Fear of failure is rampant in our society and it’s holding us back from actualizing all that is truly available to us today.
Maybe it stems from our schooling, where we were only rewarded for getting it right. And, quite possibly, depending on the people in your childhood, you were ridiculed or punished in some way for getting things wrong. If your strategy in school was to only answer when you knew you were right, or simply never volunteer any information, ever, you may have set yourself up for never progressing forward in your adult life – for fear of failure.
How does the fear of failure hold you back? First it stops you from being yourself. When you are fearful, you are hyper aware of everything you say and do, as well as other people’s reactions to you. This results in a very ‘staged’ or ‘stiff’ interaction, and it draws negative attention to you. People will more likely question you and your motives because, instinctively, they know something is not right. Whereas, it is highly attractive to others, in a positive way, when you are being your authentic self.
The fear of failure will also cause you to miss possibilities. When you are fearful, you limit and scrutinize what you say and do, where you go and with whom you interact. In short, you overthink everything. You will also most likely be second-guessing yourself, questioning if you’re good enough to do something or if someone else would be better off doing it. A side effect of this is that you are less likely to take risks or go against the ‘norm’ – something that entrepreneurs do all the time, which increases their chances of success.
The fear of failure will also cause you to miss possibilities.
One of my favorite quotes of Simone Milasas, founder of Joy of Business, is “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Would you speak up in that meeting? Would you start that business venture you’ve been dreaming about? Would you ask for a raise? Ponder this for a while. Notice how many areas in your life where you are holding yourself back.
It doesn’t have to remain that way. You can choose something different.
Here are my top five fear fear busters to overcome any fear, including the fear of failure.
This is my #1, go-to tool for everything. It’s so important, and effective, to take a moment and connect to your body and the Earth, and calm and center yourself with your breath. This creates a space that enables you to receive the infinite possibilities in any situation, versus the finite conclusions you buy into when in fear and panic.
Take a breath from under your feet and draw it up through your body, to the top of your head. And, as you exhale, let go of everything, and let the breath carry it all down your body, out through your feet and into the Earth.
This technique is so quick and easy. I do it with my eyes open, anywhere, anytime; and nobody else has to even know. I have used it in board meetings where there has been conflict between the members, and it has had immediate, positive effects on everyone!
2. Expand out
My next go-to tool is to consciously expand out. When we are under stress or perceive fear, we tend to contract and make ourselves really small physically and energetically – like a porcupine curling into a tiny ball so that nothing can attack it. This is actually counterproductive to achieving that which we truly desire. Rather than preservation and survival, you want to thrive in any and all circumstances.
Image yourself as a balloon that can never pop. Now expand out; in all directions. Bigger. Bigger. Bigger. Fill the room you are in. Fill the building. Fill the country. Fill the world and beyond.
3. Fear is not real
Fear is actually something that we use to distract us, usually from our power and creativity. The body might be reacting physiologically to something, but we interpret those sensations and make conclusions based on our past experiences and learning.
Fear is actually something that we use to distract us, usually from our power and creativity.
Physiologically, fear and excitement are identical. Depending on what is occurring and our conclusions about that, we will decide if we are fearful or excited. Both are just different labels for the same thing. So, is there really any fear at all, or is it a figment of our imagination?
“If I wasn’t feeling fearful, what would I become aware of?”
“What else is possibly occurring here that I may have not yet considered?”
4. Is it even yours?
Just because you ‘feel’ something, doesn’t mean it is yours! We are all so aware of our surroundings and the people around us, that if someone else is feeling an intensity of emotion such as fear, we pick up on it. And because we ‘feel’ it, we think it is ours.
Ask,“Who does this belong to? Is it mine or someone else’s?”
If it’s not yours, you do not need to know who it belongs to just say, “Not mine. Return to sender.”
5. Use it to your advantage
Have you heard of pre-performance anxiety? Performers use these sensations, which in reality is probably excitement misidentified as anxiety to enhance their performance. It adds intensity and stops them from coming across as ‘stale’ or ‘flat.’
Ask, “How can I use this to my advantage?” and follow any inspirations that you might have.
What if you were the only one who could hold you back? What if there really was no such thing as failure; only choices you made that you can change? What is now available for you to choose?
Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock is a management consultant, Joy of Business facilitator, and founder and CEO of Belapemo and Global Wellness for All. A passionate change-agent, Laleh has empowered thousands of individuals including Fortune 500 executives, government agencies, not-for–profit organizations, athletes and veterans to achieve optimal growth.