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What is Fear of Failure?

What is Fear of FailureThe fear of failure is a common obstacle that can impede personal and professional growth. It has the potential to paralyze individuals in their pursuit of dreams, career goals, or personal aspirations. This article delves into the psychological roots of this fear, its implications for mental health, and provides actionable strategies for overcoming it.

The Psychology of Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is deeply embedded in human psychology. Historically, it served as an evolutionary survival instinct, preventing unnecessary risks. Today, cultural influences and societal expectations contribute significantly, often resulting in anxiety, stress, and self-esteem issues.

Signs and Symptoms of Fear of Failure

Recognizing behavioral manifestations is crucial for addressing the fear constructively. Behaviors such as procrastination, avoidance of challenges, and setting unrealistic goals are common indicators. Emotionally, individuals may experience persistent self-doubt, overwhelming anxiety, and a fear of judgment.

The Paradox: Fear of Failure vs. Fear of Success

A less acknowledged but equally important facet is the fear of success. Success introduces new challenges, responsibilities, and expectations, creating an internal conflict. Understanding this dual nature is essential for navigating the complexities of personal and professional development.

Impact on Personal and Professional Growth

The fear of failure casts a long shadow over personal and professional growth. It stifles creativity by discouraging risk-taking and innovation. Professionally, it hampers career advancement as individuals may avoid opportunities due to fear of falling short. Interpersonally, the fear can strain relationships as individuals withdraw to avoid potential failure.

In this video, speaker and author Mike Michalowicz explains the importance of overcoming fear in his own entrepreneurial journey.

Strategies to Overcome the Fear of Failure

Cultivating a growth mindset is foundational. Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities and challenging fixed beliefs about abilities create a positive framework for self-improvement. Setting realistic goals, breaking them into manageable tasks, and celebrating small victories build confidence. Resilience, developed through learning from setbacks and employing coping mechanisms, fortifies individuals against the impact of failure.

Seeking Professional Help

Therapeutic interventions offer valuable tools for overcoming the fear of failure. Cognitive-behavioral therapy aids in reframing negative thought patterns, while mindfulness-based approaches provide techniques for managing stress and anxiety. Personal and professional development coaching assists in identifying and addressing underlying issues, crafting personalized strategies for growth.

Success Stories: Real-Life Triumphs Over Fear of Failure

For a bit of inspiration, check out the stories of three highly successful achievers from the worlds of business, the arts and athletics.

Entrepreneurs: Elon Musk’s Unyielding Pursuit

Elon Musk, the visionary founder of SpaceX and Tesla, encountered formidable financial setbacks that would have deterred many. However, his unyielding persistence and refusal to succumb to the fear of failure set him apart. Musk’s tenacity not only revitalized SpaceX and Tesla but also propelled him into the ranks of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs. His story serves as a beacon, illustrating that navigating through failure can lead to unprecedented success.

Artists and Creatives: J.K. Rowling’s Literary Odyssey

J.K. Rowling, the esteemed author of the Harry Potter series, faced repeated rejection from multiple publishers. Battling financial hardships and personal struggles, Rowling never let the fear of failure extinguish her literary aspirations. Her resilience and unwavering belief in her storytelling abilities eventually led to the creation of one of the most beloved and successful franchises in literature. Rowling’s journey underscores that the road to triumph often involves overcoming the fear of initial failure.

Athletes and Sports Personalities: Michael Jordan’s Soaring Triumphs

Michael Jordan, a basketball icon, experienced a setback early in his career when he was cut from his high school basketball team. Rather than succumbing to disappointment, Jordan used this failure as fuel for his unparalleled work ethic and determination. His relentless pursuit of excellence not only secured his place as a basketball legend but also translated into success in various entrepreneurial ventures. Michael Jordan’s story epitomizes the transformative power of using failure as a stepping stone toward unprecedented achievement.

Tools and Resources for Continuous Improvement

Books: “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck

In “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success“, Carol S. Dweck explores the concept of mindset and its profound impact on success. Dweck introduces the idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, demonstrating how one’s beliefs about their abilities shape their approach to challenges. The book offers practical insights on cultivating a growth mindset, encouraging readers to embrace learning and view setbacks as opportunities for development. Through vivid examples and research findings, Dweck provides a roadmap for individuals seeking continuous improvement by transforming their mindset.

Apps: “Headspace” for Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Headspace” is a user-friendly app designed to introduce mindfulness and stress reduction into daily routines. The app offers guided meditation sessions, breathing exercises, and mindful living tips. By incorporating Headspace into their lives, individuals can develop resilience, enhance focus, and manage the anxiety associated with the fear of failure. The accessible nature of the app makes it a practical tool for those seeking continuous improvement in their mental well-being and personal development.


Overcoming the fear of failure is transformative, involving embracing challenges, learning from setbacks, and seeking continuous improvement for personal and professional success. Developing resilience, cultivating a growth mindset, and recognizing that failure is not a destination but a stepping stone towards achievement are crucial aspects of this journey.


Share your stories, thoughts, and questions on overcoming the fear of failure.

To learn more about what fear of failure is and how to defeat it, take our overcoming fear of failure challenge.


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