with constant access to other peoples’ lives online, it’s becoming harder to avoid. Someone else always seems to be more successful, healthier, more confident, or a higher achiever! Comparisons are pointless and are often just a mind read about another person’s situation. It is likely that underneath their super confident photos, or portrayals of success, lie the same insecurities. Making comparisons leaves us feeling inferior, less self-confident, and more likely to give up.

Kicking fear of failure into the long grass

Here are my five top tips for overcoming the feelings of failure and ensuring courage and resilience outweigh the fear.

1. Change unhelpful beliefs.

This will have an amazing impact on your view of failure. Start by asking yourself, "if I do not succeed the first time, then…" and notice what comes into your mind. This will help you surface the beliefs you have around what you deem to be success and failure. You can then take steps to change these beliefs.

2. Break your goal down into a series of smaller goals.

This prevents us from seeing the overall outcome as either a single success or failure and allows for the celebration of small victories along the way. Breaking the outcome down into a series of steps or mini-goals also means we can more easily identify the areas where things have been more challenging and need a different approach or perspective.

3. Build your resilience.

Getting to the root cause of your doubts and feelings can help to build your resilience. Start by thinking about something you typically put off or worry about doing for fear of failure.

Something that makes the internal chatter start whirring in your head, the emotions rise, and tightness or heaviness somewhere in your body. Sit with this uncomfortable feeling, labeling each aspect: what pictures do you see in your head? What words or phrases are surfacing, and what feelings do you have in your body?

Once you have defined what is causing the fear, ask yourself what unhelpful meaning you are giving the situation, whether your concerns are worth worrying about properly and what action you can take.

4. Stop comparing your success or achievement against others.

The most effective comparisons we can make are against ourselves, measuring our progress towards what we want to achieve and tackling whatever is getting in the way of us achieving it. Take a specific goal and set yourself a target for the next one or two weeks. Track your progress towards achieving this goal and spend a few minutes each day focusing on what has helped you work towards it and what has been in the way.

5. Reframe the situation.

If you find yourself surfacing words like failure, catastrophe, disaster, or fiasco, notice that you are doing it, and tune into it. Have I failed, or have I just not achieved it yet? What other ways can I try to accomplish this goal or outcome? Can I get someone else to help?

Oh, and just going back to the woman I mentioned initially, after some coaching, she triumphed over her fear of failure and summoned the courage and resilience to follow her dreams. You can find her in a tiny coastal village in the South of France, having made a massive success of her B&B business!

So, what are you waiting for? Turn your fear of failure into the courage you need to give it a go and see what happens.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Jo Uff, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jo has been coaching and leading individuals and teams to achieve successful, transformational change since 2007. Following a 30-year career within corporate organizations across various sectors, Jo established her own coaching business, dedicated to strengthening positive mindset and wellbeing. She is a certified NLP Master Practitioner and Coach.

Having overcome her struggles, she is passionate about the importance of good psychological wellbeing and helping people rediscover the joy and embrace life as an adventure. As a mum to two teenagers, Jo appreciates the challenges of juggling a career alongside raising a family. She enjoys running regularly to support her overall well-being.

As a personal well-being coach, Jo helps women feel positive, confident, and full of energy to be, do, and have more of what they want in their personal and professional lives. She does this by working as their guide to altering the beliefs, behaviors, and values that are disempowering and no longer serve them.

Jo continues to work with organizations as a business coach and mentor, empowering individuals and teams to increase performance, achieve goals, and overcome challenges affecting their wellbeing and success.



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