Do You Fear Failure?

By Jennifer Blanchard

Last week’s post discussed fear of success. Fear of success’ evil twin sister is fear of failure.

So what exactly is a fear of failure?

A fear of failure is often the most paralyzing of the four main things procrastinators fear. It causes people to avoid the things they want to do because they are afraid they will fail.

A procrastinator’s fear of failure can sometimes be so strong that they may even subconsciously undermine themselves so they don’t have to attempt something (or continue attempting it).

Oddly enough, by not attempting something (or attempting, but giving up quickly), you are essentially bringing about that which you’ve been fearing: failure.

So what causes procrastinators to fear failing?

“Often, this phobia is linked with early life causes, like demeaning parents or siblings, or traumatic events where a major embarrassment was the result of some minor failure,” according to the article, Fear of Failure, on

Fear of failure can build up over a lifetime, getting progressively more paralyzing as the years go on–unless you do something about it.

Do You Fear Failure?
Although fear of failure may come from not having the skills or knowledge to do something, most of the time the fear is in your mind.

Here are some common signs that you fear failure:

  • You avoid doing something if you know you won’t be able to do it well immediately.
  • You don’t set goals; if you don’t set goals, you can’t fail.
  • You procrastinate on the things you really want to do because you don’t believe you can do it.
  • You live well below your potential (and know it).
  • You never step outside your comfort zone.
  • Your life is mediocre; it could be better, but why fix something that’s not broken?
  • You only attempt things you know you’ll be good at.
  • You sabotage yourself by procrastinating.
  • Any time you want to attempt something new, you first play the scenario out in your mind. If you see your attempt ending in failure, criticism or ridicule, you don’t attempt it.
  • You give up on things easily.
  • You worry about being judged for not being able to do something well/perfect.

For more information on the causes of fear of failure, read:

The idea of failing can be scary, there’s no doubt. But isn’t the idea of never reaching your writing dreams scarier?

Action Steps:

  • Accept Your Fear–This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Failure in life is inevitable. It’s not possible for you to be amazing at something immediately. It’s not possible for you to achieve everything you want to achieve immediately. It takes time. It takes work.Once you can finally accept that failure is just a part of life, you’ll be able to turn your failure into amazing writing opportunities.
  • Act–Since fear of failure immobilizes you, in order to overcome it, you need to take action. Go after your dreams; finally sit down and write that short story; finally submit your poem to a literary magazine; do something!Action gives you the ability to change the circumstances that hold you back.
  • Keep At It–Ask any successful person and they’ll tell you they didn’t succeed after their first attempt. Hell, they might not have succeeded after their hundredth attempt! The point is, if you give up, failure is inevitable. But if you keep on trying, you’ll eventually get there.Whenever you feel yourself letting your fear of failure get the best of you, just ask yourself, “What would I attempt if I knew I couldn’t fail?”
  • Treat Every Failure as a Learning Opportunity–Being successful in writing is all about learning what doesn’t work for you. Once you know what doesn’t work (from having failed a couple times), you can improve on the circumstance and eventually find what does work.
  • Keep Believing–This is one of the most important things you can do for your writing career: Believe in yourself! Know that you can do this. Know that you will do this. Know that there’s no one better for the job than you.And no matter what, don’t let rejection kill your confidence.

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