A New Spin On Fear Of Failure!

Wanted a ‘lie-in’ this morning.  Been a busy few weeks one-to-one coaching, and training some great energy managers in the NHS.

And the thought of just waking up this morning whatever time my body wanted felt superb last night.  That is, until my eyes popped open at 6.25 am and my mind began jiving its own particular version of rock around the clock!

So I got up with the intention of having breakfast, reading a little with my coffee and then going back for a snooze… which often works for me.  Not this morning.  Too enthused by thoughts I read in a book by Seth Godin which I’ll feature soon.  Here’s a couple that got my imagination going…

It’s not fear of failure that inhibits us from being/doing remarkable things but the fear of destructive criticism.  It’s the fear of that pointing finger of blame, of ridicule and humiliation.

If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader then you’re probably not reaching your potential as a leader.

So… how about you; what memories, ideas, pictures and musings do these thoughts stimulate in you?


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16 Responses to “A New Spin On Fear Of Failure!”

  1. Usha Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    My fear is not so much a fear of failure – and it has taken a long time to overcome the fear of the blaming finger and the perceived criticism I can tell you…It is more the fear of success. My fear is about what I may lose as a result of the success. I am caught in limbo with knowing that universe is giving the messages of my work moving forward, but my body has become painful – so what am I resisting? I know that I need to do something….

  2. Karen Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Brilliant post!

    I think this is a worthy topic and very complex.

    When we are fearful, what is really happening? We are concerned about taking that step and for me, it can be a range of things:

    – fear that spending the money on this opportunity it won’t bring the rewards

    – fear that by getting the rewards, the work will come in so fast that the drowning action will continue but for different reasons

    – fear that it doesn’t work fast enough. In our world where everything is supposed to be instant, what if it isn’t instant

    – there is also a fear of rejection where you don’t meet the expectations of others

    So, personally, how does this relate to me?

    I feel the fear and work on releasing it, and at times this can be several times a day. I also ask what the fear is really representing and then go to work on releasing that element as it is a block for my eventual success.

    I work on perseverance. Each time, I do something and it doesn’t work means I am that much closer to success!

  3. Cassie Shoffren Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    For some reason, this has stirred some career memories in me….
    When I was younger and starting off in the work environment, I thought I would be too scared to ‘go for things’ as I was afraid of failing and not being good enough (this stems from my childhood ‘issues’ of not being good enough and fear of being destructively criticised by my father).

    I realised very quickly that I wasn’t actually afraid of failing and, in fact, I embraced the possibility of failing and would ‘go for things’ anyway. It turns out that by embracing the ‘fear’, to me, it wouldn’t matter if I failed; it was just important that I tried – perhaps this was to prove my father wrong and show him that I was good enough!

    Strangely enough, by embracing the fear, it turned out that I have been quite successful in my career!

  4. Karen Says:

    Hi Sharon

    What immediately stirred in me were the very wise words of Marieanne Williamson, about “our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure….”

    It is wonderful to believe that each and every one of us can become a leader in any small way, even by just setting an example to others to be the best we can be.

    …And at the same time, what a responsibility we take on in this role!

    Thank you Sharon, for reminding me of what matters 🙂

  5. Liane Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    3 years ago I bagan a weight loss journey. From leaving school I had gained 7 stone weighting over 16 stone. I had begun a healthier life style and while out shopping one day I saw a guy who I had gone to school with I hadn’t seen for years. I was all smiles when I saw him and was ready to greet him with a “Hi, how’ve you been, haven’t seen you since school”, but he made those words stick in my throat by saying ” F**k me, look how fat you’ve got!”

    This absolutely stunned me, and tears rose to my eyes. It took all the strength I had not to cry on the spot. At this point I had lost over 2 stone and had left my house feeling great and beautiful, as I was wearing a size 14 skirt that I didn’t have to force myself into.

