How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

Start by changing how you see failure. It’s not your enemy — it’s your greatest ally.

Kevin Buddaeus
Nov 14, 2020 · 7 min read
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Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

The fear of failure is what leads to failure. We all suffer from it. There are no exceptions. But for each one of us, failure means an entirely different thing.

Being afraid to fail is not bad. But you’re afraid of the wrong kind of failure, and it’s holding you back. You fear not being good enough. You fear failing despite your best efforts. You fear losing way more than you love winning.

You let that irrational fear take control over your life. You may end up having less tomorrow than you have today and this prevents you from trying. But you completely miss the fact that what you have today is far less than you deserve.

It’s time to redirect that fear and use it to your advantage.

Don’t try to get rid of your fear

Understand that the fear of failure is more damaging than failure itself. If you want to succeed, you need to deal with that fear.

But here’s the catch. I don’t mean you should overcome your fear. Instead, embrace your fear. Feel it. It’s an important part of you.

Because this fear will keep you on your toes. It will keep you awake at night and force you to go over things again and again. It will push you to train harder and work better.

Fear will be the reason you re-evaluate your plans time and time again. The fear of failure is your motivation to prepare for combat.

It is what ultimately fuels your success. But you have to use it the right way. And you need to understand what real failure is. What you should be afraid of.

Redefine your failure

Getting rejected by your crush, losing your job, wasting money on a bad investment, not being able to do 20 push-ups. Stop seeing these things as a failure. Even if others keep calling them that.

Those things aren’t failures. They are setbacks. Unless you give up on yourself, you’re not quite there yet.

But you know what real failure is? Doing nothing!

If you fear a bad outcome so much that you are terrified of taking a step, you will never reach any of your goals.

And that is the failure you should be afraid of. Waking up in a week, a month, a year, or even a decade and not being any closer to your goals than you are today. That is failure.

That’s what you should fear. That’s what pushes you to move forward. You need to start taking risks. You need to start taking action.

I fear failure. Every single day. I fear that I wake up another day and have achieved nothing. That’s what I’m afraid of.

Failure is doing nothing.

Then learn to accept setbacks

Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we hit a wall. Sometimes we lose the game. And that’s when growth happens. If you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to grow.

So learn to deal with setbacks in a positive manner. Learn from your mistakes. But more importantly, try again with that knowledge.

If you fall, get back up. You weren’t afraid of falling as a kid, were you? You wouldn’t be able to ride a bicycle if you were.

Ask any daytrader on the stock market. They all burned at least one trading account in the beginning. $5000 or more, gone. But they are also the ones now making hundreds of thousands of dollars per day.

Because they learned to accept it as a setback, not a failure. They all were afraid of making the same mistake again. But instead of giving up on the idea, they tried again. And their past failures helped them become better at it.

And the same is true for every discipline. Whether that is sports, finance, relationships, or at work. You will inevitably fail at least once or twice. But it’s not failure as long as you get back up.

Don’t be afraid of trying and not succeeding. Be afraid of not trying at all.

Successful people work hard

I’m sure you heard that a lot, and it’s true. But have you ever gave it any thought? What does it mean? Does it mean that successful people always work 80-hour weeks? That successful people always lift 10 pounds more than the rest?

Yes and no. Working hard means working through failure. Everyone fails. Everyone loses. Sometimes you do everything right and still fail. Working hard at this moment means getting back up.

It’s not about how many hours you put into your project, or how many reps you do on the bench. It’s that one moment in which your mind and body break down where it’s decided whether you are working hard or not.

When you grab that towel, you have two choices. You can throw it, or you can take it, wipe the sweat off your forehead, and push yourself further.

Successful people work hard because they don’t give up in the face of failure. They ask themselves why they failed and how they can prevent failing again. Then they try again. That’s what hard work means. Pushing through. Not giving in to self-doubt.

Giving up is easy. That’s why not giving up is hard work.

Understand your true potential

One of the main reasons we fear failure is because we make ourselves small. We think we’re not that special. We’re not meant to be what we want to be. We don’t have what it takes.

We think that if we try, we’re imposters, nothing more.

We are not imposters!

If you do it, and you keep doing it and you push through, you are everything but an imposter!

I’ve seen friends of mine grow into beasts of men because they kept pushing themselves. They were pushovers before, now they could choke me with one hand.

There’s no such thing as talent. Only hard work. And hard work means to push on in the one moment you’re on your knees. What you do up until that point doesn’t matter.

The guy who’s lifting 50 pounds more than you isn’t working harder than you. The one who pushes through the pain, the one who comes back the next day to continue. That’s the one who works harder.

Who you have to be or who you can become is not decided.

Stop seeing yourself as an imposter. Stop seeing yourself as unfit. Work on yourself and discover your true potential.

You have to take risks

That’s the only thing that can lead to success. Taking risks. Leaving your comfort zone. Accepting setbacks. Pushing through.

If you never risk anything, you will be in the exact same spot tomorrow as you are today. If you don’t take action, you fail. If you want to do something, do it. Yes, you can fall down. In fact, you will fall down. If you can pull it off on your first attempt, you’re really lucky.

Two times I took an incredible risk in my life.

The first time, I gave up my whole life to move halfway across the world to be with someone I only knew for a few months. If it failed, I would have wasted $4000 on travel costs, a broken heart, and my professional future.

I sold everything I owned, quit my job, left my home. Imagine if it hadn’t worked out. My life would be in pieces. Instead, I live in a wonderful country, am married, and have a beautiful daughter.

The second time, I quit my last job over a fight with management. Instead of looking for another job, I took the last $1000 savings I had to buy a computer. I wanted to become a freelancer and work from home. Be my own boss. But I had no experience whatsoever. Now I’m almost in my 6th year working from home.

Both times I risked a lot, without knowing if I’d even make it. And because of this fear, I worked the hardest to not fail. Every setback I had back then, every problem that stood in my way, was one I could not accept.

I was afraid. At times I was angry at myself. But I had to push through. I never worked as hard in my life as I did in these two situations. I put myself in a spot where giving up was not an option.

Ever since then, I stopped believing in that “play it safe” mentality. Only if I take risks, I can really achieve something.

So even if you think it sounds stupid, I’d encourage you to do the same. If you’re a quitter like me, you can find true strength by putting yourself in such a position.

Final thoughts

Overcoming your fear of failure is the wrong approach. But by redefining what failure means to you, you can shift your goals. Instead of fearing potential losses, learn to fear zero gains.

Push through the pain. If you are the type of guy who throws in the towel, create a situation in which you can’t, no matter how much you’d like to.

You should always have fear of failure. Because fear is an instinct. It raises your awareness and helps you make the right decisions in split-seconds. It will fuel your progress more than any dreams or hopes ever could.

But you need to learn to fear the right things. Don’t fear setbacks. Instead, fear settling for less. Fear not taking action. Fear staying ordinary.

Doing nothing is failure. So fear doing nothing.

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Photo by Darpan Dodiya on Unsplash

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Kevin Buddaeus

Written by

Follow me on this long journey to grow and learn together. We can make the world a better place. Connect with me via Twitter: @KBuddaeus

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Kevin Buddaeus

Written by

Follow me on this long journey to grow and learn together. We can make the world a better place. Connect with me via Twitter: @KBuddaeus

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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