by Andrea M. Darcy
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).
So each new challenge you face triggers deep-rooted negative core beliefs and old feelings of helplessness and anxiety.
[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 online, by phone or in person.]
How to Manage When Fear of Failure Hits
No wonder overcoming fear of failure can feel so hard. What can you do?
1. Stop with the positivity.
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.
Confused? Read exactly how to do this in our article, “CBT and Balanced Thinking“.
2. Feel it out.
Fear is a feeling. And one of the best ways to process feelings is to, well… feel them. So stop trying to distract yourself, to think your way through things, or to drink or eat your way around them.
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).
[Not sure you ‘get’ what mindfulness really is? Read our free, easy Guide to Mindfulness.]
3. Talk to the fear.
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 of useful 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.
4. Write to the root.
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.
5. Seek support.
When we suffer from a fear of failure we often have other issues that rise up. These commonly include anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
This is why fear of failure can leave us feeling so immobilised, or see us practising self sabotaging behaviours including overeating, drinking too much alcohol, and picking fights with people we love.
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.
Would you like to work with a therapist who can help you overcome your fear of failure? We connect you with top talk therapists in central London locations. For affordable counselling worldwide, visit our sister site harleytherapy.com to book online therapy.
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Andrea M. Darcy is a health and wellbeing writer with a high IQ but also ADHD, so she knows a thing or too about feeling like a failure! These are her tried and tested tools. Connect with her at Instagram @am_darcy