    This comment did affect me and still does at times. I did not attend my school reunion as a result as I was convinced that instead of people seeing me, who I am and being interested in me, all these people would have seen was my size and thats the only change that they would have been interested in!

  6. Irene Brankin Says:

    Well, Sharon, your blog is making me laugh, cry, more thoughtful and also more understanding of myself and others. You certainly lead an eventful life and the sharing of it is well worthwhile.
    Keep Championing Life and the Facing of Fear.

  7. Diane March Says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Great Blog, I instantly felt your energy. My fear of failing has changed, I used to feel inadequate and illequipt amongst others and felt the need to strive academically. My GOAL now is to be happy and to embrace life.. to fail at that would indeed be a failing on my part as I have the power to change it…

  8. Maria Conrad Says:

    Fear of failure. Do we ever get over, or overcome it! In my experience No. Each time I push myself that little bit further out of my comfort zone. Stepping my toe into the big wide world and occasionally taking the plunge and other times retracting into my ‘safe’ zone for fear of failure. Fear that the world outside is a big and scary place that I sometimes doubt my own strength that I will be able to cope with challenge of new situations. I think everyone deals with these challenges everyday. We’re only human after all. Some mask their fears better than others.

  9. Phyllis SantaMaria Says:

    Hi Sharon,
    You are spot on about fear of criticism. It’s a fact that some people will like me, some won’t. I keep sifting through and home in on those open to me and my openness to them. My fear of criticism comes from long ago, a bit of Catholic ‘original sin’ that we all inherit. The Catholics just put a name on it, and we go around trying to shake it off, hiding in our shell, afraid to come out. Until I can’t stand it any more. This is my moment! This is now!
    Criticism is an opportunity to refine my offer. Mike Harris’s ‘Find Your Light Bulb’ talks about how he used his mother’s criticism of his idea for First Direct, the first phone banking service to make a product that customers would like and use.
    I’m now learning to listen to criticism, thank the critic and ask for more, help in improving my offer.
    I’m going to ring that woman I met yesterday who said I need to have larger scale to my Microfinance without Borders offer.
    Thanks for the tip!

  10. Julia Says:

    I think our society is incredibly judgemental and that definitely has had an impact on the way we live our lives and how much of ourselves we put ‘out there’. Coming from a small community, I felt the freedom of moving into a large town where nobody knew me and I felt I could ‘be myself’. Gone was the fear of failing in ‘public’ – and this gave me freedom to try things I might not have otherwise.

    But now I’ve made connections, the past creeps back and and I find myself scared to be myself, try new things and (dear lord) FAIL! It’s a good reminder that it’s okay to fail, and .. to ignore the inevitable tutting.

    Even so, on a personal level – I also try to let people around me fail without judgement or critisism. I think remaining positive on this level can only be a good thing.

  11. Iona Russell Says:

    Hi Sharon
    It is actually your second quote that grabbed me and stopped me in my tracks.

    I love my job and it fits my life as a single mum perfectly. However there are many other oportunities I’d like to create and expore, but I use time and commitments as my excuse not to. I’m not sure that it is fear of critisism in my case but fear in my own abilities to succeed. The strange thing is I know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, as I have done so again and again in the past.

    I am definately very comfortable in my job, and now I see I am not working to my full potential. This is something I hadn’t considered and has given me lots of food for thought!!

  12. Lindsey Says:

    Hi Sharon

    What a mix of thoughts when reading your blog. Fear – a very strange emotion. Recently another coach was talking about being on the radio – the thought filled me with a sense of fear – and then I thought back to last year, singing on stage to 200 people at my son’s school and loving it. And what does fear feel like? Sometimes there isn’t too much of a difference with excitement. And when we do overcome fear – so often we then think “what was that all about?” A most peculiar emotion!

  13. Felicity O'Hanlon Says:

    Hi Sharon

    Yes, fear has many more aspects to it than just fear of failure to success. Often it operates with many other partners in crime such as your article mentioned, fear of criticism.

