When the Fear of Failure Gets a Little Too Real

By Shelsey Jarvis

When the Fear of Failure Gets a Little Too Real - Strategies to overcome the mindset gremlins that are keeping you from playing big | Left-Brained Hippie

​Note: This is a transcription of the Hippie Friday Lunch Chat from March 31st, 2017.  Watch it by clicking on the image below (if you're not already a member in the Left-Brained Hippies group, you'll have to request to join.  No worries, it'll be approved shortly.)

Hello, hello, hippies. Welcome to this episode of the Hippie Friday Lunch Chat. On today's episode, I'm going to be talking about the fear of failure and when it gets a little bit too real. I wanted to talk about this because I've been seeing a lot lately. People are still having a lot of trouble pushing through this, and it's not that I don't even want you to just necessarily push through blindly. I want to give you some concrete strategies and help you figure out where this fear is coming from and how you can navigate it rather I think is a better way of saying it rather than just trying to push through it because that's easier said than done.

Let's talk about this. First of all, I never really thought that I had much of a fear of failure because I was very lucky to have supportive parents. So I've always been kind of the leap first, look later type, and never really thought that was the type of person that had a fear of failure. I could launch things on a dime, I can create new products and get them out into the world, and I can go from one business to the next without that fear of failure holding me back.

I've always been really good at pushing past my comfort zone when it came to things like singing in public for the first time or moving (like making a really last minute decision to move from Philadelphia to New York, and then making another last minute decision to move from New York to Montreal).

It was not something that I spent a lot of time dwelling on, weighing the pros and cons. My thought was, "Okay. I'm just going to do this and see what happens”.

But then, in a couple of specific areas, I've noticed this fear of failure rearing its ugly head. One example is “goal trauma”.

It started back when I was in a network marketing company. I've tried network marketing twice, and specifically, the second time really, really, “traumatized” me because I was sort of the “darling” of my upline coaches. They saw my potential, and they really believed that I was going to be a superstar in the company. They encouraged me to dream big and set my sights really high, and so as a result, I was like, "Sweet. They believe in me”. I was setting all of these really big goals for myself.

Because I still had other limiting beliefs at play (like “not good enough” and “making money needs to be really hard work”), I didn't meet those goals. As a result, when I started consistently setting goals and not meeting them, that eventually burned me out on setting goals all together, and that fear of failure that was planted.

For you, maybe it started a lot earlier. Personally, my fear of failure really came as an adult, and it was from setting so many goals and in not meeting them month after month.

Another area of my life where I noticed this fear of failure coming out was in music, and this is still one that I battle with, quite honestly. I have been a singer/songwriter my whole life and I still have a part of me that doesn't believe that I can make real money with music. It's that fear like, "Oh my God. What if I dedicate all of this energy and put all of my best creativity, all of my best focused creativity into this, and then it doesn't work out? I'll feel like a failure."

A specific example of this was when I was recording my album back in November. I had booked a house out in the country and got all of the equipment that I needed, and I was prepared to go out, spend two days in the country and finish this album, bang it out all by myself (I’m a trained audio technician so I knew what I was doing), and I wanted to finish the recording.

I wanted to finally put out this album that I had been working on for six years. Six years on an album, and I manifested a freakin’ cold right before I was set to go record. Of course, I needed to record vocals, so a cold spells bad news for that. But, because I'm a mindset coach, I said, "Okay, self-sabotage. I know what you're doing."

When I sat down to do some mindset work before going into the studio to figure out what my problem was, why the hell I manifested a cold right before something was really important was about to happen, and I asked myself these questions,

”What does it mean if I finish this? What does it mean to me if I finish this project and put it out to the world, or what does it mean if I finish this project?"

One of the answers was, "I'll have to put it out there, and oh my God. If I put it out there, then what? What if people don't buy it? What if people don't like it, or what if people say, 'Oh, it would have been better if you had switched these songs or may put this chorus there or whatever'?"

Before, it was really easy to say, "Oh, this is just a rough draft or this is just a rough mix or whatever", but all of a sudden, it was scary as hell because I couldn't fall back on that excuse anymore.

This was my finished product, so if people didn't like it, I felt like that meant they didn't like me. That fear of failure was very, very real. If you've been trying to launch something or create something for a long time and especially if it's something you're really passionate about and you can't seem to just birth it already and you just can't seem to get it out there, then trust me, I feel you. Here's a few different ways that this fear of failure can show up. First, the first one I've already mentioned and I'll mention again which is goal trauma, which means that you're scared to ...

