For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a perfectionist. I strive to create my best work possible for anything I’m doing – whether it was in school, at any job, blogging, or with my personal relationships. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I realized that one reason I always strived for my best: I’m terrified of failure.
The true battle with this fear arose around my third year in college – I had recently transferred to a four-year university to pursue a business degree. Classes were tough, but nothing was as challenging as managerial accounting. For the first time, I failed a very important midterm. Flat out fail. F. I even felt somewhat prepared for the exam. I always study plenty beforehand…but it wasn’t enough.
My anxiety was through the roof at this point. Balancing working on the weekends and four difficult classes during the week was incredibly difficult. Not to mention I was dealing with a rather toxic relationship at the time. I remember breaking down and crying to my mom on the phone in the bathroom in my apartment because it was the only place I knew I could be alone since I lived with five other girls. There was even a point where I was questioning whether I chose the right major and the right college.
Of course, now that I graduated and look back…those were a bit extreme assumptions. I ended up pushing myself and dedicating my time to passing all of my classes. Throughout the next couple years I continued to face my fear of failure, but developed techniques to lessen the stress that came with this fear. I may still struggle with it every once in a while, but I’ve learned to control my emotions and reactions to certain triggering situations.
Here’s what I’ve learned to help control my fear of failure:
Let go of perfection
I transferred into my four-year university with a 4.0 GPA. My first semester at my new school brought me my first C in my entire life. Add this to my first F for an exam…I was a mess. Quickly, I had to learn that perfection wasn’t possible and I had my own challenges and room to grow. I soon understood that my own successes were different from others’; even different from my younger self’s. I grew much more comfortable with C’s and B’s when I knew I tried my best.
Understand challenges help you grow
“The differences create the challenges in life that open up the door to discovery.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. Do we ever learn from constantly succeeding? Maybe a little, but nothing beats a good failure every once in a while. You learn much more about yourself, what you can do, and what you need to improve on when you fail and try again.
Redefine your meaning of ‘failure’
You’re only a failure if you see yourself as one. Your definition of ‘failure’ depends completely on you. Sure, failing a class does technically mean fail, but if you tried your best, then it only means you have room to grow and conquer the next time you take the course. For me, I redefined failure as being lazy and not giving my best effort. If I don’t give my all, I could have done better.
Reward yourself for even the smallest successes! Earn a great grade on an exam? Buy yourself some ice cream! Go to a movie! Binge watch your favorite show on Netflix for a day! You deserve to treat yourself after all of your hard work dedicated to your success.
Failure is only temporary
Failure ends the moment you start pushing yourself to improve. Make a mistake at work? Ask for feedback and make an effort to not repeat the mistake. Receive a poor grade on an essay you slaved over all weekend? Ask others to proofread your next paper and learn from your errors. Don’t sulk in your failure, take control of it. Don’t let failure control you.
It’s not the end of the world
At the end of the day, what matters most? Your health, a roof over your head, and friends and family who love and support you. Find a strong support group of people who care about you that want you to succeed. They’ll help push you to your best, and in the end only want your happiness. These people will help you through all your failures, no matter how big or small. You’ll be okay. You will grow and succeed.
Hopefully some of these pointers help you face your fear of failure! I still struggle with this fear every once in a while, but I’m only human. You can only try your best to learn from your mistakes. I’ll leave you with a quote that I refer to whenever life seems a little too hard:
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” – Unknown
How do you tackle your fear of failure? Let me know in the comments!