    I think I fear criticism more than I realised and I do go out of my way to avoid it because if I incurred it then it would prove another fear right i.e. fear of worthlessness, never good enough.

    It is exhausting fighting fear off; like dodging a blackmailer and having to constantly pay them off by not realising potential, not going after success, not trying to hard, not believing in yourself too much and being too good to yourself.

    And fears, like you say, are chain linked. But in my case they are all rooted in fear of worthlessness and it’s pernicious friend, fear of punishment. All I know about the threat of punishment is that i won’t survive it, or so it threatens. Any kind of ‘selfishness’; self-care, success, striving, believing in self etc. is punishable. Ugly I know, but I’ve declared war and have won some battles so far.

    Criticism, yes, why do we fear it? Why is it so real? I think because it is the opposite of love. We are made to love but most importantly we are made to be loved. Love is the metaphysical food which makes us grow even on a cellular level from infants. If we incur criticism we don’t get what we most need to make us feel good and flourish, love and approval, we prove ourselves unworthy of positive regard and therefore of what we need most.

    I think you have probably come up with the most real fear but unobvious fear yet.

    So what can we do to overcome this very real fear? Maybe arm ourselves with close contact and constant feedback from significant others in our lives that know and value our worth no matter what?

    Actually, you provide some of that through your WOC newsletter, it constantly provides us with inspiration and courage to be successful.

    with gratitude to you and the other WOC out there

  14. Sonja Says:

    Hi Sharon

    your blog struck a chord with me as fear is an emotion very much in the forefront of my life at present.

    Having worked in senior positions in large organisations for many years I realised that all I’d achieved was driven by a fear of not living up to others’ expectations.

    I felt unhappy and alone. I made the choice to leave work and am in the early stages of setting up my own consultancy – now I have a fear with a different energy, will I be able to pay the bills, is this what I really want, will it give me the work life balance and happiness I’ve been missing?…

    …only time will tell…

  15. Jess Says:

    The first thought you posted is something I relate to very strongly, and affects me every day. For me thought it is not just the thought of others seeing my failure and their reaction that holds me back but also the fear of how I would criticise and demean myself even if no one else even noticed. This fear can hold me back in doing even the smallest of things sometimes (I usually never post comments on blogs for fear of embarrassing myself). This has made me realise that this is something I really need to start working on if I want achieve the dreams I have in my life.

    The second thought you posted was very interesting and something that I really needed to hear right now, as I want to grow and take on more leadership responsibilities. I always thought that a leader/manager had to have all the answers and be so sure of themselves, and so I wouldn’t be able to achieve this. However, as your quote illustrates the best leaders are those that are self-aware and always developing and growing.

    Thank you for your food for thought!

  16. Sheila Stocker Says:

    Hi Sharon

    Great to hear from you again, and to read your interesting spin on fear and failure.

    I think myself that its also about fear of success. Crazy I know, we want to succeed, but we are too used to our comfort zones and the level we are used to achieving.

    So you see its far too scarey for us to move into the unknown. Fear of ridicule will also play a part because we want to be liked by our friends, family and peers and they are all used to us being a certain way. Also our success will make others who have us in a box feel more uncomfortable with themselves, if we suddenly appear to be doing very well. (How dare we succeed and leave them behind, who do we think we are!). Those who are set in their own comfort zones may feel outraged at our new found success, but anyone who truely loves us will welcome our new found success and may even be inspired to step up a notch!

    Its funny how we all see things so differently and I’d probably say everything I’ve described is what I need to work on overcoming myself. Change seems scarey and we are used to the status quo, which even if its a far cry from what we would really want, it still feels safer, because we know what to expect. Until it becomes so very unbearable that is and then we launch ourselves into the vast unknown to escape. Believe me I’ve lived that one and I wondered why on earth I didn’t do it sooner.

    your a great teacher
    Have a great xmas!

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