Fear and failure. Separately, they both are powerful. When you combine fear and failure into the fear of failure, it can become immobilizing. But why is that? Fear, while often viewed as a negative emotion, can be very positive because it warns us of the potential of being harmed. If you have that warning, you can do something to prepare for or mitigate the potential harm. Having failed at something is also viewed as a negative outcome of attempting something. However, trying something new is often very educational.
By going through a process of trial and error, you have the potential of gaining knowledge capital that you could potentially apply throughout many different aspects of your life. For instance, in starting this blog, I had the opportunity to either following a ‘do it yourself’ model or following a ‘managed service’ model. What I had learned from a previous “failure” is that paying for the managed service would free my time up to generate content for my blog rather than spending my time working on the technical infrastructure. With a previous business, I was writing all the HTML code myself to create and manage the website. In doing that, though, it pulled me away from other aspects of my business that could have generated more revenue. As a former developer, I was veering toward what I was comfortable with rather than what I needed to accomplish.
A common saying is that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. That isn’t necessarily the case. It truly depends upon what is triggering the feeling of fear. If you needed to rely upon a skill that you had never developed to be successful, you would have a reason to be fearful. For instance, if fear comes over you when asked to make a presentation in front of a broad audience, there are some steps you can take to deal with or eliminate that fear. The steps are define the fear, address the fear and then overcome the fear.
Defining your fear takes some introspection and self-honesty. In the example of giving a presentation, is the fear centered around your public speaking skills, your knowledge of the subject, or something else? This step sounds very straight-forward, but it can be challenging.
Fear can be based upon conscious thoughts, but it may also be based upon subconscious thought. Depending upon the root of your fear, the path forward to be able to overcome the fear could be widely different. Because of that, you genuinely need to be honest with yourself as to the why behind the fear. Getting down to the real root of your fear is the only way that you’ll be able to overcome it. Being fearful of standing up in front of a broad audience because your speaking skills aren’t polished is vastly different than being afraid of the possibility of ridicule over some physical imperfection. Therefore, the more fine-grained that you can get on the why behind your fear, the more successful you will be in overcoming it.
Address The Fear
You have to want to overcome a fear. The fear emotion is based upon an assessment that you are facing harm. The natural tendency is to avoid that potential harm. So, if you want to overcome that fear, eventually, you need to reach a critical point. You need to realize that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. Once you get to that point, your whole world could change. From that vantage point, you can put together a plan for eventually overcoming your fear.
If your fear of public speaking is rooted in your presentation skills, you can pull together a plan for improving those skills. Or, if your fear is based upon your physical appearance, you can work with stylists to modify your update your physical presentation. If there are some underlying emotional issues, you can set aside some time to talk with a counselor or a religious leader. This is where the rubber meets the road, and you can start seeing the possibility of overcoming the fear. It may be a one-step plan, a two-step plan, or a multi-step plan, but as you progress through the steps, you should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Having followed your plan, now’s the time to re-approach what you had been fearful of in the first place. Hopefully, at this point, the fear is gone. But it might not be. If the fear isn’t gone, you’d need to go back to the first step and reassess the why of your fear. If your fear is based upon your subconscious, it could take a few cycles through this process to realize that reaching out to others may be necessary.
In part two, I’ll review the failure component of the fear of failure.