Fear of Failure

My Therapist asked me- What is it that you need most in your life right now? I answered- Courage. This answer didn’t come to me easily, unless I had explored various patterns that dominated my smallest and biggest decisions of life to keep me away from rejection- Fear. I have never been ready for THAT Job Interview, never been ready to explore a relationship leading to commitment, never ready to take THAT new project. I must leave or say no before I am asked to.

Fear manifests itself with a very basic yet an extreme question, “what if”- “what if I am unable to give my 100% to the project?” “ what if I would be selected as the lead, I do not possess the abilities to lead my team”, “what if I have to move to a new city for the project, I must quit the project”.

We all go through the phase in our life where we face the fear of failure. Failure has different definitions for each one as everyone has different standards they look to achieve. This fear can handicap us to the extent where at times we refrain to do anything and end up not moving ahead. Eventually we lose all the opportunities to grow.

There are many direct and indirect signs which point that this fear is the main culprit for the stagnation in your career. Let us have a look at them and see how a counsellor can help you deal with them.

Signs And Symptoms Of Fear of Failure

  • Hesitation to try new things in career or start a relationship. Such as take risks to move to a new city for a new project or quitting a job which you do not like
  • Frustration in a job/relationship- ideas of quitting with a fear of it not working out
  • Lack of belief in self that you can accomplish the project/tasks
  • Developing new behaviours which end up sabotaging you such as procrastination
  • Spending excessive time on tasks to reach perfectionism due to the fear that it may not be meeting standards or choosing only those projects which you can do perfectly (hence losing opportunity to learn)
  • Having low self- esteem depicted in thoughts such as “I can never be good enough to receive a promotion or for that matter love & affection
  • Avoidance of taking up of situations which triggers anxiety – such as being in the background in team meetings.
  • Setting easy achievable goals which do not challenge your abilities
  • Being unassertive in workplace/relationship, due to the fear that you may end up sabotaging the relationships.
  • In few situations there may be physical symptoms of anxiety ( difficulty breathing, unusually fast heart rate, sweating, headaches etc) or Emotional symptoms (feeling overwhelmed very easily, feeling lack of control over situation etc)

There is always this indecisiveness and confusion while planning your career or taking a step in your relationship.. There is incongruence in what you can achieve and what you are doing to achieve it. There are various causes to why failing distresses you.

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Some of the reasons can be

  • Past experience

    May be in your past you have had to face failure- having being terminated from your job. Such episode can cause emotional distress and you would be taking extreme precautions to not face such events again

  • Family environment

    Upbringing plays a very important role during childhood. If your parents had extreme critical and unsupportive parenting styles, where you were valued with what you achieve in life it can contribute to a fragile personality. Fear of failure is to not let down family members or self, it is to protect yourself from disappointing others.

  • Distorted sense of self

    If self-worth is equated with what you achieve, any small or big failure in life can damage sense of self. Too much weightage is given to what you can achieve. And so failure automatically equates to inadequacy, hence to not face such harsh evaluation of self you might be taking every precautions.

  • Fear through observation

    At times even observation of failure can contribute to fear. For example- if you have had a parent who faced failure and was unable to deal with it. You would develop a fear to not go through the same stress and rather than fear of failure in itself.

  • Fear through informational learning

    Even just by reading or hearing about someone else’s experience of failure, may led to the fearing failure.

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How can Counselling can help you?

In counselling you meet your counsellor once or twice in a week. In each session there are agenda established mutually and steps are taken to achieve them. During the course of therapy your counsellor would be asking you questions which may at times overwhelm you but it is during this time that you have to trust your therapist and let yourself be vulnerable. Through facing these fears and causes only would the roots of the concern would be reached and uprooted.

  • History Taking

    This involves understanding the gravity of the situation and severity of fear. It is a first step that the therapist takes to understand you. Time is spend on rapport building which allows you to develop a trusting relation with your therapist and gain an assurance that you are not alone in this journey, you have a reliable person to guide you through the challenging phase ahead.

  • Understanding the root causes for fear of failure

    The second step focuses on in-depth work where you and your therapist involve in identifying the root causes for the issues. There might be any of the above mentioned reason which could be contributing to your fear. It is during this level that you and your therapist work on identifying them. You have to know your enemy before you can battle with it.

  • Working on the causative factor

    The next step entails on challenging and working on the factors that are causing to fear. Here your therapist will use different techniques such as exposure to fear, learning to develop achievable goals etc. The main motive is here is to help you break the cycle. During the process, focus will also be on helping you deal with your emotions or anxieties while you are working on challenging.

  • Working on self

    Focus will also be on developing a healthy sense of self – such as self- esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. Your therapist will work on helping you develop self-love and self-care so that even if you do face failure it would not impact you negatively and you are able to accept it

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Follow Up

Follow up sessions include analysing the goals that you have achieved with your therapist in sessions. Remember progress is like a steep curve where there might be bumps during the journey.

Being afraid is a natural instinct but it should not be the reason to put a full stop on your career. Get in touch today with a counsellor and explore a new fearless you today!!

“Fear is not real. The only place where fear can exist is in our thoughts of our future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. Fear is a choice.”

-Will Smith

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