Not even necessarily scared, but you just don't even bother to set any goals for yourself anymore. When I say goals, I don't necessarily mean financial goals, but I mean in terms of goals of what you'll complete, what you'll get finished, what you'll get done, and yes, you could just make a goal about something that you'll receive as a result of it, but do you have resistance to setting goals at all? That's a very big sign of a fear of failure. Another way that this shows up is procrastination. For me, it took six years to finish that damn album.

That's procrastination at its best because it should not have taken that long. But I let my fear of failure get in the way, because finishing it means you have to put it out there. As long as it's not finished, you don't have to put it out there. Right? You can just keep it safely on your hard drive where nobody's going to see it and keep saying that you're working on this, but “it’s not ready yet.”

Procrastination is a big, big, big indicator that you've got a fear of failure. Another one is perfectionism which is really a form of procrastination, and that's the form that my album took because I was just like, "Oh, I feel like it could be better. It's not ready yet. It could be better." Procrastination often shows up as not doing the job at all, not putting the work in at all, and always finding reasons to distract yourself and put it off until later, and perfectionism is when you keep working on it like you are actively working on it, but you can't seem to let it go.

You can't seem to ... Like you're keeping this baby inside you and you think that if you keep cooking it longer, then it's going to be better, but the reality is baby's only supposed to be inside you for a certain amount of time, and then it has to get out. It has to get out. It has to GTFO in order to take its place in the world and have its impact in the world. If you keep it in past its expiration date, it's bad for your baby and it's bad for you. Right?

Why we fear failure so much

First of all, because your subconscious is trying to protect you from disappointment, and therefore, it tells you all these tall tales and it tells you all of these stories which are for the most part not even true about why you should fear putting yourself out there and failing, why you should fear not getting the outcome that you want, and it's all of these tall tales, and also, because it hurts a lot more to fail at something that you actually care about.

How many of you have had previous businesses (or day jobs) that felt easy and you could get stuff done no problem, but now, you found your true passion and it's your baby, and it's something that you really love and you believe in and it's your life purpose and what not, but you just can't seem to put it out there?

It's because it would really hurt to fail or to feel like you've failed at something that you're really passionate about.

Fear of failure is 100x worse when it's something you genuinely give a shit about because you've wrapped your identity up in it.  

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When you fail at something that you don't care about, you're just like, "Yeah, whatever. I didn't put a hundred percent in and it wasn't a big deal."

But when it's something that you really care and you feel like it's your message to the world, if it fails and falls on its face, then you're going to be just like, "Oh my God. I've got my entire identity wrapped up in this. What now?" Right? Also, related to that is because we're afraid that if we fail at this idea, we won't know where to go next.

We feel like, "This is our big idea. This is the one. This is the only baby I'm ever going to have, and if I fail at this, then I'm done. I don't know where to go from there." And that's just not true.

I'm going to get into that in a little bit, but there's always a "What's next?" There's always another idea, so for me, if you had asked me two years ago what will I be doing in two years, I would have said I'll be a really successful beach body coach because I was a beach body coach at the time. I didn't see any of this coming, but as it turns out, I've had two businesses since then, so you just never know where life's going to take you and there's always more where that came from, so even if I failed being a coach (which I didn't, it was going really well), but even if that failed miserably, there were plenty more ideas coming through the pipeline for me that I didn't know about yet,

The same is true for you. No matter what you're doing now in six months or a year or five years, you could be doing something completely different. You just never know, so even if what you're doing right now were to not workout for whatever reason, that's not where the road ends for you at all. There's more ideas waiting right behind it.

I'm not going to get into too much detail on this, but I actually had what I think is a fucking brilliant idea this week. It's a type of thing that I see myself on major news networks and on a global stage talking about this thing, and it's not related to Left-Brained Hippie. Not really anyway. It's a little bit related I guess, but it wouldn't be part of the Left-Brained Hippie brand, and that scared the crap out of me first of all because I was just like, "I don't want to let my brand go. I have a special place in my heart for Left-Brained Hippie. I can't imagine letting it go."

