Fear of failure

One of the most common problems I see is also the most misunderstood – having a fear of failure. You’d think that anyone who was frightened of failure would avoid it at all costs. But no – people who have a fear of failure set themselves up to fail. Why? Because if they orchestrate the failure, they believe that they determined the outcome. They stay in control. One of the most severe cases was an athlete who would burn the soles of her feet with a cigarette. She wouldn’t tell anyone. But she knew that if she didn’t win, it was because she had burnt feet. To her, it was better than trying her hardest and not winning.

Those with a fear of failure:

  • would rather not try, than try and fail
  • will put things off until the last minute (procrastinate), because that gives them a good excuse if they fail
  • will run late to meetings or gatherings, because then the focus will be on the fact that they were late, not on how they performed
  • often consider themselves to be “big picture people” so they can start a project, but not have responsibility for finishing it
  • are often accused of never finishing anything they start
  • pride themselves on being perfectionistic, not realising that perfectionism is a condition that needs to be treated and eradicated
  • will aim for 100%, knowing that they won’t get there because if they set a realistic goal of 70% and don’t achieve it, that would be unbearable

Recognise yourself or someone close to you? Here’s what to do about it

  1. Be aware of the problem
  2. Consider where it came from – parents with high expectations? early success in life?
  3. Try to stop procrastinating
  4. Set realistic goals
  5. Reward yourself when realistic goals are met
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