Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Fear of Failure
According to a Gallop poll, 85% of the population hates their job, yet nowhere near that amount is prepared to quit and find something else. Many couples continue to do the dance of ambivalence: "should I stay or should I go". Some women dream of making a difference in the world by sharing their story of survival from childhood trauma and longing to stand up and speak and yet stay silent. Other women see themselves as teachers, leading others to embrace their gifts and expand their hearts and minds, and yet they are afraid to go back to school and get the degree they need. Some have creative ideas for new businesses sitting on the shelf for years, gathering psychic dust.
You might be holding yourself back from things that you know would make you happy, bring you joy, financial freedom, and empower you and others. Why? One common and debilitating reason that women don't go for it is a fear of failure.
Signs of Fear of Failure include:
Worrying about what others think of you:
What if I disappoint people." "What if I look stupid." "What if they laugh at me."
You won't try new things:
Perfection is the only option. If you can't do it perfectly, there is no point in even trying. It doesn't matter if you like it or not. This is about staying in your comfort zone, staying "risk aversive", and with the "devil, you know".
Physical symptoms arising:
You might have good intentions to attend a new function, go on that date, or show up for the job interview right up to the very last second, and then you feel nausea or a headache coming on, and it is suddenly impossible. Your physical symptoms intervene and "rescue" you from a new situation. Sometimes the symptoms can become so severe they require medical intervention. Seek help if you are experiencing panic attacks or anything else interfering with your day to day life.
Distraction can be a socially acceptable solution if you set yourself up as the busiest, most helpful person on earth. You over-schedule so many things that you just can't make it to that new event or possibly take on the scary new situation. You are indispensable with all that you already do.
You meant to submit the application for the fall semester, but you didn't quite get around to it. You meant to call the bank to set up a business loan, but the day just got away from you. You meant to…well you get the idea.
Why are so many women afraid of failure?
Men are not immune to fear and not to fear of failure either. However, women's experience sets them up for an extra helping of some factors that contribute. Check out this interesting article re: women are more influenced by the negative feedback.
Tips for Overcoming Fear of Failure
1.Own the Fear
Start by acknowledging the fear.
Which of the signs of fear of failure ring true for you?
Are you afraid of disappointing the people in your life? Are you afraid of the voices that will say you are stupid? Admit that to yourself. Sit with it and tune in to the emotion behind it.
Shame is a powerful feeling, and it is not linked only to now; it stems from a past wound. To heal, go within and take care of the wounded girl who feels small, powerless, judged. Help her know that she is lovable and not dependant on anyone else's approval for light and belonging. It is time to take care of the needs that were not met.
I can help you make the journey to your inner child and heal the wounded places, so you can be free to live empowered in your own life. We can connect in a free 30-minute session where you learn more about this beautiful process.
You Won't Try New Things:
Learn what makes you happy. Often you don't know what you like because you just stay stuck in the rut of doing the same safe and comfortable things. Everyone wants to feel competent, and maybe along the way, you realized you weren't "the best" at something. I love to sing, and I was told repeatedly that I couldn't carry a tune. So, I stopped singing. I would mouth the words until I realized, hey, I love singing. I joined a choir that had no criteria and sung my heart out, along with a bunch of other mediocre songsters. It was joyful! Exuberant! So much fun! It really isn't about being the best; it's about being happy. Start to build a list of things that make you joyful. Pay attention, write them down and then DO THEM!
Physical Symptoms Arising:
Start connecting mind, body, and spirit so that you are whole again. Tune into where and when you are triggered with physical symptoms. Notice the thoughts and feelings accompanying them and learn simple, mindfulness techniques to interrupt the hi-jack that happens before you lose control.
Emotions are a normal part of being human. You don't have to be afraid of them. You can learn how to be the master of your own life even when you have intense emotions.
Avoidance & Procrastination:
Stop overscheduling. You don't need to have more than 3 items on your "to-do list" any day. If you do, they are filler. Spend some time in meditation, visualization and focusing on your intentions and then set 3 very specific goals for your day. That leaves plenty of time to get done everything you want and need to do.
2.Analyze Potential Outcomes:
The most common way to do this is to jump ahead to the worst-case scenario and think about what might happen if you tried and actually did fail and ask yourself, "what is the worst that will happen as a result?" This can leave you going in circles.
Instead, an effective method to weigh your options is to use a modified pro/con list.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) uses the model of the pros and cons of tolerating the distress of a situation and the pros and cons of not tolerating the distress of a situation.
