3 Ways to Overcome Fear of Failure

A leader overcomes the fear of failure by addressing his mistakes directly with his team.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid making mistakes. Failure is inevitable. Whether it’s in our work, academic or personal life, we all miss the mark in some way — and that’s okay; we’re human. However, that doesn’t stop many of us from trying to be perfect. 

You may feel if you try hard enough, you can avoid making mistakes altogether. But then, when things go wrong, you become ashamed and worry about falling short again. The fear of failure can paralyze you, causing you to second guess every decision, be worried about the future and ultimately stop growing. How can you overcome the need to be perfect?

Here are three ways to combat your fear of failure.

Forgive yourself. 

If you struggle with perfectionism, you may find yourself feeling shame and regret over what went wrong, even long after the event. You might replay your mistakes over and over, thinking about what you could have done better. Or, you may be afraid of messing up again and have a hard time starting new projects.

Don’t let your past mistakes stop you from moving forward. Instead of fixating on the past, acknowledge what happened, recognize you’re imperfect and move on. You’ll mess up again, and that’s okay! What’s important is that you learn from your failures and do what you can to make things right — but don’t hang on to those mistakes forever or let them stop you from taking action.

Take each day one step at a time. 

If you’re constantly afraid of failing, you may feel the need to try to predict every possible outcome before making a decision. However, this can cause you to miss out on the present, feel stressed and constantly think about what could go wrong.

Practice taking things one step at a time. Plan out your responsibilities and projects at the start of each week, but don’t allow yourself to get too far ahead. Take each day as it comes and deal with problems as they arise. The more you can focus on the present and successfully handle each day, the less you’ll be afraid of what could go wrong. 

Challenge your perceptions. 

When you spend so much time worrying about failing, it can affect how you perceive others. You may think they are disappointed in you, even if they haven’t expressed that, or you may feel like they are asking too much, when in reality, those are unrealistic expectations you’ve put on yourself.

The best way to deal with those false perceptions is to talk to your team directly. If you are worried they are still upset about a past incident, check in with them and apologize if you feel you need to. You may find that they don’t remember the mistake you think is so monumental. If you’re afraid of letting down your employer or your team, ask them directly what their expectations are for you. Oftentimes, your perception of what they’re wanting is not what they are expecting from you. 

Reframing your mindset takes time. Start by taking small steps each day to allow yourself grace and confront your fears, but remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Have honest conversations with people you trust and allow them to come alongside you. By being open with those around you, you can be less afraid of making mistakes, knowing your team will be there to support and encourage you.