Signs That You Live With the Fear of Failure

February 3, 2011 Peter Zawistowski

Sometimes you don't even know if you suffer from the fear of failing. Fear of failing, “atychiphobia” as it is also known, is a fear that stops us from doing things, especially those things that move us forward to reaching our goals. We all have different definitions of what success and failure are. A failure to one person might be a great learning experience to another. Our belief systems, values and standards we live by determine our failure definition. Fear of failing can be immobilizing, it can stop your forward progress in your personal life, business or career.

Let's look at what are some of the signs of fear of failure. Keep in mind, this is not a complete list.

Self-sabotage. This includes high level of anxiety, procrastination or the general failing to follow through with goals. Nearly everyone has gone or is going through this type of fear.

Reluctance. An unwillingness to get involved with challenging or new projects. This type of symptom can be brought from dread to triumph by having others, personal and business associates, openly encourage that person. Not too overtly and cause the fearful person to have anxiety or stress.

Lack of communication. Not answering telephone calls, especially when you are self-employed. This deficiency can lead you down the wrong path or to an area of no verbal communication, whether business phone calls or in social or private settings. You don't make the call because you don't want to learn bad news such as “I don't know, we can't do that, check is in the mail” or other answers to your questions, which is the purpose of your call.

Perfectionism. Perfectionism is a willingness to attempt those actions or job functions that you will finish perfectly and successfully. If you are dealing with perfectionism, you will not start most projects because you know you will not finish them and finish them perfectly.

Can You Overcome Your Fear of Failure?

How about overcoming a fear of failure? There is no simple answer, no matter what we do in life there is always a chance for failure. Face that chance, realize that everyone fails sometime.

Give yourself a chance, reward yourself whether you fail or succeed. Remember that succeeding can feel better, but as the Good Witch in Oz said, “What have we learned Dorothy?” What can you talk from this “non-success” and apply to your next task?

Analyze all outcomes, but remember that over-analyzing can be a form of self-sabotage. Looking at what are the failures and their respected results can be analyzed with a decision tree (more on that in another blog).

Have a contingency plan. If you are hesitant or have that fear of failing feeling, have a Plan B in place. This can be a small plan to keep your momentum going while you find a real solution to your problem. If you are a great planner than work out an alternate plan, possibly with decision trees so if any part of your task doesn't work out you have a backup plan ready to fit in.

Set goals. Setting small, easy to reach goals, can help you reach your final goal because you have few winners “under your belt” already. The ladder may not be easy to climb in the beginning but after a few steps it can be easier. Goals are the same way, you need to find what size of a step you need before you reach each goal. Certain tasks will take many small steps and some can be done in 2 or 3 steps. Refer to my blog of Jan 12th, Time to Start Planning for more info on goal setting.

Accept failure as a part of learning. Take a look at a lot of the great inventors such as Edison. They have shared details on numerous trials and errors to reach a “eureka” moment.

Finally, fear of failure can be a symptom of a serious mental condition. If fear of failure effects your daily life, it is important to go to your doctor or mental health provider for advice.

APA Reference
Zawistowski, P. (2011, February 3). Signs That You Live With the Fear of Failure, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Peter Zawistowski

June, 26 2017 at 5:38 am

Fear is like a demon. This post has opened my eyes to ways I can use it to my advantage. Thanks for putting this together.

Lauren @ MRS
February, 13 2011 at 7:29 pm

I totally agree that Failure is a part of learning because the mistakes we make build us to become better that who we already are. We learn then we succeed. Do you know of many people who have this condition?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Peter Zawistowski
February, 14 2011 at 8:31 am

I believe there are more people out there with this fear than they will admit. I personally have had times when I was feeling negative and thought I was fail no matter what I tried to do. In time I was able to work through it, building up my level of confidence. I can write and speak in public now. For some individuals it may be important to label their actions as non-success versus a failure. You may find that alcohol or drug abusers commonly have self-sabotage symptoms. This may be fear of failing or fear of learning something new.

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