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The Fear of Failure

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Webster Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipating or awareness of danger”. Humans as a species have fought to stay alive and safe. Most do not walk towards danger and if some do, they are called adrenaline junkies, irresponsible, unsafe, and so on. In our 21st century lives, even with all the accommodations and safety mechanisms that have been created, we continue to feel unsafe, and we continue to fear. What has been more prevalent as our species has evolved and developed is our fear of failure. Webster defines failure as a “lack of success”, and “an inability to perform”. From the moment you are born, you are tracked and judged based on your accomplishments, your first word, first step, comparing with others your age to see if you are developing “normally”. This pressure does not stop or reduce, it only increases as you age, with there now being certain tasks you must accomplish by a certain age. We are now able to live longer but the understanding is that you must be put together and ready for life by age 25. The specifics may vary by culture and location, but the overall understanding is that you must perform, without fear, without failure.

In order to overcome this innate trait, you must acknowledge that your fear is an inhibitor in your life. The continuous rumination on the “what if’s” has convinced us that we are inadequate and that we can’t possibly accomplish our goals.

1. Recognize the feeling of fear

Our first step in controlling ourselves and establishing confidence in fear is recognizing the feeling of fear. Your body is constantly reacting to the environment around you. Fear may feel like sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and tightness in your stomach. These signs are crucial to understanding fear. Notice these unpleasant bodily sensations and ask yourself, what is going on right now in my life that could be creating these feelings?

2. Listen to fear’s insecurities

Fear’s vocabulary is full of hateful and hurtful words. Understanding what your fear is trying to accomplish can provide a new perspective on responding to it. If fear is leading your relationship or your job, you may succumb to its tricks, but knowing you feel insecure in a relationship or need more training at work can be a helpful insight.

3. Understand the difference

Fear can be both innate and learned. Noting the difference is going to be a game-changer. The fear of not accomplishing enough or not being enough are irrational beliefs that we have been taught. We need to reteach ourselves how to lead with confidence but also understand that fear is an instinct.

4. Be kind to yourself and fear

What is your fear actually trying to tell you? Listen to its concerns but notice the difference between the necessary and unnecessary. Think about what you are avoiding in your life, and what are you trying to accomplish? Knowing what your goals are without the inhibitions of fear can lead to happiness and fulfillment in life.

Contact our counselors at Counseling Works to learn how you can benefit from a counseling session with us.

Written By: Hannah Slattery


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