9 Habits to Overcome a Constant Fear of Failure

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I had grown sick and tired of doubting my ability to accomplish whatever tasks or goals I wanted to pursue. A constant fear of failure kept lingering at the back of my mind. There was this nagging voice, aka my inner critic, telling me I didn't have what it takes and that I was too weak to succeed.

Then, one day, just like that, I snapped out of it. It was like a light bulb moment that drove home the fact that if I knew how to overcome a fear of failure, it could become so much easier to pursue goals and life plans. I would be more confident about taking positive risks that can lead to business, employment, and relationship success. I only had to be willing to develop good habits to fast-track my success.

The fact that you're here tells me you share similar sentiments and are hoping you can finally get past your fear.

Fear of failure can be crippling. I will touch on nine habits that could help you forget you had this fear in the first place. Like myself and others who defeated the fear of failure, you'll increase your chances of success by creating habits and routines. You could even add “Overcoming a fear of failure” to your SMART goals list for 2023.

In case you don't already know, I’ll explain what fear of failure means, what creates it, and how daily habits work to counteract fear.

What Is Fear of Failure?

A prolonged fear or failure may be diagnosed as a condition or phobia called atychiphobia. Phobias are irrational and uncontrollable fears of objects, places, people, animals, activities, or situations. Whatever the underlying source, there's an overwhelming feeling of dread (anxiety) that prevents you from taking steps to do or accomplish something, solely because you believe you're going to be unsuccessful.

In some cases, a fear of failure may be linked to a fear of losing or the inverse of that, which is a fear of success. Either way, fear that gets out of control can prevent you from pursuing your goals, dreams, and aspirations. Fearfulness isn't always a bad thing, though. It can serve as a motivating factor if there's a lot at stake and you're someone who doesn't like to flunk at school or work. Getting motivated by a fear of NOT being successful helps prevent procrastination and increases performance.

An important note to make in your quest to overcome the fear of failure through habits is that fear is just an emotion. Luckily, emotions can be managed and regulated. In this instance, the goal is to use habits that will keep the fear of failure in check and allow your desire to succeed to dominate.

What Causes Fear of Failure?

A traumatic or non-traumatic early childhood experience may have caused the fear to embed in your psyche. For example, your parent or caregiver may have held you to high-performance standards and threatened consequences if you didn't succeed at school. Receiving constant criticism for failing is another risk factor. Similarly, having a perfectionist parent who was afraid of failing.

Perhaps the genesis of the problem is a strong desire for constant validation. You probably unconsciously decided you won't pursue anything meaningful unless you can perform impressively and receive praise.

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A traumatic or non-traumatic early childhood experience may have caused the fear to embed in your psyche.

Whatever the root cause, you have been conditioned to fear failing. The fear extended into your adulthood and seeped into other areas of your life, including work and relationships. You're constantly afraid you'll mess up at work or screw up a relationship. Doubting success could lead to sabotaging opportunities for a rewarding career or happiness. 

You may have noticed you constantly worry about performance at work, school, athletics, or in the bedroom. These thoughts are distracting and often result in time-wasting or loss of confidence. You avoid assignments or projects or scrap them and start afresh thinking they were done poorly. All of it leads to a loss of productivity and anxiety over now having to complete tasks within a shorter timeframe. 

9 Habits to Overcome a Constant Fear of Failure 

Fear of failure is a chronic, debilitating condition that blocks success when left unchecked for too long. A lack of success can result in low self-esteem, guilt, shame, loss of confidence, helplessness, or feeling like an underachiever.

Think of the following habits as a long-term solution for turning the fear of failure into a passion for success. Positive habits are patterns of behavior or routines performed automatically, which enable us to carry out daily responsibilities with greater ease.

Habit #1. Get comfortable with fear

Humans like to take the easy out. After all, no one truly enjoys a struggle unless they have an addiction to it, right? On that basis, it's possible that some of us unconsciously surrender to fear to avoid dealing with distress, panic, dread, or other discomforting feelings. Realize that fear is simply an emotion everyone experiences. How you respond to it makes a difference. 

Take action: As of now, accept fear as a natural experience that cannot harm you unless you allow it to fester. It's okay to feel fearful, but that doesn't equate to failure. Try emotion regulation to rid stress and anxiety. Whenever you're confronted with fear, reassert your power over it and regain control of the situation. Repeat motivating statements, such as, “Fear is an emotion. I will not surrender to fear.” Prevent yourself from giving up by shifting your focus to the future rewards. Fearfulness will eventually fade away.

Habit #2. Reframe your goals

Frame or restructure your to-do's and goals in a way that creates opportunities for ‘small' wins. For example, get into the habit of identifying valuable information or opportunities occurring throughout the process of taking action. It could be something you might easily overlook because you're placing more emphasis on the end result.

