Fear of Failure: Why You Have It & How to Overcome It

mental health

The new year is a big time. There's a lot going on.


You know that you want to change a bunch of stuff. You haven't been happy with the way you feel for a long time. You don't sleep well. You want to be able to do everyday stuff without pain. You want to be able to do fun things, like go on hikes with your kids. 


But that dream feels really far away. You don't know how to get there.


Good thing we have the Internet! 


Except it's full of information you have to sift through. Experts and "experts" telling you to do just this one thing. You're overwhelmed because there's tons of stuff you know you should be doing, but you're on your own to figure it out, and that just feels like too much.


You've tried a bunch of stuff over the years, but you end up abandoning it because it isn't fun, or it doesn't feel right, or you just can't peel yourself off the couch to make it happen.


You want to make a change but you don't know where to start. You're stuck. 


This is the story for many of us.


Does it sound familiar?


I've been curious about this recently. 


What stops us from making a change that we know will benefit our life?


I’ve been researching this idea for a few years now, primarily to help myself overcome my own stagnancies, but also to help other people overcome theirs. Since transitioning into teaching yoga online, I’ve realized there are lots of things that get in the way of people rolling out their yoga mats. If I want to be good at my job, I must learn to address those factors.


It turns out, there are lots of reasons we don't take action on the things we know we should do. My plan is to focus my next several emails around this topic, in order to give us a chance to explore this mega topic together.


For today's email, let's focus on one major reason we don’t take action on the things we know we should do: the fear of failure.


Even if you don’t think this is holding you back, read on. There’s lots of nuance to unpack  here.


For many of us, we don't have a strong belief in ourselves. We don't trust ourselves to follow through on our promises. We don't believe in our capabilities to learn and grow and flourish. We don't think highly about who we are as a person.


So when it comes to making a change in life, we have all of that baggage to contend with.


The moment we think to ourselves, "I should be more consistent with yoga," or, "I need to implement a morning routine," we immediately encounter all the ways in which we've failed ourselves in the past. Our belief in ourselves drops to zero, and we quickly talk ourselves out of even trying.


After all, if we try, we'll probably fail. 


And if we fail, what is that going to mean? It's going to be more proof that we can't get things done. It will turn into another memory that gets pulled up the next time we want to try to improve something. We already feel like a piece of sh*t. We don't need to add more fuel to that fire. It feels safer to not try at all.


This rationalization is grippy. It can get a hold of any one of us and paralyze us from taking action, even if you are the smartest, richest, sexiest person in the world.


When it gets a hold of you, it will make you settle for a smaller life than you want for yourself. 


You will wake up in the morning with a queasy feeling in your stomach. It's trying to tell you, "Hey buddy! You're capable of more! You've got more to offer! You're supposed to do more with this gift of life!" 


Here's the ugly truth: you will fail. You will get confused. You will get overwhelmed. You will get frustrated.


All of this is part of making change in your life.


It's also completely normal to want to avoid this. All of us struggle with avoidance.


But your avoidance must sit within a larger framework that says, "I believe in my ability to figure it out. It is good for me to challenge myself. I want to know who I am on the other side of this journey."


The voice that's scared of failing (again!) should be a servant to the voice that wants a better life.


The beautiful thing is, when you learn how to take action despite your fear of failure, you learn how to dance with failure in a more constructive way. We’ve been taught to be ashamed of our failure, when instead, we should be jumping for joy that life is presenting a new opportunity to learn and grow.


With every failure you rack up, you build resilience. You start to look forward to the learning part that happens after you fail. The learning leads you to your next round of failures, but it also leads to successes. With successes comes more confidence. You no longer need to remind yourself to believe in yourself. You just naturally believe in yourself because you have a history of wins behind you.


When this happens, you're no longer scared to make changes in your life. It becomes second nature to say yes to challenges. As a result, your life expands. You do things you never dreamt of doing. You repair parts of your life that once felt irreparable.


Overcoming your fear of failure is worth it. The version of yourself who dies feeling content and satisfied with life depends on it.