Let's use the example of the person who is miserable in their current job, who is afraid to apply for a new position.
With the pro/con list, you can analyze how you will feel if you apply for the job and ultimately feel if you don't. Yes, you might feel like a fish out of water for a while as you accumulate the new skills needed to settle into your new role, and it will take a bit before you are the resident expert. But, eventually, you will have a sense of growth and satisfaction with the change and a sense of regret, pain, and shame without it. So, is it time to make a move?
3.Think More Positively: Assess Your Strengths
Women are more inclined to downplay their strengths and less inclined to self-promote than men.
When you decide to try something new or change, lack of confidence can feel like an insurmountable barrier. It's not enough to just say "be more confident".
Ask a woman what she doesn't like about herself and stand back because she can likely recite a treatise on the parts of her body that need improvement or flaws in her personality that she is working on. Now ask her what her strengths are, and you will hear crickets. Many women honestly don't know where to start or what to say.
Start by listening to the voice telling you the negative stuff just long enough to get a handle on it. Who does it sound like? Is that your mother, grandmother, father, third-grade teacher, old boyfriend, you hear whispering those good for nothings in your ear?
What is the crux of what they are saying? Is there a theme that it all kind of boils down to? Are there two or three main things that keep cropping up, like "you aren't good enough" or "you are never going to amount to anything" or "nobody will ever love you"?
Once you have the main things, see if you can figure out when they came up first. This isn't always easy to do on your own, and having someone help you get to the root of the matter can be very helpful. The idea is not to stay there and wallow; it is to blast the past once and for all.
When you realize the source and release the energy that accompanies it, you can start to dial down the negative (literally just imagine turning down the volume on the negativity station in your head) and dial-up the positive.
Make a list of your strengths. What do you love to do? Don't just focus on what you are good at. Consider everything you do that you do with passion and joy and write it down. Then, ask your friends, co-workers, colleagues, family, kids, and spouse to provide you with 3 things that make you unique and 3 things you excel at. Start to see all the possibilities that are available to you.
It is indeed wonderful to think and dream big.
However, one reason women don't take the first step is they are looking at the last one.
So, yes, set your sights on the stars! And then take one action, then the next, and the next.
Whatever you are considering, there are micro-steps along the way. For example, if you want to have a fantastic relationship, the first step isn't to get married; it is to become a whole, healthy person. It is to know your values, develop compassion, accept yourself, love yourself, and be kind to yourself. If you need to leave an unhealthy relationship, you don't' need to just pack up the furniture and go. (unless it is unsafe – then get the heck outta there, and even then it is wise to have an exit plan) You can exit with dignity, compassion, and a plan to transition to a new relationship phase. When you are ready to start a new venture, there are steps to make change less scary. Get support, get an accountability person, have a model, work a plan.
Make sure that you have built-in assessment and re-assessment to whatever plan you have because you will make mistakes and require some re-calibration. Knowing this going in takes away the sense of "failure". If you know that you are going to need to evaluate and adjust along the way, you are re-framing from the idea that you are "failing" to "getting valuable feedback." Sometimes, we need a lot of feedback and many readjustments before we hit our targets. Edison tried 10,000 times before getting the light bulb just right.
5.Visualize the Outcome You Want:
After you read this, take a breath and close your eyes. See yourself as successful in every way: relationship, career, financial, personal, family, physical and spiritual.
Choose a longer time frame, say 1 year, and imagine how you want to be living at that time. See yourself in great detail. See how you move, dress, what you drive, where you live and work and who you are with. Hear the way you speak and what you say. Hear the conversations you have with the people in your life and the sounds all around you. Feel the way you want to feel. Imagine how you interact with your family and friends. What kind of impact are you making in the world?
Now visualize yourself 6 months from now and see the things you have done to achieve the life you will be living in a year. What goals have you achieved? What do you look like, how do you spend your time? What obstacles have you overcome? Who is in your life and who is not?
Now visualize yourself 3 months from now and see what you have done to achieve the life you will be living in a year. What goals have you achieved? What do you look like, how do you spend your time? What obstacles have you overcome? Who is in your life and who is not?
Now visualize yourself today. What is one thing you need to do today to help you achieve the life you will be living in a year?
Want to learn more about my Life Learning Strategies and how I tackle life's ups and downs? Book a free Clarity Consultation today: I'm here to help.