The point that I'm trying to make is you just never know what ideas are coming around the bend, and I literally threw the question out into the universe, like, "Give me a million dollar idea. I'm open to it", and bam, this idea hits me like a ton of bricks. I'm not going to get into the details of it right now because it's not for right now. It's for soon, but not right now, but the point I'm trying to make is there are always more ideas, so even if whatever you're doing now doesn't seem to work out, there's always somewhere to go from there. It's never the end of the road.

Who would be the first to say "I told you so" if you failed? Time to forgive the ever-living crap out of them.

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The other reason is because we fear rejection. We don't want to look like failures. We don't want people to judge us or criticize us or say, "I told you so", because that sucks. It sucks when people ... You know that there are people in the world who are sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for you to fail, and that's the case for a lot of people whether that's parents or siblings or friends or colleagues or whoever.

There are people who are just waiting for you to fail, and it would suck to give them the satisfaction, but also, I mean, we fear the rejection. We fear putting ourself out there and that terrible feeling of "Nobody's buying it", or "Nobody is signing up for it", or "Nobody is signing up to be my client" or whatever the thing is. I mean, it makes us feel like crap to be rejected. It makes us feel like we're not part of the tribe anymore in our caveman brains. Let's talk about where this fear of failure could have potentially come from so that you can start tracing to the root of it.

The first question that I have for you, and by the way, these tips that I'm giving you, if you're not in the position to take notes right now, you can go click on the link in this post and download the free cheat sheet. There's going to be a cheat sheet with all of these action steps and questions for you to examine and answer, and figure out where to go from here to navigate this fear of failure.

Click here to get the free cheat sheet

The first thing is who would be there to say "I told you so" if you've failed? Who's that person who would almost be happy to see it not work out for you? Maybe they want to keep everyone else around them small or whatever.

It's their own shit. It doesn't matter why, but who instinctively would be really satisfied to see you fail or would be the first one to say, "I told you so", or maybe they wouldn't be happy that you failed, but they would there and say like, "See. I told you this is a bad idea", and maybe it would be with genuine concern, but still, they're saying a form of "I told you so". Think about anybody in your life who would be the first to say "I told you so" if you failed. Think about what past failures are haunting you.

When have you put yourself out there only to have it blow up in your face or fall flat or when did things not work out the way you thought they would? Sometimes that can leave deep emotional scars and really force you to protect yourself. Also, think about, "Has anybody made you feel bad for even trying? Has anybody ever made you feel bad for pursuing something that you loved?" Some people ... I don't want to be too hard on people's parents here, but a lot of the time, you know parents.

They just want to protect their kids, so that when they see their kid doing something outside of the box where they risk failure, they want to keep them nice and safe and cozy inside their little comfort zone bubble, so they make them feel bad for even trying, for even stepping out of that box, even daring to do something different or think differently. Right?

Who in your life has ever made you feel bad for even pursuing something that you loved? Another common source of the fear of failure is parents who had really high expectations, parents who ... It could be teachers as well is another one, but adults in your life who had really, really high expectations for you that it was a struggle to meet them, and if you didn't meet them, then they were really disappointed in you and that, "I'm not mad. I'm disappointed", that thing that parents do.

Action Steps

​1. Write down your ideas and act on the best ones.

First of all, like I said, there's always a "What's next" Right? There's always a "What's next" Start by writing down all of your ideas and actually acting on the best ones. 

When you write down all of your ideas, it helps you realize that you do have an abundance of ideas. You're not limited to this one thing that this one idea that you're pursuing right now, and if you fail at it, then that's it. No. Even if you've got a notebook of stuff in the past that ideas that you've written down, even if you haven't acted on them, that is proof that you have lots of ideas and you will continue to have a lot of ideas. It's not like the universe is like, "Okay. She's got her one idea, and if she screws it up, TFB. Too fucking bad."

That's not how the universe works. Right? The universe is trying to express itself through you, so if one idea isn't working out and it's not your path, that's okay. It's okay to step back and say, "You know what? This doesn't feel right anymore, and it's not working, and I'm going to step back and see what else comes through."

I'm not saying give up on something just because it gets hard. That's not what I'm saying at all because it does take a certain level of persistence and determination to make any dream come true, but the point is is sometimes it's okay to say, "You know what? I really feel like I gave this my best shot and it didn't work out the way that I wanted, and I'm not going to give up on myself, but I'm going to just be open to what's next. I'm going to be open to the next idea."

