Overcoming Your Fear of Failure

Can I tell you one of my biggest fears? I’m absolutely afraid of failing, at anything. There’s probably some sort of psychological rationale behind my special kind of crazy, but in reality, it’s about control. Over the years I created an expectation of perfection to avoid failure. Being successful is my identity and failure is my nemesis. I will do anything to avoid failing, even if it means avoiding the thing I was called to do. Overcoming your fear of failure is the only way to fully live.

Unfortunately, failure is a part of life, no matter how much we try to avoid it. Every day you will fail at something. If you need help figuring it out, ask your kids. They won’t lie. How you define failure and your ability to harness it changes everything.

Chasing success

Success isn’t bad. The trials of motherhood give you enough opportunities to feel inadequate, always wondering if you’re doing enough or making the right choices. You need an outlet to feel successful. If every day feels like a struggle, your confidence slowly fades away.

Feeling successful is why you want your family to notice the clean house or to try that new recipe. You spent time on those things and want to hear others say you did a good job. It’s the same reason we beam with pride about our kids, we played a part in helping them become who they are. We find pride, value, and belonging in our successes.

The world teaches you to judge yourself by money, power, and influence. Are you good enough? How much value do you offer others? Do you belong to the right group? You become defined by how much you achieve in relation to how it affects others—more is better.

God measures your success by your love for Him. Are you obedient? Do you seek His will? Will you do His work even if the world believes you’re wasting your life? Even more importantly, when the rest of the world thinks you need to work harder and be better, God sees the value in your simple obedience in the small things.

The truth about failure

Failure feels like a personal attack. I like to believe I can do anything. If I work harder, surely I’ll be successful. Sometimes that’s true, but there’s always a trade-off. My lofty goals and expectations make failure almost inevitable. When you reach so high and don’t have a soft place to land, the fall’s pretty hard. Big dreams aren’t the problem. Everything comes back to being realistic with yourself and relying on God.

No matter how many times you tell yourself differently, failing feels like confirmation of your worst personal beliefs. You know the ones saying you’re a disappointment to everyone, probably even God. The lies say your efforts were wasted and you can never recover your lost time, energy, and resources. No matter how hard you tried, you believe you weren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, friendly enough…just not enough. All the good is stripped away and you’re left with hurt, loneliness, anger, and resentment.

Fearing failure holds you back

At some point, you decided that failing is a definite and your dream isn’t worth pursuing. You’ve let fear take control of your life. Success doesn’t happen until you try, and trying means you might fail along the way too. You have to believe your dream is worth the setbacks.

Fear limits your dreams and possibilities.

  1. Fear stops you before you even start. When failure seems inevitable, you believe you’re unqualified and let pessimism stop you before you even start. Plus, if you hide your dream and never start you’ll never fail, right? Avoidance is not obedience.
  2. Fear keeps you from fully committing. What if God is calling you to something really big, but you don’t think you’re ready or able? Weakness leads to dependence, which is God’ specialty. He wants to show you just how great His type of success can be. Don’t fall for fake obedience, where you half-heartedly do the thing but only to the point where it gets hard, risky, or uncomfortable.

When fear drives your decisions, you can’t see the possibilities beyond. You want to avoid pain, disappointment, and loneliness so the obvious choice is to play it safe. Just remember, little to no risk yields a much smaller reward.

Learning from failure

Understanding failure as a natural part of life changes how it affects you. If you truly want to be successful God’s way, you need to change the way you think. Start seeing your failures as opportunities to change your future. Right now, you don’t appreciate the missed deadline, rough day, or general lack of motivation you feel. Spend a little time in the middle of your failure, you’ll find a wealth of experience for the future.

Learning to appreciate failure doesn’t happen overnight, especially when you really believe in your failed idea. We spent years working on a project that wasn’t picked up. Countless hours of work, our vision, the camaraderie with our colleagues—all gone. For a long time, well over a year, I struggled with bitterness and anger. It affected every part of my life. Even now, I wonder what we could have done differently. Why wasn’t our work good enough? Some of my best work felt wasted, taking with it a hefty dose of my ambition. Only now am I starting to see the lessons and the value that came from that failure.

Each time you miss the mark, a new way to approach the future emerges. What will you do differently next time? Are you being obedient, even if the results don’t meet your expectations? How is God working in the midst of the situation? What unexpected benefits are you enjoying?

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I a strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

So many times, if we’re willing to step away from our expectations, we’ll see that God’s plans were so much better. In the middle of your weakness, when you feel like a failure, God is ready to step in and lead.

Taking the first step in overcoming your fear

If the fear of failure is overwhelming your life, it’s time to take the first steps in overcoming your fear. Spend some time considering these questions.

What does success mean in your life?  Think about your dream. If life is perfect, what does it look like? What are you doing?

Who are you comparing yourself to? God has given you unique gifts and talents and a divine calling. Are you allowing comparison to derail God’s plan for your life? Are their opportunities for collaboration instead of competition?

Where do you currently find your value—God, family, work? This isn’t the opportunity to give the “right” answer, like answering “Jesus” in church. What’s driving you right now? How would you like that to change in the future?

As you think about these questions, remember that God is ready to lead. Want even more prompts? Read the first post in this series to consider other ways fear is holding you back.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Ready to start overcoming fear in your life? This series will help you identify how fear influences your life. Face failure, success, and change to find the power of faith.

Motherhood is hard. Just when we think we’re doing it right, something happens to make us doubt ourselves. I hope you find encouragement in every post and realize just how great you are already. Do you have a friend who needs some encouragement too? Share this post with her and then signup to get new posts by email.

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