Is Fear of Failure Holding You Back?

Nobody likes to fail. It can leave you feeling disappointed or even inadequate, and while failure is simply a part of the learning process it can still be unpleasant enough to stop some people from even trying in the first place. The trouble with this is that you will never take a risk or challenge yourself, which means that your growth will be slowed. On the other hand, failure isn’t generally looked upon favourably by employers, creating a problem of balance between pushing yourself and potentially damaging your reputation at work. There is certainly something to be said for knowing your limits and making sure you don’t go too far beyond them, but at the same time a fear of failure could be stopping you from making even small steps forward.

It’s true, by not pushing the boundaries, you will remain relatively safe in your own ‘comfort zone,’ but you are trading this safety off against really shining and achieving great things. In the workplace this can mean that you may be passed over for promotion in favour of someone who was willing to take that extra step forward. It will also be hard to place yourself up front as a leader if you don’t ever push for achievements or responsibility.

You are unlikely to be seen as a team player by peers, or recognised as a creative and energetic employee by your supervisors if you never put yourself forward and, as a result, you are likely to be overlooked when future opportunities for growth or promotion arrive.

In fact, far from seeing failure as a purely bad thing, you can look at it as a lesson to learn. You have seen what didn’t work, and hopefully why, allowing you to be better in the future. Your failure can make you stronger, and as long as you are open to acknowledging and learning from them.

However, you can improve your chances of success by asking questions about things you don’t know about, or getting some direct help with a task. It is better to seek help with something you don’t know than to keep going in the wrong direction.

Getting help doesn’t mean that you are weak, it means that you are open to teamwork, know your limitations, the strengths of others, and want to improve yourself. You can’t be expected to know everything all of the time!

If you ask a superior for help, you can also build a better working relationship with them, and maybe even being mentored by them a little. This will not only improve your skills, but will bring you to the attention (positively) to one of your bosses or supervisors. Such networking can work in your favour when it comes to future opportunities, especially if you do a good job.

The more you stretch outside of your comfort zone at work the easier it becomes, as your confidence will grow with each success. Even if things don’t go exactly to plan, you can achieve results by showing that you are able to resolve a problem and learn from a mistake.

There is a difference between having a healthy level of fear and stunting your growth with a fear of failure. A healthy level of fear stops you swimming with crocodiles, a fear of failure may stop you from volunteering to create a report for your boss. Of course, ultimately only one of these is really worth being truly frightened about! Assess the risks by all means, but don’t let fear stop your progressing.

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