Why are we so afraid of failure
Overcoming Fear of Failure: Causes + 6 Simple Strategies
It can hit anyone: the fear of failure. Fear of failure is one of the greatest blocks to personal success. It is true that every task, every test, every risk, every challenge always has the chance to fail. But if people suffer from chronic fear of failure, this can become an enormous burden. Those affected are then no longer able to call up their full potential at the crucial moment - or they give up beforehand. For fear of mistakes, criticism or rejection.
The fear of failure does not even have to have something to do with being objectively overwhelmed in professional life. The very fear of not fulfilling (one's) expectations overshadows everything and leads to complete paralysis. This begins a self-reinforcing vicious circle. The good news: Help is available. The downward spiral can be broken and the fear of failure overcome. Six strategies that are as ingenious as they are simple against the crippling fear of failure ...
➠ Content: This is what awaits you
➠ Content: This is what awaits you
Fear of Failure: Typical Symptoms
Trembling, sweating, panic attacks - nothing works anymore. How strong the fear of failure is can usually already be seen in the symptoms. Often these occur long before the actual task or challenge. Just the thought of an exam, a presentation, a rendezvous (and a basket), a conversation with the boss is enough to trigger a veritable panic. The fear of failure - it makes us hesitate, hesitate, freeze or look for excuses.
Physical symptoms of fear of failure
Severe fear of failure is almost always noticeable physically. The physical symptoms regularly include, for example ...
- Nervousness and tension
- Chest press and shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Racing heart
- Gastrointestinal complaints and diarrhea
- sleep disorders
- Thoughts of escape (escapism)
Psychological symptoms of fear of failure
Fear also activates the so-called almond kernel in the brain. Effect: If the fears become excessive, self-control disappears. All of these physical symptoms can then lead to psychological and emotional ones. These include mental blocks (up to blackout), attention and concentration disorders. The far greater consequence, however, is self-sabotage: We prevent ourselves from making progress and remain permanently below our possibilities. Chronic and long-term this can even lead to depression
Actionism can also reveal fear of failure
But there is also a completely opposite reaction to fear of failure, which is expressed in excessive ambitions and actionism: In this case, those affected tend to be perfectionist and try to defeat their (subliminal) fears through the high need for control. The consequences are therefore no less harmless: They range from classic stress symptoms to compensation through alcohol and drugs to burnout.
Atychiphobia: The fear of making mistakes
Literally translated, the term “atychiophobia” means “fear of accidents”. "Tychos" stands for "accident", "Phobos" for "fear". In psychological practice, however, the term is also used synonymously for the fear of making mistakes - a relative of the fear of failure. In the extreme, atychiphobia leads to people avoiding all plans and actions in order not to take any risks and also not to fail. It is important for those affected to realize that mistakes are human and can always occur. Most people know this on an intellectual level. Your challenge, however, is to process this knowledge emotionally and intuitively - and thus to free yourself from unnecessary feelings of guilt and fears. In severe cases, this may require psychotherapeutic treatment.
Causes: How does fear of failure arise?
Initially, fear is nothing more than a protective mechanism. A leftover from evolution: First, we assess a situation for its potential hazard. If it is dangerous, we get scared. Enabling quick (escape) reactions and thus ensuring survival. Accordingly, fear changes numerous physical processes such as breathing, metabolism, circulation and hormone levels.
Fear of failure also uses this mechanism. According to the definition, fear of failure is the fear of not being able to perform the desired or expected performance in a certain situation. One could also say: Behind this is concern about uncertainty and the certainty of one's own fallibility. Of course, in very few cases this is life-threatening today - but it feels that way for most.
Quite a few psychologists suspect the causes of fear of failure in childhood. Often it is attributed to a lack of parental recognition and disregard in upbringing. The children learn that if they do not meet expectations, they will be rejected. Or they feel inferior, stupid, ugly - in short: not lovable.
Our irrational relationship to mistakes and defeats
Further causes of fear of failure lie in the later socialization, the cultural, societal and personal environment. They are closely linked to the individual value system. In Germany - as in other countries - for example, mistakes and failures are still extremely negatively associated. For example, anyone in this country who files for bankruptcy with a company or fails professionally is not infrequently considered a failure. In the USA, the perception is completely different: Here, initial failure is part of the wealth of experience (in the literal sense of the word) of an entrepreneur or professional. He has learned a lot from it and is a good step further on the way to success.
Just think of basketball legend Michael Jordan. He once said of himself: “In my career I've missed more than 9,000 throws and lost almost 300 games. The game-winning throw was entrusted to me 26 times and I didn't score. I've failed over and over again in my life. That's why I'm so successful. "
This leads to another cause: your own personal definition of success. Quite a few people are their harshest critics and do not allow themselves to make mistakes. You have excessive expectations of yourself - or of your personal environment and ignore the fact that a failure, a failure or a failure is usually nothing more than that: purely a matter of opinion.
