How to overcome a fear of failure

I think it would be fair to say that many of us concern ourselves over failure.  However, when I start talking to clients about their fears, what tends to emerge is that it is not a fear of failure, but a fear of success!  And that can be quite hard for people accept as on the surface, that does not make sense!

We often strive for success because it can mean more money, more opportunities, more excitement, but as with most things, there are two sides of the story!  More money can mean that friendships change as suddenly you are doing things that your peers can't afford to or perhaps don't relate to, new opportunities may mean new responsibilities, new challenges that are way outside of your comfort zone.  And here is the biggie - when you are successful, there is further to fall!

And that is when that little voice kicks in, "Stay in your comfort zone.  It is not so bad after all.  You know how it all works here...." and then it latches on to that 'biggie' - "What if your success doesn't last?"  And this we translate into the fear of failure.

Sometimes the fear can be reduced by simply putting the risks and benefits on the scales and seeing which is the most attractive side.  People can often rationalise that yes, they may lose some friends but they will find more.  Or what will appear a big challenge at first, will soon feel less so once you get used to it.  And very quickly those risks get smaller and smaller until the fear associated with them is hiding in the corner!

However, if after this exercise the fear is still running around and reaking havoc, there is another approach to getting fear back under control.  And this is when I call on my "What if monkey."  This little blighter is a tenacious creature that keeps asking one question - and in this case it is, "What if I give up now."

And he keeps asking that question.  The answers tend to then start pouring out, "I will not get a chance to pay the mortgage off quicker," or "I will be stuck doing the same thing for the next 5 years"  and after each answer the what if monkey keeps going, "What else, what else will happen if you give up now?"

In every situation where the what if monkey has been deployed, sooner or later we end up in the same place.  "I will regret it"

Regret is a very underestimated emotion - and in my view, one of the most dangerous.  It is powerful because it hooks you in the past and when you are hooked there, it becomes hard to acknowledge all that you have now, and the future is almost imperceptible.  However regret also has two sides - regret for having done something and regret for having not done something.  Which I wonder do you think is the one to avoid?

Regret for having done something has a hook, but that hook can be released relatively easily as it leads to learning.  You may regret having taken a job that didn't work out, but you then know that job is not for you and can move on.

Regret for having not done something however, can be very, very destructive because the opportunity that came in that time and place cannot ever be repeated in the same context.

So if you are ever fearing failure, have a little think on this.  Are you fearing failure, or success?  And if you don't step onto this path to success now, will you regret it in the future?  And from there, I think there is every chance that the fear around success may just quieten right down!


As always, I love to hear your thoughts on this.  Most of us have feared failure at some point but having read this, can you now see that you may have misinterpreted your fears?

And if you find yourself hooked in the past by regret, please do get in touch as those hooks can be removed with a little help!


Published by Caroline Cavanagh Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of Anxiety Alchemy. on |

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