Paying keen attention to the process helps you place less emotional energy on the outcome and potential failure. It lets you enjoy the journey as you gain deeper insight and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed.

Take action: If you learn a new strategy or fresh information about a product your business sells, count it as an accomplishment. There's always something positive to take away in almost any venture. Just be willing to identify and appreciate their value. See your goal through a different lens and you'll feel successful regardless of if the overarching goal doesn't materialize the way you expected. Learn about Goals vs Expectations: Differences between Each One.

Habit #3. Visualize your success

Embrace the power of visualization, a technique that researchers find can be more powerful than positive thinking. Visualization is practicing imagining positive end results for the things you wish to achieve. Visualizing success entails seeing the end results as accomplishments. During the process, envisage potential obstacles and brainstorm ways to move past them.

You'll feel a greater level of certainty and preparedness taking action since you've essentially practiced your success ahead of time. Visualizing a positive outcome relieves nervousness and takes your mind off of thoughts of all the things that could go wrong. Your belief in your abilities becomes stronger and so does your self-confidence.

Take action: Practice creating an image of a future task or event in your mind you're having trouble believing can be a success. Imagine hitting a snag, e.g., loss of focus. Next, grab your notepad and write down ways to overcome the obstacle. For example, utilizing tools like Forest and Pomodoro Pro Timer to keep you focused and on track with tasks. Imagine yourself regaining concentration and completing what you set out to do.

Habit #4. Know your limits

There are limits to human capabilities regardless of how much you try to convince yourself that you have superpowers. Acknowledging the fact and identifying those limitations will prevent you from biting off more than you can chew.

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Knowing your limits and identifying them will prevent you from biting off more than you can chew.

Take on goals and tasks that you know are doable after considering your physical abilities, mental capacity, and available tools and resources, e.g., time, money, or equipment. This isn't taking the easy way out, but more like being honest with yourself and enjoying the emotional freedom to succeed because you've acknowledged limitations.

Take action: Practice the habit of setting achievable goals. Goals have a higher achievement probability when they are specific and clear, can be measured, can be achieved, are realistic, and have a practical time frame to complete. Goals that follow the framework are called SMART goals.

A secondary approach within the wider framework involves a habit of taking action by breaking down goal-achieving activities into steps or smaller and more manageable segments. Completing each step is a milestone and should be celebrated to boost self-motivation.

Habit #5. Address self-limiting beliefs

Believing you CAN'T do something is a perfect example of a self-limiting belief. The beliefs we hold are positive and negative subconscious conclusions about different things. Starting out any venture questioning your ability or the effectiveness of external factors, such as workplace systems, almost always set you up to underachieve. In fact, “they prevent us from becoming the best version of ourselves, according to motivational speaker, Tony Robbins.

Take action: Limiting beliefs about yourself, others, and the world are self-sabotaging in nature. Believing you don't deserve success is a pertinent example. Break the habit of believing you will fail by creating a new positive habit of pinpointing them as they come up.

Step 1 is to write them down in your how to overcome fear journal. Next, write down the potential setbacks those beliefs can create. Step 3 is to challenge each success-sabotaging belief by replacing it with one that increases motivation to pursue and achieve goals.

Habit #6. Psych yourself up using positive self-talk

Psyching yourself up in this context means preparing yourself physically and emotionally to perform at your best. Hopefully, you're already psyched up by the tips on how to overcome a fear of failure provided so far. The strategy can be especially helpful if you're prone to negative self-talk or inner dialogue that leads to self-doubt and loss of confidence in your ability to execute your plans. 

Take action: Establish a routine to invigorate yourself ahead of tasks. Start by creating a morning routine involving activities that stimulate a desire to perform mentally or physically. Identify habits you think will help in the process.

For example, reciting positive self-talk affirmations or reading a book on how to be successful, e.g., The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Keep yourself upbeat using strategies, such as mindfulness, to quickly replace negative self-talk with more empowering thoughts.

Habit #7. Vision board your way to success

Earlier, I mentioned visualizing success and productivity tools for minimizing a drop in performance. Using a vision board takes fear out of the equation, allowing you to focus only on positive outcomes.

All you have to do is create a vision board from selected materials or purchase one. A vision board in an object for reminding you of your mapped pathway to success in case you start doubting the process. You can also derive constant bursts of motivation just by glancing at it. Explore 26 FREE Printable Vision Board Temples.

Take action: Mount your vision board in a location where you can always see it. Mine is mounted facing my dining table where I can see it each morning, while drinking coffee and planning my day. Get into the habit of listing personal and professional goals that are specific or things to get down that are time-sensitive.

Do a daily review of your goals, for example, to assess what has been accomplished so far. Make adjustments to bypass obstacles to success. Rinse and repeat daily or weekly.

