Failing. Or even the THOUGHT of failing. Failing, losing or even making mistakes.
It would unleash the full range of catastrophe scenarios in my brain.
It would go from failing to scrambling around to get it right. To losing my job, losing my house, losing my partner, my kid never wanting to talk to me again, ending up on the street, with no money, no one wanting to know me ever and me dying a lonely old woman.
Something like that.
Atychiphobia is the proper term for fear of failure
And it can originate from lots of sources:
Your background - You can genetically inherit anxiety and a tendency to worry through genetics. Or your parents may have shown you through their actions and communications that worry and fear of failure is normal.
Your experiences - You may have experienced traumatic experiences, which have lead to fear of failure.
Your perfectionism - Your wish for perfection makes you believe that - if everything is perfect - you can avoid or minimise 'the painful feelings of shame, judgement and blame' (as Brene Brown says in her book The Gifts of Imperfection).
My thoughts are that:
Fear of Failure comes from a place of scarcity. Where you feel you are walking a tightrope. That the life you've built for yourself is SO precarious that it can fall apart at any moment. Which means that - under NO circumstances - you should rock the boat to not start knocking over the house of cards that you think you've built.
You may have a deep under-appreciation of your own strengths and skills. In fact an under-appreciation of yourself. A lack of self-esteem, if you want. You don't believe that what you can do is all that special. You believe that the results you bring could have just as easily been achieved by someone else.
You may have an idea that somehow, somewhere, there is a 'perfect you'. And that if you work hard enough you can actually BE that person. And, more importantly, that it is only when you achieve that so-called perfection, you'll be truly happy and free from pain.
Happiness is a choice.
Happiness is not the RESULT of success. No circumstances have to be JUST right. No achievement or position or expectation met will automatically lead to happiness. Choosing happiness every day, practising being happy every day, will lead to happiness.
There's no such thing as perfect
There is no 'perfect you' either. Nowhere is there a picture, or a ghost, of a person who says 'this is you, this is what you should be like'. If you do have a picture of her in your brain you may want to start dismantling her, because she is not real. We are all imperfect. We all make mistakes.
Your skills and strengths can find a home in lots of different settings
Do you believe that what you can do is nothing special? Think again! What you do, and - more importantly - how you do it is unique to you. Without you applying your skills and using your strengths in the way that you have you and the company you worked for would not have achieved the results you have.
Especially if you've done one job for a long time - you start to think that your skills and strengths are only fit for that particular job. Only.
Whilst - of course - that's not true. Because you can use all the strengths and skills in a variety of settings, working for a myriad of different companies. You just can't see it yet.
So, what should you do if your Fear of Failure is stopping you from making a change in your career?
Here are my tips:
Be aware that it is Fear of Failure is stopping you from making a move.
Understand why you are afraid. What is it that you expect to happen? How realistic is YOUR catastrophe scenario?
Consider your strengths and be proud of your achievements. Remember that without you applying your strengths in the way that you did the results would not have been the same.
Dream a bit. What would your life look like if you did what you love doing?
Remember that life is not as precarious as you think it is. You've got skills and strengths you can use in many settings. You just haven't found the right setting for you. Yet.
Create the circumstances in which you can fail with a minimum of risk. So, don't quit your job, instead go and find out what you'd like to do next whilst still being paid. Start an 'Escape Fund' (for more tips on money read my blogs on The sticky subject of money). Go and try things out and talk to people.
Then make it your job to fail. Go and talk to as many people as possible and find out what you absolutely DON'T want to do. Volunteer and decide that that's NOT what you'd like to do for a living. Speak to people and decide that you DON'T want to work for that company. Find out that you NEVER want to be in business for yourself, or would NEVER do it that way. And finally, apply for multiple jobs, and get a lot of NOs before you get a YES.
You see, what I've learned is this:
Failure is inevitable.
Perfection is a myth.
And YES! lives in the world of NO.
Which is why you should WANT to fail. Because if you fail you'll learn and if you learn you'll know what to do next.
Which is exactly what you need to determine your next steps in your career!
Tineke Tammes is an ICF accredited Career Coach, who supports creative, multi-passionate, professional women in making successful career transitions! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
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