6 Signs Your Fear of Failure Is Holding You Back (Without You Even Knowing It)
Once you acknowledge that fear is the main thing that's holding you back, you can finally take control of your life.
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What's holding you back from starting a business?
Wait... don't tell me. I already know.
If you're anything like most would-be entrepreneurs I've talked to, you're afraid.
Yes, you, with the big dreams, the killer ideas, and the jaw-droppingly impressive skill set.
You're a scaredy-cat.
Hey, that's nothing to be ashamed of. Most of the time, I'm totally scared, too. Fear of failure is extremely common, especially among us entrepreneurs.
And with everything going on right now, there's more fear swirling around than ever. With businesses closing, layoffs, and furloughs, your fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead is totally justifiable.
But here's the thing: most of us aren't especially eager to admit our fear to ourselves... or anyone else, for that matter. Instead, maybe you tend to come up with excuses for why you don't take the leap and head out on your own. You might snuggle up in your comfort zone, insisting that you'd way rather keep working your boring job than embrace your creative side and start a wildly profitable side hustle where you are the boss.
I know better. And you can, too. Once you recognize the signs and acknowledge that fear is the main thing that's holding you back, you can finally start to conquer your fears and take control of your life — no matter how uncertain the future may feel right now.
Here are a few telltale signs your fear of failure is currently holding you back – whether you've already admitted it to yourself or not.
1. You hesitate to try new things
When a friend of yours asks you to try a restaurant, get set on a blind date, try a new sport or something else you've never done before, your answer is usually a quick "Nah." You prefer to stick to things you already know.
You choose your battles carefully, only agreeing to take on select challenges you're really confident you'll succeed in. This may seem totally trivial when it comes to social events – but in business, it can have serious consequences. Choosing to avoid any possible chance of failure by turning down new experiences can cause you to avoid taking risks, developing new skills, and creating something exciting. All because you're afraid of failure.
If this sounds like you, make it a goal to say "YES" the next time someone invites you to try something new. Embrace those scenarios as an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.
2. You're settling for less than you deserve
You absolutely adore your creativity-stifling, monotonous job. You're thrilled with your non-committal partner who isn't really all that nice to you. No, it's not that you're afraid of change – you're just ecstatic at the thought of living every single day the exact same way as you have for the last year.
While being content with your current circumstances is a good quality, being complacent is not. The truth is, you really do have the power to improve your situation and change your life. But in order to do so, you'll have to admit that you want (and deserve!) more. You'll have to take a risk. Yes, you'll have a higher chance of failure that way – but you'll also have a much, MUCH higher chance of living the life of your dreams.
If this sounds like you, set aside some time to take stock of your life. Consider your job, your relationships, and your current situation. What are you happy with? What do you wish was different? Then, start brainstorming a few changes you could make in order to make your life closer to how you wish it was. Focus on the good that could come from facing your fears, making a change and taking a step toward progress.
3. You insist you're not afraid of anything
Spiders? Yawn. Crippling loneliness? Bring it on. Failure? Whatever.
Sorry, but I'm calling your bluff. Everyone's afraid of something — and entrepreneurs have plenty to be afraid of. Fear is a natural human emotion. No matter how cool or capable you are, I guarantee you've felt afraid from time to time. And I'm willing to bet it's influenced plenty of decisions you've made, too. Denying your fear doesn't make it go away — in fact, allowing your fear to hide away in the shadows only gives it more power over your life.
Related: How Resilience Led Me to Success
If this sounds like you, it's time to get really honest and vulnerable with yourself. Take some time to think about what you're truly afraid of. Write down your fears and acknowledge what you are really afraid of. Then, you'll be able to start addressing and overcoming your fears rather than living in a state of denial.
4. You tend to fall apart when things start going south
Whenever you fail, even in a small way, you feel like YOU'RE a failure. Your self-talk gets especially negative whenever things are going bad. You thrive when things are smooth-sailing – but you tend to view any challenges up ahead as disasters, not opportunities.
If this sounds like you, your mindset is the main thing that needs changing. Work on embracing failure as an opportunity to grow. Surround yourself with positive influences and work on keeping your self-talk positive, no matter your circumstances.
5. You tend to judge other people based on their success or failure
When you see someone who's uber-successful, you assume it's because they're a really incredible person. When you see someone who's failed, you assume they must have done something wrong, or maybe they're just not cut out for this sort of thing. (When really, this might just be one step on their long road to success.)
Pay attention to how you look at failure & success when it doesn't involve you personally. That's a great insight into your beliefs about it.
If this sounds like you, try to focus on your internal qualities and effort rather than external success when you're assessing where you're at. Also, do your best not to compare yourself to others – it's great to learn from the successes and failures of other people, but it's unproductive to measure yourself against them. Everyone is on a different place in their journey, their middle may be your starting point.
6. You make excuses
There are approximately a million reasons why you can't, or shouldn't, or won't start a business right now. You don't have enough money, you're super busy, there's a pandemic going on, you've got too much on your plate, it's too hot outside, you're tired, your psychic told you now's not the time, you're pretty sure your awesome idea actually sucks.
Fear is fluent in excuses. Sure, all of those excuses might be founded in truth – but if you really want to start a business, no excuse should ever be powerful enough to hold you back. That's a surefire sign that your fear is the real thing holding you back.
If this sounds like you, address your excuses head-on. Take a moment to write down all of the reasons you think you can't start a business right now. Then, take them one at a time and consider how you might overcome them if you had to start today. For example, if you think you can't start a business because you don't have any money – could you find a way to get started without cash? If you're too busy — could you eliminate something from your schedule to free up some time?
Once you acknowledge what you're really afraid of, you can start making real progress toward your goals — without the fear of failure standing between you and your dreams.
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