Fear Of Failure? 10 Ways To Take Back Control

Fear of failure

Are you often so afraid of failure that you don’t even try anymore?

Or does fear of failure mean to you that you unconsciously undermine your own abilities, in order to avoid an even greater failure?

Most people get nervous from time to time, especially in challenging situations where they are not sure of their abilities. In a large number of people, these nerves take the form of fear, with negative feelings and doubts taking over.

In this way, the motivation to avoid failure becomes greater than the motivation to succeed in the assignment.

They unconsciously sabotage their chances of success in all kinds of ways. In the long run, they work against their own prosperity, causing the psychological, emotional, social and even physical consequences to go from bad to worse.

To prevent your life from being dominated by unrealistic fears, where you completely lose faith in yourself, it is good to take a closer look at that fear of failure.

Purpose of this article: In this article, fear of failure is fully explained. Some useful tips are given so that you no longer have to sit with the suits.

What is performance anxiety?

In dictionaries, performance anxiety is described as the fear of not being able to perform in certain situations, where the tension that arises limits the person’s performance because they are too preoccupied with the idea of ​​failing.

Fear of failure has a blocking effect. It can make sure that we don’t do anything at all, and therefore don’t get ahead in our lives.

If we allow fear to hinder our personal growth, we see great opportunities pass us by.

Thoughts come true

The saying “your thoughts create reality” is closer to the truth than most empirical scientists would like to admit. An interesting phenomenon was investigated that, due to a lack of further studies, receives little attention in scientific circles.

Doctor Masaru Emoto proved in 1994 that the vibrations that thoughts and intentions create affect reality, using experiments with water. The experiments were repeated countless times, each time with similar results. dr. Emoto thus discovered that the crystals of frozen water differed in symmetry and aesthetics according to the situations the unfrozen water was in.

With positive intentions towards the water, the water crystals apparently took on a much more attractive appearance than with the negative ones. More than half of our body is made up of water, which means that thoughts and intentions are indeed powerful instruments!

Also the so-called “self-fulfilling prophecy”, well known to economists, psychologists and sociologists, proves the same point, namely that our thoughts influence reality.

In the case of a person with fear of failure, the self-fulfilling prophecy of a disastrous outcome becomes reality, because he will cause failure with his own negative self-image.

That is why fear of failure is also a vicious circle. If you fear failure so much that it limits yourself, you underperform and fail. Then you say to yourself, “I knew I was going to fail, and now it’s even clearer that I’m not doing it!” Perhaps the outcome would have been different if you had started it with a healthy self-image and enough self-confidence.

It starts inside

Individuals who experience performance anxiety often have unrealistic expectations and excessive standards for their own behavior. Experts on fear of failure such as phobia expert Pieter Frijters attribute fear of failure to a subconscious belief of the person in question, which has nothing to do with reality.

Our body responds much faster to subconscious beliefs than to conscious thoughts. If there are insecurities and doubts deep inside, your body will address this subconscious when you are under pressure, sending the signal that you are not capable, smart, beautiful, or worthy enough.

The result of this is a panic reaction with palpitations, feelings of fear, trembling hands, etc… Only once you change that inner negative self-image will the anxiety problems resolve on their own.

It doesn’t help you

Do you have a fear of failure when you are nervous about, for example, an exam or speech? For some people, the tension and nerves that arise just help to prepare even better and to be sharper, so that they perform better. That is not a fear of failure (however, some experts refer to it as positive fear of failure). Real fear of failure always has a chaotic and disorganizing character. At those moments, the nervousness takes over with sweating, shivering, insomnia, palpitations, panic, procrastination, blackouts and dissociation as a result.

How do you experience performance anxiety?

There are various symptoms for recognizing performance anxiety. The symptoms are varied and may or may not apply at the same time. This therefore depends from person to person. Here are the main ones:

  • An aversion to trying new things or taking part in challenging projects
  • Low self-esteem and low self-confidence. You often use negative affirmations such as “I’m not nice enough to start talking to people at a party”, or “I’m not good enough to speak to an audience”.
  • Perfectionism: You will only do things that you know you can do perfectly.
  • You are sabotaging yourself with procrastination. You don’t prepare enough or spend too much time on unnecessary details.
  • You say in advance that it won’t work.
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, stomach pain, dizziness, shivering may occur. Sometimes they act at the last minute, and often they do not allow sufficient preparation.
  • The potential failure makes you worry about what others think of you.
  • The potential failure makes you worry about your own abilities and skills.
  • The possible failure means that you no longer dare to dream about your desired future.

