How to Get Past the Fear of Failure

Three fears lead directly to underachievement: fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of making a mistake. Any of these fears can paralyze initiative. When all three are working, initiative grinds to a halt.  How many of these fears plague you?

Usually, we experience some of each. If even one gets in the way of moving forward, it’s not good.

In this article I am going to tell you steps to take to get past the first of these three fears, fear of failure.

But first, let’s zero in on what each of these fears creates in us. Fear of failure inclines us to duck out on challenges, pull back effort and quit. Fear of success tempts us to procrastinate, fall behind and make excuses. Fear of making a mistake prompts us to avoid going all the way to our dream for fear that what we held as our dream might turn out to disappoint us.

All three lead to adult underachievement—doing less with our abilities than we know we could. And self-attack and energy-sapping mood swings follow.

Here’s what to do to get past fear of failure.

First realize that to duck out on a challenge, quit, or pull back effort, is to accept defeat from the outset. You guarantee failure when you hold back effort. So if failure is what you want to avoid, perversely, by trying to avoid it, you acquiesce to it. This is bombing the village to save it or setting fire to your house so you have an excuse for losing your keys. Abstaining from effort is a no-contest way of submitting to failure—and by your own hand. In effect, it’s a form of self-betrayal if not suicide to your opportunities. By your attempt to avoid failure, you embrace failure without resistance.

To move forward, instead of disengaging, engage. Get in the game. Make your statement, be a presence and a participant in your own life. Do what you can do and decide to learn from the outcome. In other words, instead taking a perfect-or-nothing stance, be a beginner, a learner. Make your effort a work in progress. Assess the results of your efforts, and then resume with the knowledge gained.

The rewards of engagement alone are colossally more pleasurable, no matter the outcome, than the relief you imagined you would have by yielding to fear in order to avoid failure. Avoiding failure provides no satisfaction. And you feel like a coward.

Engaging, on the other hand, immediately yields satisfaction, even when you are not successful the first time out. In fact, you should presume you won’t be successful the first time out. Would what you are doing really be worthwhile or significant if it were so easy? Only by engaging, do you learn.

Besides, where’s the satisfaction of sitting on the sidelines of life?

When you understand that what you do by the mere act of engaging is of inestimably greater importance than whether you fail or not, you immediately live on a different, more vivid, plane.

A failure makes judgment of who you are as a person in only one way: it stands as proof that you are a person who wants to go beyond the status quo and that you are in the process of stretching and learning.

The outcome of any effort reflects only what you have learned so far.


Sonia Dabboussi is the founder of Gifted for Life, a groundbreaking community of empowered gifted adults who maximize their unique abilities, sensitivities, experiences and insights to make a remarkable world impact.

For over a decade and a half, her diverse experience in academic and personal development through positions in education, educational administration and success coaching has led her to conduct seminars, workshops and one-on-one trainings for exceptional people in local, national and international regions.

She is a gifted adult.

article by Kenneth Christian

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  • Danny Neumann

    I think it also helps to see failure as a stepping stone to success. I used to live in Silicon Valley and that’s practically dogma for them. I think it’s a very positive attitude. I also think that the most effective way to deal with fear is to face it head on, and by doing so repeatedly it loses its control over you and you’re free. Perhaps throwing yourself repeatedly into challenging situations, knowing that you’re most likely going to fail, is a great way to get past your fears and anxieties.

  • Jena

    I experience all three of these fears–to the degree that I become incapacitated.  At so many points in my life, I have put my progression “on hold”.  This, because of my reluctance to take the chance-to believe in myself and in my own abilities.  Personal experience has given me no reason to doubt, but my insecurities have usually emerged triumphant.  I am eagerly anticipating the next two segments of this article.