What I Tell Myself to Overcome the Fear of Failure

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Isn’t it why many of us procrastinate at school? Because we’re scared to fail? We’re given so many assignments to complete but we have no idea whether we have it in us to do them properly. What if we misunderstand the question? The moment we start doubting is the moment procrastination kicks in.

More than a year ago, I wrote a blog post about this type of anxiety-related procrastination, and here’s how I described it:

Procrastination is the fear of failure. The fear of not doing good enough.

The moment we start on an assignment, we know that every written word will be judged and every word will affect the final mark that will affect the success rate in school/at work that will affect how great of a career you will have. It is an expression of despair, to know that your whole life depends on words written on paper. Your reputation, your competence, you.

Procrastination is also the fear of passing time. Time is flying. Too fast for our taste.

It is that unspoken desire to shout ‘STOP’. We want time to be suspended. We want to live every second of our lives. But time is merciless. We have to rush from assignment to assignment, work to more work.

It is a pleading cry.

Can you relate?

overcome the fear of failure

Now, how do you overcome the fear of failure? How did I do it? How can you do it?

Despite feeling like the assignments I was doing were not going to be good enough, I managed to submit my work on time every single time.

I know it is paralysing. I know all you want to do is to crawl back into bed and sleep the whole day. I know it gets more difficult when you are anxious.

In the end, you leave everything to the last minute and it gets too stressful for you to cope. (Been there, done that; including all-nighters a.k.a. 2-hour sleep time, which we should all completely avoid!)

First, know that this feeling won’t go away.

Not everyone is haunted by this gnawing fear of failure, but if you do, it may be because you’ve been brought up that way. My Asian parents ‘trained’ me to fear failure, although I later learnt that you can learn a lot from your mistakes.

If every time you face an assignment you are scared of not doing well enough, this feeling won’t magically disappear the next day. You can’t get rid of anxiety, but you can control it. 

You can choose to either cope with it or let yourself be consumed by it.

The “I want to deal with it” attitude.

So you’ve decided to take matters into your own hands. You’re slowly but surely changing your mindset. You’re taking a new approach to facing that pile of assignments.

But how?

Frankly, this may be the hardest part. There is no single way to go about it. No magical formula. No one size fits all.

It’s all about training yourself to think about the situation like a challenge, instead of a threat. Changing your attitude about failure and knowing that you don’t always have to score the highest to get the best learning experience may take some time. And a lot of mental and personal effort.

This is a battle no one can fight for you… but you.

overcome the fear of failure

What I tell myself at this point…

If you’re struggling, here’s how I’d self-motivate myself to take that fear of failure into a challenge and out of the way of my assignments.

Listen, you’re afraid to not be good enough, right? It means you want to succeed. So, regardless of that paralysing anxiety, what does a student do to succeed?

Yes, that’s right. They just do their work. They DO IT.

Do you want to get a zero on this assignment? No? Well, submitting anything at all, even if it is not your best work, will score you more than zero. 

You have to bite the bullet. The most painful step is to start. So as soon as you get something on paper, you’ll be able to get going. Just write something. ANYTHING.

You say what you’re writing is rubbish? It doesn’t matter right now—NO, don’t go back to ponder over that first sentence. Just write everything out. Complete everything. Once you’re done, you can go back and review your paper.

On the first try, if you don’t stop once you start, you will have time to edit and re-evaluate everything again. That’s because you didn’t waste time in fussing over the details.

It hurts, it makes you cringe. Your writing is terrible. It’s fine. You’ve done it. Ready for the second draft?

Or for the next assignment?

Do you have any mantra you tell yourself to help you out in this paralysing situation? Share it in the comments below!

D. K. Waye.

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