Performance Anxiety and Social Anxiety 

Social anxiety is the persistent fear of one or more social situations where shame may arise, and that fear is disproportionate to the actual threat of these social situations. The most typical social situations involve interaction, performance or observation.

Fear of failure

Examples of this are:

  • Meeting strangers
  • Speak in meetings or in groups
  • Start conversations
  • Talking to Authoritative Figures
  • Work, eat or drink while others can see you
  • Sexual performance
  • Performing or speaking in front of a public

Performance anxiety can be a social anxiety if it has to do with one of these situations. However, there is also motor (fear of failing in sports performance, for example) and cognitive (extreme exam stress, fear of driving exam) fear of failure.

If we observe performance anxiety closely, it is a social fear because shame is actually at the root of it. Shame is a very toxic emotion because unlike, say, guilt, where we feel bad about our actions, or regret, where we regret our efforts, shame makes us feel bad about who we are, our being.

Performance anxiety in children

Like many anxiety disorders, performance anxiety can be linked to a traumatizing situation or event. Often this happened during childhood. Parents always act within the bounds of their own means, and some parents find nothing else but to fend their children against reality by being extremely critical and by appearing incomprehensible. Because they were frequently humiliated and undermined as children, they carry these feelings with them into adult life.

Fear of failure

Even at a young age, children can show symptoms of performance anxiety. The high expectations that parents or other adults have of these children make the pressure so great that the child is terrified of failure. Children do not yet have the necessary filters to put the criticism of adults into perspective and therefore take everything personally. They begin to feel inferior and become dissociated from themselves and from reality.

There are several factors why children develop performance anxiety, such as:

  • Children are urged too early to learn something they are not psychologically and/or physically ready for
  • Today, parents expect a lot from their children
  • Parents are overprotective of their children

What can you do as a parent if you see that your child has a fear of failure?

  • Ask yourself what expectations you are projecting onto your child. Can it handle this? Does it still have enough space to be itself?
  • In the event that your child should fail, eg in school performance, how would you react? Are you angry or do you punish with disapproving looks or insults? Do you let your child feel, no matter how subtly, that it has failed? Could it be that your reaction contributes to the fear of failure?
  • Does your child have a safe environment at home to fall back on? Can it come to you if it feels insecure? Does it know its being and your limits? A safe base to fall back on and clear boundaries can help the child build self-confidence.
  • Parenting is not always easy. You can always request the professional help of a therapist, phobia expert or psychologist.

Fear of failure at work

If your fear of failure is holding you back from moving forward in your career, you are not alone. Some of the most successful individuals of all time experienced performance anxiety.

By dealing with failure, they also proved that it is a necessary evil on the road to success. For example, Steve Jobs, the mastermind behind the rock-solid computer brand Apple, announced that he could overcome his fear of failure by becoming aware of his own mortality. In a speech, he called death “the best invention in our lives,” because all fear of shame and failure vanishes in the face of death, leaving only what is important. This great gentleman failed to finish high school and failed on his first attempts at starting a business. Yet he has come this far.

Fear of failure

Bill Gates also does not have a high school diploma, and did you know that Michael Jordan was not selected for the basketball team at his then high school in Wilmington? And that Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first reporter job? For example, there are many failure stories of people who eventually passed with flying colors.

If you’re afraid to take that promotion because you’re afraid of not meeting expectations or if you give up on pursuing your career dream because a project or job failed, think about where you could be if you never give up.

In any situation, whether it’s a presentation, job interview, speech or performance, you better visualize how to be successful instead of playing that catastrophic movie on your retina. This does not preclude making a realistic list of all the obstacles and challenges associated with the assignment. Write them down. When you see your fears in front of you, they are more tangible and maybe not as scary anymore.

Keep this in mind if you have a fear of failure at work: Making mistakes and learning from them gives room for growth and ensures that you can see true success in perspective!

10 tips against performance anxiety

#1 Identify the cause

The single most important element of finding a solution to your performance anxiety is identifying the cause.

Previously we came to the conclusion that the origin lies with those subconscious beliefs that have everything to do with your self-image.

You may have had very good reason to think that you were not good, smart, beautiful, speaking or worthy enough when, for example, your parents, teachers or friends charged you over and over with derogatory criticism. It may be that that one traumatic experience where you tried to give a talk and couldn’t get out of your words left a big dent in your self-image.

Whatever it was, however, if you now find out that cause or causes, look at it, and if applicable relive its pain, then you may decide that you want to grow beyond it. You can make the conscious decision to choose for yourself, to believe in your abilities and, even if it is just mouse step by mouse step, to believe in your own success story.

Few can do this alone, and the others will have to accept the help of family, friends and professionals.

#2 Be prepared

It is a very easy job to fail if you are not prepared enough. Make sure you have a clear view of the task ahead.

