How to Overcome the Fear of Failure and Rejection


“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure” 
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I used to be terrified of both failure and rejection. For a large portion of my life I would avoid doing things in case I failed or got rejected: apply for a job I really wanted, try to learn a new skill I was interested in, walk up to someone and start a conversation. I realise now how ridiculous this was and I don't know how I ever accomplished anything. 

Nowadays, neither of these two words ('failure' and 'rejection', in case you've already forgotten) are allowed in my vocabulary. (Well, they are, because I just wrote them, and will be using them a lot within this post, but what I mean is that I don't give them any weight or use them in my everyday life. Although, as a chronic introvert I still hate the thought of walking up to a stranger and initiating a conversation and don't think I'll ever enjoy it).

[Fun fact: An intense fear of failure is known as 'atychiphobia', and the fear of rejection is called RSD, or 'rejection sensitive dysphoria'.]

So how did I overcome my fear of failure and rejection?

The short answer is, I don't really know. I can't pinpoint one exact turning point or 'lightbulb moment' when I suddenly decided I was no longer scared of failing. It was more of a gradual thing. Maybe it's just my age: I definitely care a lot less about what people think of me now than when I was growing up. 

Even though I can't tell you exactly when or how I became more confident, I can let you in on how my mindset is different now compared to when I was younger and scared of pretty much everything. 

My main shift in thinking is that, as I already mentioned, I don't use the words 'fail' or 'failure' anymore. Nothing is a failure if you learn something from it or grow in some way. And it's just a fact of life that if you want to succeed, you're going to have to risk failing. Many times.

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work” - Thomas Edison

So what if you do fail? What's the worst possible outcome? You get a bit embarrassed? It's not the end of the world. You can't actually die from embarrassment. The thought of having to wonder "What if?" for the rest of my life is more scary to me than any potential temporary pain or embarrassment.

Bloggers face the possibility of failure and rejection all the time: what if no-one reads my latest post? What if someone leaves a nasty comment? What if this brand doesn't want to work with me?

Well, so what? Someone not being able to see your value doesn't decrease your value. 

I believe you don't truly fail until you give up. It may take years to achieve a goal, but you'll never get there if you throw in the towel halfway through. It can be so easy to feel defeated and demotivated, like no-one cares about how hard you're working, but don't be discouraged. Keep going, keep pushing, keep on keeping on. You'll get there eventually.  

Even if you do give up, that doesn't necessarily mean you've failed. Sometimes it's just good sense to let something go - the relationship that's not working anymore, that toxic work environment, the project you've been working on for months that you're not passionate about anymore. Anything that no longer serves you can get in the bin without you feeling guilty about it. There's no point in flogging a dead horse, after all. If you gave something your best shot (and be honest with yourself: was it really your best shot?) and it's still not working, let it go, with love. 

I'm a perfectionist and, if I have a challenging task to complete, will procrastinate starting because I'm afraid I won't be able to do it well (or perfectly). But nothing is ever going to be perfect. I always end up doing the task eventually, but it just takes me twice as long (or longer) because I keep putting it off. Why didn't I just get on with it in the first place? 

Don't live your life trying to avoid failure or you'll never try anything new. If I try something and 'fail', I just shrug and think, "Oh well, at least I tried". I put it down to experience and think about what I can do better next time.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly” - Robert F. Kennedy


Further Reading

Here are some books you can read on the subjects of self-worth, confidence, failure and rejection. (Affiliate links have been used here, meaning I will receive a small commission on any sales):

1. I'm Worth More: Realize Your Value. Unleash Your Potential by Rob Moore (UK link) (US link
2. Rejection Proof: How to Beat Fear and Become Invincible by Jia Jiang (UK link) (US link)
3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (UK link) (US link)
4. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill (UK link) (US link
5. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (UK link) (US link
6. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis (UK link) (US link)


Related posts: How to Make 2020 Your Most Successful Year Yet 
The Secrets to Living a Successful Life, Making Money and Being Happy


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Comments

  1. One of my favourite quotes is "what of I fall, but oh my darling what if you fly?" Winnie the Pooh
    This sums it up nicely, tje potential and possibilities are endless if only we are brave enough to try.

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  2. This is said perfectly! The only way we fail technically is if we don’t try to get to where we want to be.

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  3. Great post!! Always good to be reminded of it. Thanks so much for sharing :)

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  4. Have you ecer thought of keeping a failures list for 2020. It may be interesting to track how you learn from each flop

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  5. Always wanted to read #3. Maybe it’s my 2020 read :)
    Another approach I’ve come to learn is accepting that I have ‘failed’ but not in the way depicted by social standards and attitudes of ‘being a failure’ but as ‘I simply haven’t achieved it, yet’ - yet being the key word x

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  6. Great read! I'm guilty of the fear of failing and always felt it holds me back from achieving so much or even meeting new people. Reading this has boost my confidence a litte, but I intend to improve myself a more each day.

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  7. This is such an uplifting post! I’m still scared of failing being a student and having all the pressures of deciding our futures. However, I hope this slowly begins to go because we never know what’s going to happen!

    Jared Davies | www.jareddavies.co.uk

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  8. Thanks for sharing. I found too that as I got older I cared a lot less about what people thought / think about me. There are some benefits of getting older and perspective is one of them!
    Chip
    https://www.theparenthoodadventures.com

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