How to Handle Fear of Failure

A fear of failure is understandable, but it doesn’t have to be all consuming. Disappointment is an inevitable part of life and learning how to overcome adversity and move on from mistakes can open a world of possibilities.

In the digital age of sharing and self-promotion on social media, it can feel like everyone is succeeding all the time. Unfortunately, we often have only to look at our own lives; and those close to us, to know that isn’t necessarily the case.

Failure is a fact of life. Relationships don’t always work out, jobs come to an end, businesses encounter financial difficulties, the dynamics among certain family members or friends get complicated. Some disappointments are unavoidable. It’s how that teaches the biggest lessons and precedes the most significant periods of change and growth.

You’ll never try anything new or move forward without failure. It’s important to fail in order to learn from your mistakes and to figure out what needs doing differently next time. It’s impossible to know everything, and how things will definitely work out, before proceeding with most goals.

What’s the key to dealing better with failure? Like most things in life, it’s all about how it’s viewed. We learn from childhood that failing is “wrong”. As adults we need to reteach ourselves otherwise. Life is not free from bumps, but it’s all about remembering that they are not roadblocks to further success. When we learn to ride a bicycle we may fall off four times, but the fifth time you try you might succeed and then you are free to ride wherever you want.

Keep in mind that failings are part of the longer-term journey, not the final destination. Embracing curiosity when failing gives you a unique opportunity to learn what needs doing differently next time.

It’s also important not to be too hard on yourself and realize that nine times out of ten it won’t be anything to do with you. For example, a small business may fail because of a number of reasons including the market, timing or suppliers. Take into account external situations and factors that were beyond your control. Learn from them rather than blaming yourself and your shortcomings.

Failure can also build resilience, which is an important and often overlooked life skill. Use failings as a chance to develop your ability to bounce back. The stronger your resilience, the more confident you will be to keep trying new things in the future. Knowing that failure has a silver lining is helpful, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Coming to terms with failure is an important process, however, and one that can’t be skipped. If you suffer a major setback, it’s important to really honor the emotions you’re experiencing. Whether that’s pain, sadness or anger, make sure you feel it. Be aware and accepting of it. You can’t avoid the grieving process.

Failure can often cause fear. For example, you may be anxious about what the future holds if a relationship ends or you lose a job. In this moment we go into fight-or-flight mode and our sense of self shuts down. It’s important to first and foremost take time to nourish yourself with self-care. Try walking, going to the movies, cooking a meal from scratch, meditating or whatever you find works for you. Whenever you feel more relaxed and your head feels a little clearer, write down everything you’re feeling to help see the situation from a more neutral perspective.

Believe in Yourself


It’s very important to prioritize some time for personal reflection. Importantly, it’s about trying not to take failure too much to heart and to keep looking forward. Focus on the future and what you’re going to do now, rather than dwell on something that’s now in the past and can’t be undone. Focus on what you can control, not what  you can’t.

Motivational speaker Jack Canfield says: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” While we may sometimes choose to ignore it, none of life’s best bits-love, success, happiness-comes from staying fully and firmly rooted in your comfort zone. Whether it relates to a new relationship, relocating or committing to a new hobby or project, you need to somehow move past the point of fearing failure.

Try this straightforward approach. First, you need to find a way to believe in yourself and your abilities. Back yourself more. Trust your skills, decision-making and your ability to make it a success.

Then, from a practical sense, having a plan B can boost your self-esteem and instill the confidence to make the leap. If you’re asking yourself, “What if I fail?” then simply answer the question. What will you do if it doesn’t work out? Have a back-up plan that you’re equally as happy with to take the pressure off your initial goal.

Three Tips for Stopping Failure from Holding you Back


  1. Set yourself mini-goals along the way that are so easy to achieve you can’t fail. This way you will move forward with a sense of progression and success.
  2. Have belief and confidence in your ability to work around whatever brick walls you come up against along the way.
  3. Accept that failure is likely to be part of the journey. If you can plan for it, it won’t throw you as should it happen.


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How Six People Proved that Setbacks are an Important Part of Life


Albert Einstein

The great physicist developed the theory of relativity, yet he didn’t learn to read until he was seven. He was even expelled from school as a teenager because he ‘did not want to learn’.


Anna Wintour

The longstanding, influential editor-in-chief at the US Vogue was fired from a job at Harper’s Bazaar in New York after only nine months.


Arianna Huffington

The author and co-founder of media empire The Huffington Post had her second book rejected by 36 publishers.


Bill Gates

The technology tycoon’s first business, Traf-O-Data, flopped. He went on to found Microsoft and is now worth a reported 103.3 billion.



The pop icon dropped out of her dance scholarship at the University of Michigan to pursue her dream of stardom in New York. She took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts, but was fired after just one day.


Steven Spielberg

The Oscar-winning director of blockbuster films was rejected by the University of Southern California film school three times.

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