​2. Take your ideas out for coffee before you marry them.

Another thing is you can try your idea out in a small way to see if people will actually pay for it before giving your entire life to one untested idea.

An example of that would be my group coaching course. In December, I had the idea, and instead of spending months creating the entire course and putting together all the modules and everything, I just put up a sales page, started sending out emails, started selling it, and that way, like I wasn't married to the outcome. If people signed up, awesome, but if they didn't, it didn't really feel like as much of a failure because it was like I hadn't even created the thing yet. There's much different energy around it and you're not as attached to it when you just test it in a small way.

I'm not saying to hide or to shrink yourself and be scared to put it out there in a big way. That's not what I'm saying, but I'm saying just when you have an idea that you think is really good, sometimes it couldn't hurt to just get a little bit of proof first in a small way even if it's only one client or one sale. Sometimes, that can be enough to just spark the creative wheels and be like, "Okay. I think there's something here. I think there's something to this, so I'm going to take it a little bit bigger next time, and then a little bit bigger, and then a little bit bigger." 

You don't have to devote your entire life to one idea. You can test it out in a small way and see how that goes, and if it doesn't go very well, then you can be open to something else coming through. Something else even better.

3. Identify and shine a light on the worst case scenarios and the best case scenarios.

Literally, take pieces of paper, and if you download the worksheet, you can actually write it on there.

What is the worst case scenario? What is the deep, dark secrets, or not secrets, but tall tales that are lurking in your mind right now? What is your subconscious warning you against? Is it something like you're afraid you won't sell any? Are you afraid someone's going to come to your house and murder you?

That's overly dramatic, but the point is when you write them all out, you'll notice two things. One thing is that most of them are not even rational or likely to happen, (like someone's going to show up to your house and murder you. That's not going to happen), and number two, the ones that could conceivably happen like nobody buying one. It's possible. I've had launches like that.

You'll see that it's not that bad. You'll see that if nobody buys, your life doesn't get worse, like your life doesn't change for the better necessarily, but you didn't get any worse. You're not any worse off, assuming you didn't spend thousands of dollars and invest endless resources into something that you haven't tested which goes back to number one, which is try out your idea in a small way before you commit your life to it and marry it.

You'll find that the worst case scenarios, most of them, it just means that your life didn't change. It doesn't mean that it got worse. It just didn't really change, whereas if you write the best case scenarios beside it or below it or whatever, and you see, "Oh my God. My life could absolutely do a 180", like "What if this works?", "What if people do buy this?", "What if I changed their lives?", "How is it going to change my life, and also, how is it going to change their lives?", wow.

Now, you're talking. The worst case scenario is most likely your life didn't change at all, and in the best case scenario, it's like, everybody's lives changed. It makes it a lot easier to look at that worse case scenario and be just like, "That's not really that big of a deal and it's worth the risk". It's worth risking the failure. Also, writing them out, it allows you to come up with a contingency plan if any of those things do actually happen, like what you will do in that case, and it also allows you to create a plan to prevent the worst case scenarios.

What safeguards can you put in place if you're afraid that, I don't know, that your emails won't work in a launch? Make sure that you have another way to communicate with your audience or make sure that that you're checking in your email service provider every day to make sure that the emails go out. Find ways to plan and prevent, and that will help make you feel better about the worse case scenario.

4. Forgive all the assholes who doubt you.

Remember a minute ago I asked you to make a list of anyone who would be happy to see you fail or who would say "I told you so" or who would make you feel bad for even trying to succeed at something that it's their shit. They're projecting their shit on you. Who is this for you? It might be a lot of people or it might be only one person, but make a list of these people, and then forgive the shit out of them.

Forgive the ever-living shit out of them because they're just projecting their baggage onto you and it has absolutely nothing to do with you, so you don't need to take it on. Instead of being pissed at them for doing this, for projecting their stuff onto you, go from an angle of compassion and say like, "Oh, I have compassion for them. They just don't know what's possible. That's sad. They don't know what's possible. I'm going to send them love and light" even if you're pissed at them.

Just let it go and forgive them. That really does help, I swear. Also, just don't talk about your hopes and dreams with them. Maybe obviously, if you post stuff on social media, if you post it publicly or to your entire friends list, there might be some naysayers on there, so you might have to put up with that, but again, that's a choice you make in posting on social media. You could even create what I did was I created a list of people who are entrepreneurs on my list because I know that those people, they're not going to judge me for pursuing my dreams or if they do, whatever.

