A Paralyzing Fear: The Fear of Failure

We all have fears. Some of them are small, some of them are big, and some slowly grow until they turn into phobias. Everyone has their own fears, but me? I have a lot of them (spiders, heights, darkness, talking in public, the end of the world, you name it). However, there is one fear that I think is the worst of them all: the fear of failure. My mother once told me that fearing something can be good because it helps you to react, but what if it does the opposite? What if it’s so big that it leaves you paralyzed? What if it doesn’t just paralyze you, but also, everything around you?

Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to achieve all of my dreams, even though they have changed with time, of course. I knew I had to work hard to make them come true. What I didn’t count with, however, was having to fight against myself to do it.

I remember exactly when my fear of failure started. It was in the third grade when I got my first B on a grade. While now I understand that getting a B is not the end of the world, back in third grade it felt like it was. I had plans, big ones, and that B could put a stop to them. I started to cry when I saw it: I had failed. It sounds kind of dumb, I know, but fear can be highly irrational.

It began with that B, but suddenly every time I took an exam, I would get anxious. What if I failed again? What if this time I actually got an F? From there, it was a free fall and everything spiraled out of my control. Every step I took, I wondered if I would fail. I started dancing, but I stopped because I felt like I wasn’t good enough and was doomed to fail. I almost didn’t take the exam to enter the Advanced English Course in high school, “For what?” I thought, “I am going to fail it anyway.” (I will be forever thankful to all of those who pushed me to do it). In every assignment I turned in, every presentation I did, I was sure I was going to fail. I gave up so many opportunities because of this fear. I planned every step of every action, yet I didn’t act on half of it. Without even noticing, my fear was controlling my life and every decision I made.  

It took me a long time to realize that this fear needed to be stopped. I was so obsessed and worried about failing, that I didn’t notice how it was keeping me from following my dreams. In the past few years, I’ve worked to overcome my fears and I can proudly say that I no longer need (a lot) of help killing a spider and I can get on the Tower of Terror ride without crying, and yet the fear of failure has been difficult to conquer. Little by little, I started to fight against fear by stepping out of my comfort zone. I think the biggest step I took against it was choosing Comparative Literature as my major. I could say the second one has been joining Her Campus because I was scared to mess this opportunity up. It took a lot of convincing from a friend, and even more convincing from myself. If I found a way of conquering my other fears, why couldn’t Her Campus be another step to say goodbye to the biggest one?

So, by writing this article, I take another step to get over my fear. Sometimes I still feel like drowning in it and I catch myself overplanning everything. It’s a work in progress, but it’s getting better. I try to always keep in mind that I have to take risks if I want to make my dreams come true, and while I might fail, I can always get up and try again. We should never let any fear control our lives. We may not be able to control some things, but our lives? They are ours to fight for.

So you, the person that's reading this, here are some reminders that hopefully will help you along the way:

  • You are not alone in your fight against your fears. Talk with those close to you-- they can help and be with you through your journey. I know it can be scary because some people will not understand, but if you are important to them, they will make an effort and listen.

  • Stop letting your fears take charge and paralyze every aspect of your life. Don’t let them overpower you. Fighting them may be difficult, but it will be liberating and worth it.

  • Start small, step by step, until you reclaim your life again. Any step you take, no matter how small, helps. You could conquer it all at once, but sometimes it takes more time and that’s okay.

  • Never let yourself or others feel dumb about having one or many fears. There is no shame in that, especially when you’re doing everything you can to conquer them.

  • Failing is not the end of the world. If you do fail, you get up and try again.

  • Remind yourself how strong you are.

  • Set your goals and dreams, and don’t let your fears stop you from chasing them.

  • Breathe, you will get through it. You are bigger than your fear.

  • Taking risks is necessary, it is what life is about.

  • Sometimes the fear won’t go away and it will try to stop you from doing whatever you need to do, but that doesn’t mean you should let it get in the way. Go and do it with fear.

Now go grab a sword and slay those dragons, and if you can’t slay them, remember that you can always learn to ride them!