“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

You could easily replace the word “criticism” with the word “failure” in this great quote by Aristotle.

Fear of failure causes us to miss out on life. When we’re so afraid of failing at something, we either don’t try at all, or we subconsciously undermine our own efforts to avoid an even bigger failure.

Without question, fear of failure is immobilizing and, when we allow it to dictate our choices and sit on the sidelines of life, we miss out on great opportunities and the potential for big success, big love, and a big life!

Signs of Fear of Failure

No one wants to fail at anything, but is your fear an actual phobia (called “atychiphobia”) or simply a lack of confidence?

Here are some signs to watch for:

  • An inability to attempt a goal without guaranteed success.
  • Self-sabotaging in the form of procrastination or failure to follow through with goals.
  • Low self-esteem and lack of motivation.

If any of that sounds familiar, keep reading.

What’s important to remember with failure is, it’s all a matter of perspective. Ultimately, we get to decide how we want to think about failure. We have two choices we can make when it comes to failure: “proof” of inadequacy, or an awesome learning experience!

When we fail, we are given powerful lessons that help us to grow as individuals. In this way failure is like manure, which we can view as a nutrient rich fertilizer or as a stinking pile of you know what.

The bottom line is failure only stops us if we let it. Take Michael Jordan for example, widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. He was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn’t think he had enough skills. Jordan could’ve let fear of failure stop him from becoming a legend, but he didn’t. Instead he used that as motivation and continued to use each perceived failure as a driving force within himself throughout his illustrious career.

You don’t have to let fear of failure stop you from becoming a legend in your own life or anyone else’s.

Here are some ways you can cope.

Separate Your Identify from Failure

Most of us blur the lines between a personal failure and our overall identity. Just because you haven’t tasted success yet doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Making failure personal can take a toll on your self-esteem and confidence.

There is a big difference in between, “I’m a failure” or “I failed.”


Rely on Logic, Not Emotions

This is a BIG one! As previously mentioned, you can learn a lot from failure, but in order to do so you have to look at failure logically, even analytically, while suspending emotions of regret, frustration, and anger. Become a scientist and ask yourself questions: Why did you fail? Was the failure totally out of your control? What might have led to a different outcome? What could you do differently next time? Did you actually fail? According to whom?

Consider the impact between exploring these questions vs simply saying to yourself, “I feel like…”


Don’t Give Your Power to Other People

For many of us, we fear if we fail we will be harshly judged by others and lose their respect. Maybe it’s the world in general, maybe it’s your father. However, when we care more about what other people think of us, we give our power away.

Lao Tzu said it best, “Care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner.”

What other people think about you is not necessarily the truth about you. And in reality, it doesn’t really matter at all.


Are you struggling with a fear a failure? Sometimes it can help to talk to someone who can offer a new perspective as well as guidance and support to help you kick your fear of failure in the teeth and live the life you were meant to live.

If you’re struggling with a fear of failure that’s holding you back in your career or life, contact us today for a free consultation.

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Woodbridge, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists sort out unpleasant emotions, regain balance in their life, and take control of anxious thoughts so they can move From Surviving to Thriving.