A Silent Killer: The Fear of Failure

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Ken Robinson

Writing this post was probably the scariest experience I’ve had in a while. I’m considering this to be the “real” first post of the freewoman diaries since the site’s revisions and I wanted to get it as right as possible. I wanted this post to be perfect so bad to the point that I spent hours coming up with headlines that had to do with strength, love, or confidence. In the end, I found myself creatively crippled, stuck in a trance of self-doubt, while lying in a recliner chair staring up at the ceiling. I guess I was waiting for the perfect idea to fall down and find me.

This is the fear of failure. And it’s a silent killer when you can’t recognize it in yourself.

My struggle with writer’s block and fear of not being effective in the blogging community are what kept me from even starting to write this post. Every time I’d sit down to write, my heart would start racing and I could feel it in my chest, in my neck. I was panicking from the jump! Eventually I found the courage to get this all off my chest, but it took me to recognize that I was afraid of failing at this writing thing in order to get over the mental hump. That mental hump was myself.


Fear of failure doesn’t always inspire us to work harder, smarter, or better. Instead, it leads us to lower our expectations whenever the stakes feel high because what’s at the end of the tunnel may not be better than what we have now. This type of mindset keeps us stagnant. We start to overestimate how little we have to offer the world and underestimate how much it has to offer us. It becomes routine to expect so little, come out with just enough, and experience little to no repercussions.

Most of us can’t or won’t admit that we have a fear of failure. Instead, we’ll deal with our anxiety over the what if’s and maybe’s through procrastination, drug/substance abuse, or do-nothing-ism. Our self-sabotage behaviors come as a result of our fear of failure, however, because the effects of our behaviors take time to really show, many of us will remain in this daze for our entire lives. The solution is to admit that change is needed within, yet, to do so without guilt takes lots of self-love and internal patience.

Failure is Inevitable

The American way has always been to pull yourself up by your “bootstrap”. If you work hard enough you’ll be successful. What is success but a false notion of achievement? If you never fail, you’ll never be prepared to go all the way. You’ve got to get it out of your head that failure is a reflection of your success and that your success is a measurement of your worth. Failure is everywhere in the world, but why do you only see it in yourself?

In this sense, fear is our anxiety of not knowing what will happen if we try. Instead of succumbing to our fear, trapping ourselves inside our head, we should use our fear as fuel to do what we have to do until it goes away. If we fail in the process, good job.

Learning from your mistakes, or shortcomings, is the best way to clarify your direction in life. When fear of failure keeps us from even starting, we feel confused about where to start when we are ready. We really just confuse ourselves trying to decide what the best first course of action is. We forget that starting means trusting ourselves, our gut, to take us in the right direction. Letting our deepest feelings guide us towards our base.

Do Something

If you want to combat your fear of failure, you’ve got to get yourself to DO. Many times, facing your fears head on can bring up an exhilaration inside of you that is long lasting, inspiring you to do a little more or start a little sooner each time you’re faced with a task/goal. If writing is what you’re struggling with, then you’ve got to start with pen and paper. If cooking is your current aspiration, then you’ve got to start with a salad. And if you want to live a more active lifestyle, then you can’t go wrong with walking.

For all your dreams, there’s a place to start. The fear of failure can trick you into thinking that if you don’t achieve a certain end result, then all your efforts will have been a waste of time. But the truth is that spending all your time wishing and waiting for a dream to happen is the biggest waste of time. It get’s you nowhere. Having something to show is better than nothing at all. If you can at least take the first step, whatever you decide it is, you’re closer than most.

Watch out for a follow up post on how to take action against your fear of failure.

Writer. Lover. Personal Trainer.