Behind many entrepreneurs is the fear of doing something wrong, looking foolish or not meeting expectations – in other words, fear of failure. 

Insecurity about doing things incorrectly can cause many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances of success. 

Ultimately, the fear of failing can be immobilising. It breeds self-doubt and can lead to progress resistance. But when we allow fear to hinder our progress in life, we’re likely to miss some great opportunities along the way.

In this article, we’ll examine where fear of failure can stem from and how to overcome it to enjoy true success in work, and in life.

What Causes Fear of Failure? 


Fear of failure can stem from many different factors. For example, some people may have been brought up with unsupportive or critical parents. 

These people are likely to carry those bad feelings into adulthood because they were constantly undermined or humiliated as children.

Traumatic Experiences

Other people may have had a traumatic experience in their life, which can also be a contributing factor. For example, assume you delivered a significant presentation in front of a large group some years ago and performed miserably. 

It’s possible that the incident was so traumatic that you developed a fear of failing in other areas. And you still have that fear years later.


But one of the most common reasons behind fear of failure, is simply perfectionism. Striving for perfection can cause failure to become so terrible and humiliating that you end up not trying at all because stepping outside your comfort zone becomes too terrifying. 

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step by Step)

Figure out where your fear of failure stems from

Write down where you believe your fear stems from and try to comprehend it from the outside.

Imagine you’re attempting to help one of your best friends if it helps. Perhaps you’re afraid because of something that occurred to you in the past, or because you’re too focused on perfection. 

When you name the root of your fear, it loses some of its power.

Redefine Failure 

If you never fail you are playing to small. 

Read that again. 

So the only answer is to redefine failure. 

This means, the next time you don’t quite meet the goal you were aiming for, don’t think of it as failure. Simply think of it as a learning curve. 

For example, At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.” They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow. 

Stop the negative self talk 

Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave. You are what you tell yourself. So the goal is to quieten that inner voice in your head (easier said than done, I know). 

But it’s up to you to detect and recognise negative self-talk.  Negative thoughts should be replaced with positive facts about yourself and your situation. 

You’ll be able to construct new mental scripts that you may use when negativity starts to creep in.

Count the small wins 

When it comes to fear of failure, many experts recommend visualising their goals and then think about every possible outcome and worst case scenarios so you are more mentally prepared.

However, I don’t know about you, but that sounds very anxiety inducing. Research shows that people who have a fear of failure were often left in a strong negative mood after being asked to visualize goals and goal attainment.

So, what can you do instead?

Begin by establishing a few small goals . These should be goals that are slightly, but not overwhelmingly, challenging. Think of these goals as “small wins” that are designed to help boost your confidence.

Try to make your goals tiny steps on the route to much bigger goals. Don’t focus on the end picture. Break it down and take it one step at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. 

Hope for the best prepare for the worst

It never hurts to have a contingency plan as this will give you more confidence and allow you to take more calculated risks. 

For example, perhaps you have applied for funding at work that falls through, having a backup plan in place means you can start working towards the new goal straight away. 

There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

Learn to Grow From Whatever Happens

Of course, things often won’t go the way you had planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever happens. Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure. 

Failure is success in Progress – Albert Einstein 

Remember even the most successful people have failed before

And remember, even the most successful people have  encountered failure. 

Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. 

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn’t think he was talented enough. 

Most of us will fail at something. Doors will get slammed in our faces, and we might make some bad decisions. But imagine if Steve Jobs never returned to Apple or Michael Jordan had given up on his dream to play basketball when he was cut from that team.

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