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Why Your Fear of Failure is Holding You Back

By Edited Aug 15, 2016 3 5
Fear of Failure

Everyone has some type of fear or phobia. I know I do. I’m afraid of virtually everything. Seriously, I have very little bias when it comes to fears. I pretty much have them all. Heights? Yep. Spiders, snakes? Yep. Yep. You name it, chances are I fear it.
 
And, I don't know about you but, most of all, one of my biggest fears is a fear of failing. The idea of putting yourself out there, building something for all the world to see and enjoy, and then having the reception be, well, pitiful. Writing this very post, I feel a small twinge of fear and self-doubt constantly whirling around in my head...But why?
 
Why are we so afraid to fail?
 
Just like high school, we're not afraid to fail, we're afraid of looking stupid. It's not so much that we necessarily believe that failing will somehow lead to our untimely death (at least not in most situations, hopefully). But instead, I think we are determined to protect ourselves from humiliation, shame and embarrassment. 
 
Because we are human, and we've undoubtedly experienced some form of humiliation throughout our lives, our minds naturally develop security measures to ensure that we don't "make the same mistakes twice." Each time we allow ourselves to be swayed by the opinions of others, we sacrifice a little bit of our courage. Then, over time, we convince ourselves that our art is not as good, that what we do and make isn't worthy of public consumption and we should just keep it to ourselves or quit altogether.
 
Our "support" structures are unsupportive, and cause us to second-guess ourselves. Maybe we have friends and family that have the best intentions but quietly, subtly dissuade us from taking chances. I'm sure if you've ever had a "wild" dream like being an athlete or musician, you've heard the spiel from the argument from the resistant parent or grandparent: "You shouldn't be wasting your time with that! Less than 1% of people actually 'make it!'"
 
This kind of "support", like I said, is well-intended but unnecessary and detrimental. Now, obviously you can't just up-and-ditch your family, but you may want to consider having a genuine heart-to-heart with them to explain how serious you are about your goal.
 
Our minds envision perfection we're sure is unattainable and therefore, we don't try. We build up an image about being "the best" in the world and ultimately psyche ourselves out. We use our minds, our most powerful asset, as a tool working against us instead of for us. As Napolean Hill said, "What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." (Think and Grow Rich). This is true, and so if we focus our minds on the fear, we will become too afraid to act.
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So how can we minimize our fear?

Fearless

I can't guarantee your fear will ever truly subside, but if you stick it out and make an intentional effort to push it back in the name of art, you'll no doubt create more, do more, and be better for it. 

If you really want to overcome your fear start boldly. Use the tips outlined below and see if they don't make a difference.
 
1It starts with passion. Sometimes the reason we fear doing something is because we aren't entirely sure if we're capable or knowledgable enough to complete the task. Before you set out to do anything, it's a good idea to make sure that whatever art you're attempting to create, you've already found that it's your passion.
 
2. Do something NOW. The most important thing you can do when starting something you fear is to just plunge right in. Pick some element of your task, something extremely small, and power through until it's done. Once you start, you'll notice the resistance subsides quickly in the face of effort.
 
3. Don't focus on the negative, focus on the positive. You're always going to run into dissenting options and naysayers. Make sure to tune them out. This also goes for your own negative self-talk, which is perhaps the largest naysayer of the entire bunch. Reaffirm your confidence by repeatedly telling yourself you're capable and that you are pursuing something you love and have a talent for.
 
4. Enjoy making bad art. This is my favorite tip--and for good reason. Allow yourself to make stuff that is flat-out bad. Remember when you were a kid, before all of the judgement and skepticism, how you wrote things and drew things and colored just for the sake of the activity itself? Try to refocus your mind on that feeling and return to that playful mental state that you intuitively had as a child.
 
5. Build a supportive support structure. This is taking step two another step further. Don't just dodge the negative opinions of yourself and others, give yourself the highest chances of success by surrounding yourself with like-minded people pursuing similar goals. You'd be surprised how much your fear wanes when you engage with others that want you to succeed.
 
6. Think Different. Steve Jobs said it best when he asked the world to "Think Different." And that's precisely what you need to do to overcome your fear--think different, and redefine your emotions. Instead of dreading a task and focusing on the negative or challenging aspects, think about what drew you to doing the activity in the first place. What are the fun elements? What about making that art puts a smile on your face? Focus on those questions and let all other self-talk fall by the wayside.
 
Hopefully these tips will help you overcome your fear of failure, and remember, as Winston Churchill once said, "Success is not final...Failure is not fatal...it's the courage to continue that counts."
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Comments

Mar 11, 2013 12:08am
eileen
I can definitely associate with that title especially when I first started writing. I was constantly...put down, some was good criticism which was okay. But others were really nasty so much so that I gave up trying to do any creative writing altogether.
Then I found the internet article writing and decided to have a go at that. No I am still not perfect but I write because I want to write not to be perfect (like they expected with dialogue) and enjoy it still. Great article.
Mar 11, 2013 12:42am
veypor
It's good you found the courage to step back in the ring. I know putting yourself out there creatively can be difficult, but I think even for every thousand skeptics having one sincere interaction is worth all the effort. Thanks for the reply!
Mar 11, 2013 6:54am
KimChaos
Just what I needed this morning, thank you. I only yesterday shared my articles with my friends for the reasons stated in your article.
Mar 12, 2013 8:03pm
Alex-Gopson
Great article, sometimes the most significant thing you can do to get yourself motivated is just that first step. After that, although the tasks get harder, you can remind yourself of what you've already done, and that success breeds success.
Mar 12, 2013 10:18pm
veypor
Very true. Though the first step may be most difficult, it's also most important.
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