That's their own crap, but they're certainly a lot less likely to crap on my dreams publicly, but if you're still feeling fragile about this, then maybe that's worth doing is creating a list of people on Facebook like you can actually create Facebook list and control who sees your posts and create a list of people who you know will be supportive of your biggest hopes and dreams, and when you want to post something about your hopes and dreams, then you just only show it to those people and you exclude all the rest.

That way, it protects you a little bit and puts a little bit of the bubble wrap on until your dreams feel rock solid and your belief is rock solid and you don't need them to approve of what you're doing, because it's a process. You can't just immediately say one day, "Okay. I don't care what anybody thinks", because it's bullshit. Just saying that, just waking up on day and saying that, it's not the truth.

You're not going to believe it yet because deep down, you still do care what other people think. You ease yourself out of that eventually, but you don't just wake up one day and decide you don't care what other people think.

5. Everything is happening exactly as it should. 

Keep this mantra in your pocket. This is something that I constantly remind myself when things aren't going as I planned with my human pea brain. I'm in the right place at the right time in all ways and always, or always and in all ways rather. I'll repeat that. I'm in the right place at the right time always, and in all ways, so no matter what my life looks like at the moment, no matter what I'm bumping up against, what I'm struggling with, what is happening, it's always a part of the journey, and for me, that mantra just helps me to relax into the journey a little bit and just remember, "Okay. You know what? Whatever this is, it's working for me."

"I'm in the right spot and there's a lesson that I'm going to be learning from this, and I'm open to learning it", and going back to enjoying the journey.

That is really important because when we are so scared of failing, it's because we're riding on that outcome and we're relying on that outcome to bring us happiness or money or whatever. We're relying on that outcome to bring us something, and it's that fear that creates that fear of failure, that fear of not getting that outcome.

Whereas if you enjoy the whole journey as a whole, then that fear of failure starts to dissipate because you don't need that outcome to bring you what you want. You're just kind of you're along for the ride and you're like, "Okay. We'll see where this goes", and you're open to it failing, you're open to it succeeding.

Also, the last point that I want to make is don't compare yourselves to other people's journeys. I had one amazing woman tell me recently that she was unconsciously judging me from afar. She saw me as somebody who's really successful and who's moving through her business without much resistance and just doing the things and taking action, and she was telling me this as a way of admitting that she was kind of comparing her journey to that or whatever. I want to encourage you whether it's me that you're comparing yourself to or somebody else, it doesn't matter, that's their journey. Their journey, not yours.

Next time you find yourself in comparisonitis, remember: not my journey, not my business.  

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Not your journey, not your business. When you can detach yourself from other people's journey by saying like, "You don't know all the details" ... This woman who told me this, she doesn't know all of the details of my business because I have had struggles, like yes, I moved through my business with relative ease. I will definitely say that, but it's not all glitter and rainbows. I have struggles too just like anybody else, and that's just part of the journey. You can't avoid that, so try to avoid the comparisonitis, or if you're going to compare yourself to someone, at least make it apples to apples, for the love of God.

I could do an entire episode on this, and maybe I should, but when you're comparing yourself to somebody who's been in business longer or is an entirely different life situation, you're not comparing apples to apples.

If I were to compare myself to someone who doesn't have any kids and already had a lot of savings in the bank and they had a lot more security before they started their business, maybe they worked in corporate for a few years and saved up a good nest egg, that's not where I started, so for someone in that situation who they're single, they don't have any attachments and they've got lots of money in the bank, maybe it would be easier for them to take certain risks that I might have to just think about a little harder and weigh the effect that it could have on my life.

I'm not saying that business would necessarily be easy for that person either, but I'm saying that it's not apples to apples, so if you absolutely cannot resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, at least try to find someone who's kind of in your stage of business or has a similar life situation or has a business that you want, because so often, we compare ourselves to businesses that we wouldn't even really want for ourselves. 

All right? Once again, that's Leftbrainedhippie.com/6. Have an awesome day and I will see you in the next episode.


About the Author

Hey, I'm Shelsey, and I help female online entrepreneurs clear the mindset gremlins that are sabotaging you from the inner corners of your brain. Join me in the Left-Brained Hippies Facebook community!

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