Fear of failure is a learned behavior
The fear of failure feeds on all of the sources mentioned, which are often - but not always - aggravated by unstable self-confidence and a lack of self-esteem. Fear of failure is therefore not primarily the fear of making mistakes or failure, but of ...
- disappoint important people's expectations.
- not meeting the demands of others.
- not fulfilling one's own (far too high) expectations.
- not to be socially recognized.
- Losing relationships with important people.
- not conforming to one's own self-image.
Various fears can play a role here. What they have in common, however, is that they are usually completely unaware of those affected by fear of failure. It is a learned behavior or reaction scheme.
But even this realization is a first important step in overcoming the fear of failure: We recognize that failure is an important part of life and learning. And that our fears are often unrealistic or unfounded - especially with regard to the possible consequences. Or as a quote and aphorism from Coco Chanel puts it: "Most often people who are successful are those who know that failure is inevitable."
Questioning fears: the prison in our head
After the fear of failure has been recognized and accepted as a personal problem and possible causes have been identified, the next step in overcoming the fear of failure is to question the causes and fears:
- If I fail to achieve certain goals, will my friends and family really think I am a failure?
- Do my setbacks really matter that much to other people?
- Why is the recognition of these people so important to me?
At best, the answers to these questions will show you that the fears are unrealistic and result from a distorted perception. The truth is: We are capable of far more and greater than we believe ourselves to be. The greatest creative limit is the limitation in our head. Just imagine what you would do if you weren't afraid, if failure was practically impossible and there was always 100% reinsurance. There is practically never such a thing - for none of us. The difference, however, is: some dare to do it anyway, others fail beforehand. Henry Ford once put it this way: "There are more people who capitulate than those who fail."
Fighting Fear of Failure: Learning through Failure
There is a wonderful book title by Martin Limbeck that simply sums up the fear of failure that some top salespeople have overcome: “He hasn't bought yet” If you don't even call the potential customer, you know the answer 100 percent, call but on, the chances of graduation are at least fifty-fifty. It is the same with many other things: whoever tries something cannot be a failure. In fact, trial and error is one of the greatest strategies for success.
What could not be achieved and accomplished, how much enthusiasm and satisfaction would we gain if we only dared ourselves and were not afraid of failure? In fact, fear of failure is not an innate fate, but rather a largely learned behavior. But that's good news. Because it means that you might as well unlearn this fear again. Just making yourself aware of this can help reduce and overcome any fear of failure and thus lead to a life free of fear.
Overcoming fear of failure: 6 ingeniously simple tips
In the following you will find six tips and strategies on how to overcome acute fear of failure and contain the paralysis at the moment. However, if such anxiety attacks occur more frequently - despite the work on coping with them - it can make sense to seek professional and psychological support.
1. Collect successes
Take a few minutes to review your achievements to date. Recall as vividly as possible experiences of achievement and projects that you have already successfully completed. You can compare the vague prognoses about your failure with a proven success and prove to yourself: “I can do it! I've done it before. "
2. Visualize success
Imagine as precisely as possible what the successful completion of the task at hand will look like. How will it feel? Do not focus on the risks, but on the potential profit and the resulting opportunities. Put yourself in the situation and anticipate the success - emotionally -. This can significantly reduce the fear of failure.
3. Assess the consequences
The fear of failure paralyzes. But only because the possible catastrophe seems so great in the imagination. Work against this distortion of perception and bring the blurred focus back into focus: What are the consequences actually? Are these even realistic? How likely are the mishaps, mistakes and setbacks? And would they really be that bad? If in doubt, you should also obtain an external assessment (from friends).
4. Relax physically
The fear of failure creates stress and panic, clear thinking is so impossible. In this case, it can help to focus on the physical effects of fear of failure and counteract them with classic relaxation exercises such as autogenic training, meditation or movement. When the body relaxes, anxiety often subsides too.
5. Establish rituals
You can also counteract acute fear of failure with rituals. Regardless of whether it is a consciously enjoyed cup of coffee, a walk around the block, a short breathing exercise or something completely different: Such rituals can serve as anchors that ground you and bring you back to the bottom of the (true) facts.
6. Write a success diary
Basically, this tip belongs to point 2: “Visualize successes”. But it helps enormously - especially against future fear of failure: Write a so-called success diary. Admittedly, it takes some work at first: Formulating an entry in the diary regularly and every day is a deterrent for many. But you don't have to write novels either. It is crucial that you write down all the positive experiences and successes of one day in order to remember them later or even to recognize patterns.
Scientists such as Joyce E. Bono from Warrington University in Florida, for example, were able to demonstrate numerous positive side effects: the test subjects in their study alone, who recorded only three successes and positive events of the day in writing each evening, were happier and more satisfied with them after a short time yourself and your own work. And they had less fear of failure - after all, they can read in black and white what they have succeeded in and what they have already succeeded in doing.
To know your fears and to be aware of the triggers is already an effective way to overcome blockages and to silence the "inner critic". Winston Churchill once put it this way:
Success is the ability to go from one failure to the next without losing your enthusiasm.
He is right.
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