Are you paralyzed by your fear of failure?



I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear



Fear of failure is common. Most people want to succeed at the things they do, but it is only those who are brave enough to confront this particular variety of fear who are able to rise above their fears and achieve whatever goals they have set for themselves. If you are among those who are not able to overcome this kind of fear, it will be much more difficult to realize your potential.

One of the most destructive elements involved in the fear of failure is one’s inability to take constructive criticism or feedback well. Instead, you tend to magnify or amplify the mistakes you have made along the way until it overtakes your mind to such an extent that it becomes a challenge to shake them off. There are also instances when the fear of failure is so intense that people begin to limit themselves to the point that they stop trying to do anything because of this fear.

So, who cares? So what?

Why is it important for you to give some attention to this issue? Until and unless you are able to let go of this fear of failure, you will be unable to achieve your desired result. Often the fear of failure produces negative thoughts that reduce your actual potential. You downsize yourself. You begin to believe that you are incapable of achieving something when the real fact of the matter is that you can.

Once you have summoned up the courage to do something about this fear, you will be able to provide yourself with a new sense of freedom to do what you need to do and to be confident that you will succeed at it. Here are some basic methods you can try out.

Do something about the fear

Fear of failure immobilizes you. Look at the quote… “fear is the mind-killer.” You become so wrapped up in the fear that you will eventually stop trying, and accept the failure. But when you don’t even try, you neither fail nor succeed. You must take some decisive action toward conquering your fear. If you should fail, then you will create awareness of the factors that will contribute toward your future success. If you fail, you will learn the lesson of how not to do it the next time. If you succeed, then that is its own reward.

Find alternatives

There are always many factors involved and they all contribute to why you fail or succeed at doing a thing. Whichever it is, you need to look at your behavior toward something and the result that you have achieved. But, most importantly, you must never accept that the failure lies within yourself. You can always get back up and try other alternative methods or different routes to achieve your desired goals. You can try doing things differently.

Learning from failure

This is the best that you can take out of any experience, successes and failures. This is also one of the more effective ways to work on your fear. Instead of putting all the blame on yourself as to why you failed in your endeavors, use it as a learning opportunity instead. This will enable you to prevent failing again in the future in the same way. Consider asking yourself some of the following questions to gain insight and direction in moving forward:

  • Where did I make my mistakes?
  • What could I have done differently to have prevented the mistake from happening?
  • Where can I make improvements?

Failures must always be translated into a learning experience. In this way, you have more opportunities to learn and do better the next time you try. After all, if you have not experienced any type of failure, then you would not have the means to make moves toward changing for the better. In terms of conquering this type of fear, it is important that you learn how to confront and overcome it. This is not easy, but it is necessary. If you do not,you will end up repeating the same mistakes over and over, or worse your fear of failure may keep you from following your heart’s desires and goals.


The quote? One of my favorites from the movie and book “Dune”

Photo Credit: i k o via Compfight cc

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About Martina

Martina McGowan has a passion for helping people find their way forward. This she does as a physician, writer, mother, grandmother, coach, minister, blogger, speaker, and working with the prosecutor's office for the conviction of people involved in the sexual assault and abuse of children. She is a life-long student of human behavior, and a teacher of deep listening. It is by listening, and hearing each other's hearts that we are able to help them heal, and thereby help heal ourselves.

15 Responses to “Are you paralyzed by your fear of failure?”

  1. Sandy Jenney February 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    I know fear has held me back in many situations. But it is very encouraging when you fight past it and you don’t have it slam you back in the face (which I’ve also had happen.. and I’m sure most have). Great points.

  2. debbiefuco February 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    From an education technology point-of-view, teachers and administrators are often afraid of change. This point resonated with me:

    “Fear of failure immobilizes you. Look at the quote… “fear is the mindkiller.” You become so wrapped up in the fear that you will eventually stop trying, and accept the failure. But when you don’t even try, you neither fail nor succeed.”

    In education, as in most aspects of life, to fail is seen as a negative thing. When in fact, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn. Hence, First Attempt In Learning = FAIL. Risk-taking should be encouraged and embraced. Our students need educators who model life-long learning and a spirit that demonstrates that failure is the first step to success.

    Thanks for your post, Martina!

    • Martina February 17, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

      You make several good points Debbie.

      Yes, failure can stall us for a period, but we have to take the risk of getting back up and trying again. And we can almost always assume that the second trial will be much better, because we have learned valuable information. Who knows? It may even be successful.

      Your second point is just as valuable. We must all work to be better role models to our children. We have to show more transparency and show that every trip outside of our house is a risk. But there is so much to do, see, and learn.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Eric Butts February 17, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    I’m dealing with a major change right now as I’ve decided to change firms AND relocate the family to the west coast. It could be that I’ve made a mistake but I made the call, so now I have to drive forward on executing on the plan until new information suggests that a different change needs to be made. Otherwise “paralysis by analysis” is certainly a risk.

    • Martina February 17, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

      Thanks Eric.

      You are correct. We can over-analyze anything until we become paralyzed by all the “data” we have collected, or we choose to stay stuck, by not choosing.
      And, the only way we really want to go is forward.

      Best of luck to you and four family with your new adventure.



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