Overcoming fear of failure requires a lot more than a pep talk.Why? A true fear of failure is rarely present-based or even logic.
Yes, you might have a big presentation to do, and yes, your fear of messing it up is real.
But if fear of failure is something you constantly battle with, then it’s probably connected to your past and to childhood experiences. (Read our article on “Why You Experience Fear of Failure” to see just how this works).
No wonder overcoming fear of failure can feel so hard. What can you do?
[Feel completely overwhelmed by your fear of failure? Visit our sister site harleytherapy.com to book counselling easily and quickly, worldwide. Appointments are available online via Skype, by phone or in person.]
Again, what you are really up against is core beliefs hidden deep in your unconscious mind. These tend to be along the lines of, ‘you are no good’, ‘you will never be anything’, and ‘the world is dangerous place’. Positive talk is like throwing a flower into a fire.
Take a tip from CBT therapy when overcoming fear of failure. It has shown we can reprogram our brains by finding neutral over positive thoughts.
Start by stating your fear, then finding the exact opposite of the fear. Find three facts that support each of these statements (to show your brain how it’s all perspective anyway) then find the neutral thought that lies in the middle.
In fact if you only have ten minutes to overcome your fear of failure, this might be the most useful tip of all.
Try using mindfulness as a way of overcoming fear of failure. Find a quiet, private space, sit comfortably and breathe deeply. Relax your body. Remind yourself fear is just an emotion. When you are able to be still, allow your fear of failure to rise.
What does fear of failure feel like in your body? Is it hot, cold? A sensation? A colour? Where do you feel it most? When you focus on it, does it shift and change?
See if you can sit with your fear for up to 10 minutes. If the feeling mutates and you find other emotions coming, just sit with them, too (you might want some tissues nearby – sadness is a common one).
Sound strange? Possibly. But Gestalt therapy suggests that talking to the different sides of ourselves leads to breakthroughs.
Try the Gestalt ‘chair method’. Make a list ofuseful questions you’d like to ask your fear. This might look like, “What are you really about, fear? What do you want from me? How can I solve you?”
Sit on a chair, and leave an empty one across from you.Resolve to be open-minded and drop any idea that you know what is going to happen next. Then imagine that your fear is sitting on the other chair. Ask your question aloud, then sit into the other chair and role play. Try talking to yourself as the fear.
Let whatever comes up come out your mouth, no matter how silly or strange it sounds and feels. Keep moving between the chairs, role playing, and asking your list of questions.
The more you can process your emotions and related experiences, the greater your chance of overcoming your fear of failure.
Take some paper that is easy to rip and find a half hour or so to be by yourself. Promise yourself that after you write you will destroy the pages (this allows your unconscious mind to be free).
Then let yourself write out anything and everything about the experience triggering your fear of failure. Don’t worry what it sounds like, or if it’s crazy, or mean, or legible. See it as letting your unconscious mind purge on the page.
Let any images or memories from the past flow out as well, even if they feel disconnected. Write about people if you need to, saying anything, because nobody will see it – again, rip the pages up when you are done.
Because fear of failure so often comes hand-in-hand with other emotional and psychological challenges it can benefit from professional support. A counsellor or psychotherapist will not only help you get to the root of your fear of failure, they will support you in trying out new tactics to overcome your fear of failure at a pace that feels comfortable.