Habit #8. Journal away your fear

Research has established a connection between fear and emotional distress as well as anxiety symptoms. Journaling is a scientifically proven way to cope with stress and anxiety. Journaling requires you to write down your thoughts. Dr. Charnetta Colton-Poole, author of Write Through It, says you can “Write through…negative thoughts that pop up in your mind.”

Journaling your thoughts and emotions is another way to practice mindfulness. As a technique for mental distraction from negative thoughts, you can use it to bring awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. There's a chance you could prevent yourself from thinking these habits to overcome fear of failure won't work.

Take action: Shop for a suitable journal if you don't already have one. Next, learn how to start a journaling habit and stick to it. Take it as an initial step to wiping away your irrational fright and apprehensions about doing things that will make life better. Journal at least once daily, around the same time of day, for at least 30 days to create a journaling habit. 

Habit #9. Reframe the concept of “failure”

In the minds of some of the most successful people, failure doesn't exist until you breathe life into it. Others think of Failure is the Mother of Success. Seeing failure differently is a way to cognitively reframe it, so it no longer appears scary. Even if it's a fear of success that's being interpreted as a fear of failure, similar strategies like visualizing success are helpful, according to BetterUp.

Take action: Look at failure through a positive lens so you won't fear it. Whether the fear relates to failure or success, cultivate a habit of counteracting the negative feelings or symptoms associated with this negative emotion. Practice saying statements such as, “I am successful. I will not let fear overcome me” or “I will not give life to fear.” The habit of dismissing fear will eventually cause it to lose its adverse effects and validity.

How Can Habits Help You Overcome a Fear of Failure?

Fearing failure and the ongoing feelings of anxiety surrounding it is a major life obstacle that you have to address right away. How else are you supposed to taste the joy of success if you are incapacitated by thoughts of failing?

The mere nature of habits themselves makes it possible to conquer the fear of failure. The habits listed in the post can work to help gradually eliminate fear by keeping you in ‘fight' mode (performance and resilience) instead of ‘flight” mode (shutting down and avoidance). 

Habits can be formed unintentionally or you can deliberately cultivate them. By forming good habits to tame the fear, you're creating permanent mental track marks of the way you want to think and act. Over time, positive thoughts and actions become routines or second-nature behaviors that are difficult to change.

This happens once a psychological pattern called a “habit loop” has been formed and eventually becomes your automatic way of functioning. In other words, how you think and behave becomes deeply ingrained in your brain, and instinctive, according to Psychology Today

Final Thoughts on How to Overcome a Fear of failure

Experiencing a constant fear of failure is emotionally and sometimes physically debilitating. Procrastinating, second-guessing your output, or abandoning projects altogether due to this negative emotion can lead to missed opportunities that could've changed your life for the better. 

Equipping yourself with habits and strategically practicing them to deal with the challenge can make a positive difference in future outcomes. The difference will be evidenced in the increased level of success at work, home, and in relationships, over time.

For more, check out our article on How to Be Successful in Life: 12 Principles to Live By.

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3 thoughts on “9 Habits to Overcome a Constant Fear of Failure”

  1. They say that when a person fails, he needs to rise up again.

    But, the problem with the rise is it could probably be harder to rise again.

    Giving reward for every thing we do rather than for every success helps to make rising up easier.

    Thanks Stephen for the post and S.J.Scott for publishing this.

  2. I totally agree with you Michal and I myself also do come up with many ways on how to deal with it. It’s important to realize that in everything we do, there’s always a chance that we’ll fail. Facing that chance, and embracing it, is not only courageous – it also gives us a fuller, more rewarding life.

    However, here are a few ways to reduce the fear of failing:

    Analyze all potential outcomes – Many people experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision. Our article Decision Trees will teach you how to map possible outcomes visually.
    Learn to think more positively – Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful way to build self-confidence and neutralize self-sabotage. Our article Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking, and Positive Thinking is a comprehensive resource for learning how to change your thoughts.
    Look at the worse-case scenario – In some cases, the worst case scenario may be genuinely disastrous, and it may be perfectly rational to fear failure. In other cases, however, this worst case may actually not be that bad, and recognizing this can help.
    Have a contingency plan – If you’re afraid of failing at something, having a “Plan B” in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward.

  3. As a kid I was raised on fear and risked a beating if I broke out of the box of fear. No wonder I was a mess for the first 36 years of my life.

    However, by the grace of God and my angel’s I rose above the fear and took a lot of risks that I though would garner me great rewards…

    Boy was I wrong–the rewards did not happen. However, I kept on going by not letting the fear of failure slow me down.

    And along the way I realized that sometimes when we take a risk–it is also a lesson to help us grow and move into a better direction.

    After all if I had not spoke up about the bullying, intimidation, and harassment my last clinical instructor was doing to me–I would be an RN and would have not written four books.

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