What do you need for it? What do you need to prepare? What do you need to study or practice to make everything run smoothly? If you are well prepared, the chance that something can go wrong is much smaller. This gives you more control over the situation and significantly increases your chance of success.

Fear of failure

Get started early enough. Many people with fear of failure block and procrastinate because deep down they are convinced that they cannot do it after all. To save that dent in self-confidence, they don’t commit themselves 100%, making the lack of preparation a kind of cover for the failure.

That way it hurts less, but you won’t get any further that way, on the contrary.

#3 Keep it simple

The problem is that in these busy times we sometimes think we should be able to do everything at once. You are who you are. If you’re an artist, don’t try to be a lawyer if that’s not your thing. Stop trying to live up to the expectations of others. Do you want to succeed in your goal? Then you have every right to try it.

Also keep it simple in relation to your own goals. Don’t say, “My goal is to become a doctor,” or even, “My goal is to pass this oral exam.” Start with: “My goal is to study to the best of my ability.” and then “My goal is to take the bus to school now.” and then “My goal is to take this exam as best I can.”

That makes it all a bit more light-hearted and helps you to put the situation into perspective.

#4 Nobody is perfect

Absolutely no one is perfect. As the philosopher Nietsche already knew, the best remedy against perfection is love. If you were always expected to perform even better, and if you still expect that from yourself and others, remember this: perfection does not exist.

Fear of failure

The beauty of every human being lies precisely in the ability to forge its own unique path which is paved with mistakes and victories making it a pure expression of creativity. This work of art that is every life would never have come into existence if everything had always gone perfectly. Imperfection leads to growth, and don’t we want to keep growing forever?

#5 Success requires failure

As mentioned, even the most famous and successful individuals face failure. Failure is the road to success. As Winston Churchill put it so beautifully, “Success is the ability to fail again and again without losing your enthusiasm.” Or remember the wise words of the Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Our greatest victory is not that we never fail, but that we rise again whenever we stumble.”

#6 Fear is always temporary

What are you so afraid of? What is your worst case scenario? What are the consequences of failure? You have had a long life and you may have many years ahead of you. Your life is valuable and every emotion you feel is real and allowed to be.


Just remember that your fear is also temporary. You are not your fear, although you seem to have changed into it at times. Be kind to yourself and think about everything you sometimes feel outside of that fear. Do you sometimes feel cheerful? Do you sometimes feel love, mercy? Do you occasionally feel anger or tenderness? Now you feel fear, but fear is not your identity. This feeling can help you not to let your anxiety escalate.

#7 Clear your mind

As with many stress and anxiety problems, an overcrowded head is a major culprit here. Sometimes we become so obsessed with a certain scenario in the future that we become dissociated from the here and now. We no longer feel our bodies, no longer see our surroundings, we forget to eat and can no longer sleep.

Fear of failure

The solutions to this always go in the direction of conscious ‘being’. You have to catapult yourself back to the here and now. It is important to make contact with those around you, to talk to people so that you can clear your head of those doomsday thoughts. Mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises are a great help to put all thoughts aside and focus on just ‘being’.

This can also be very valuable if you want to walk around a corner or do some sports. As long as you are consciously engaged, grounded in your body and with a view on your immediate environment. That way it will be more difficult for your fears to regain control, because you are no longer just in your head.

#8 Change your perspective

If you don’t dare to dream because you want to cover yourself against pain, your whole life will be based on a defensive attitude that also prevents joy. The result? Pain. It is important to change your perspective on the situation. Do you want to succeed, grow and dream? Then visualize yourself in a victorious position. Visualize your success. Visualize an open attitude with courage and pride and strength. If you keep replaying your doomsday scenario in front of your eyes, you block, you shut down and things go wrong.

#9 Love yourself

You are a beautiful person with innumerable qualities and talents. The easiest, cheapest, and most abundant medicine available to you is self-love. For some reason, from guilt to shame to not being worthy of a deep faith, your positive qualities are dwarfed. It’s about paying attention to those fields of goodness so that they can grow and improve your self-image.

Fear of failure

As mentioned before, it is all about replacing your negative thoughts with positive thoughts about yourself. This can be done through conscious attention, affirmations, mantras and visualizations. At first, this may feel awkward and even feigned, but that’s because those positive affirmations are consistent with what your subconscious mind is explaining. If you maintain this intention, then over time you will feel that something is starting to change.

#10 Take action

Now that you’ve decided to grow beyond your fear of failure, there’s nothing left to do: Enlist help from others, train your breathing exercises, redefine your dreams, say positive affirmations, prepare as much as you can. Just don’t hold back…

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