Every part of “the good life” requires taking risks.
Applying for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for. Asking out that girl you think is way out of your league. Even learning that language, instrument, or skill you’ve always wanted to.
These all require facing the fact that you might fail along the way… or never succeed.
But what if you’re so afraid of messing things up that you never start?
How to find strength in the face of failure
Walt Disney was fired from his first newspaper job because his editor thought he “lacked imagination”.
Stephen King’s first novel was rejected by 30 different publishers.
Jerry Seinfeld got booed off stage his first time doing standup.
These people didn’t breeze through life without challenges, crippling self-doubt, and constant failure.
Instead, they learned that it’s more important to make good mistakes and keep learning. Or, as the Roman philosopher Seneca, explained:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Everyone you admire has felt fear and kept pushing on. So, how can you do the same?
1. Stop letting failure define you.
When you fail, make mistakes, or even just think about how you could potentially screw something up, it can become part of your personality.
Instead of failing as a verb (something you do) you end up feeling like a failure (something you are).
It’s no wonder that the fear of failure is a common symptom of depression and anxiety. When you let past or imagined failures define who you are, you’re going to feel like crap, avoid opportunities, and give up your power.
But are you really a failure? Do you fail at everything you do? Or did you try or dream something new and it didn’t go as planned right away?
Seinfeld could’ve taken that moment of failure and embarrassment and let it define who he is as a person. He could’ve looked at those jeering faces in the crowd and said “they’re right. I am a failure.”
But instead, he pushed on. Failed more. And then became the most successful comedian of all time.
2. Recognize your self-limiting self-talk.
Fear is our brain’s natural response to stressful and life-threatening situations. But you can’t die of embarrassment.
Listen to the voice in your head that’s telling you that you’re not good enough, don’t have the skills, or will never succeed. Then, ask yourself this: Would you say these same things to a friend in need?
Change the perspective of your inner critic and try to limit the negative self-talk that’s causing you to avoid new opportunities.
3. Buy the ticket.
Fear of failure leads to procrastination and avoidance. But making good mistakes is one of the best ways to grow.
When you feel your fear bubbling up, buy a ticket (i.e., take the smallest action that sets you on the course towards the situation you’re afraid of.)
If you’re afraid of asking for a raise, email your boss and ask for a meeting. Commitment can push you past fear. You can figure the rest out later.
4. Redefine failure.
Past failures can build in our minds into something more than they were. But what is failure, really? It’s a bump in the road. An opportunity to stop and reassess where you’re going.
As Lance Armstrong said:
“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
We learn to walk by falling. Success is achieved by failing over and over and over.
5. Seek help to take the first steps.
Letting go of the fear of failure isn’t easy.
There are legitimate reasons why you feel the way you do. And learning to recognize those thoughts and change them is a challenge.
But you don’t have to do it alone. Let us Help