Is fear holding you back?

Being scared to fail can be a massive roadblock in your life and hold you back from being your very best – both professionally and personally.

We each have our own definition of success, and it goes hand in hand with our personal values and ambitions. This means that what one person sees as a simple day-to-day task might be another’s proudest moment. The same goes for failure.

Being afraid to fail can hold us back from taking risks and pushing out of our comfort zone, but sometimes taking these chances is the only way we can progress professionally – so it becomes a vicious circle! So what can you do when fear of failure starts interfering with your potential to succeed?

Where Does a Fear of Failure Come From?

Fear of failure (or ‘atychiphobia’ if you want to use its technical name) can be linked to a number of different things.

We won’t get all Freudian with you now but negative feelings from childhood and bad past experiences can manifest themselves as a fear of failing when we become adults.

In fact, studies have shown that people who were typically ‘high-achievers’ at school tended to be more likely to have a fear of failing as they mature – simply because they haven’t had to deal with it as they’ve grown up.

Signs You Might Be Scared of Failing

Have you ever felt like an imposter when talking with co-workers?

Do you purposefully avoid new challenges and projects you don’t think you’ll be good at?

Does the idea of presenting your ideas to a room full of people fill you with dread?

Feelings of insecurity and self-doubt are common signs that you’re afraid of failing – and if you answered yes to any of the above then you definitely aren’t alone!

Being afraid to fail can lead to you missing out on valuable opportunities and over a prolonged period of time could cause you to lose your passion and that sparkle! So, what can you do about it? Well, read on for our top tips to get yourself out of this mindset and help you to progress forward with your goals confidently.

How to Beat Your Fear of Failure

Dive into the Root of Your Fear

Sometimes, to get over something you’re scared of you have to dig down into where it has come from in the first place.

We’ve already spoken through common sources of a fear of failure, so take some time to consider what be the root causing you to be scared of failing.

Have you been burnt by a past experience, or is it something deeper than that?

Play Through Every Scenario

The next time you’re presented with an opportunity, but you’re struggling to make a decision because you’re scared of failing, here’s what we want you to do:

  • Grab a pen and paper
  • Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee (or your comforting beverage of choice)
  • Take ten minutes and imagine you’ve accepted the opportunity
  • Write down every possible outcome – good or bad

What you write should cover every scenario out there, from the best possible outcome to the worst.

You’ll often find that the answer to ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ isn’t half as bad as we fear. Recognising this can help you to realise that your fear might be an irrational one, and you won’t have any hesitations in moving forwards.

Now flip to the other side of the scale. Read what you’ve written as the best possible outcome and imagine how that would feel and the knock-on effects it could have for you.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? If so, what’s holding you back?

Try to Embrace Positive Thinking

People often underestimate the true power of positive thinking. Thinking positively can do wonders for building our self-confidence and prevent us from self-sabotaging.

When we’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to focus on the negative and that’s not going to help in any way shape or form. Instead, banish all negative thoughts and fully embrace the ‘glass half full’!

We’re not saying this is going to be easy – what we’re essentially asking you to do here is completely change your mindset. But with some practice (and possibly even some professional executive coaching) you’ll soon be on the road to thinking more positively and conquering any fears you had.

Embrace Failure – it’s a Learning Opportunity 

Every time you have a negative experience, we guarantee that there’s something to be learnt from it. Learning how to embrace these learning opportunities will flip how you think about failure on its head.

Reflect back on a past failure and write out three things you’ve learnt as a result. If you missed a deadline, perhaps you learnt to focus on prioritising better. If you sent off a project with silly spelling mistakes, maybe you now always double-check your work before sending it.

Learning from our mistakes is one of the key ways we grow and get better as people, and there are lots of famous examples out there to take inspiration from. From Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs, there are plenty of celebrities that we look up to as being very successful today, but they’ve only got to where they are by making mistakes and learning from them.

Be Kind to Yourself

Let’s face it, not one person in the world is always perfect and to be frank there aren’t enough hours in the day for us to put 100% into absolutely everything we do.

This means that it’s inevitable that we’ll all make mistakes and fail every now and again. It’s how we treat ourselves in these moments, however, that really counts.

In our past articles surrounding great leadership we’ve spoken about being kind and compassionate to others, well it’s important to apply the same rule to yourself. If you consistently beat yourself up and make yourself feel guilty when you get something wrong it’s only going to make you more fearful of failure in the future. Treating yourself with kindness and care will make it easier for you to pick yourself back up and try again.


There you have it, our quick guide to conquering your fear of failure. Reading this written down in black and white may feel quite straightforward, but this isn’t going to be an easy nut to crack.

A lot of the steps above involve changing how you think, feel and act – and some of these will be ingrained learned behaviours that will be hard to re-programme.

So, what can you do? Well lucky you, you’re in the right place. Here at Zest, we’re people performance experts, meaning we have a team of professionals on hand to guide you through to become the best possible version of yourself.

Want to know more? Get in touch at info@zest-learning.com.

Related Topics

Leading with Compassion

The Benefits of Executive Coaching

Qualities of a Good Leader

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