10 Sure Signs Fear Of Failure Is The Only Thing Keeping You From Succeeding

Recognizing the impact your self-sabotaging fears have on your life is the first step toward stepping into your power.

worried woman looks off into the distance  fizkes from Getty Images, sea sun design

Loads of us have wrestled with the pressures of maintaining perfection throughout our lives.

When you messed up or failed as a child, were you met with extreme criticism? If so, you probably have a fear of failure.

How can you be sure? Clinical psychologist Guy Winch has some insight.

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10 Signs Your Fear Of Failure Is The Only Thing Keeping You From Succeeding

1. You worry about what others think.

Let’s face it, most of us have an intense fear of what others may think about us.

Since we were little, it has been ingrained in us to care about other people’s opinions. Whether through dressing “correctly” or behaving correctly, we have been raised to please. So, it’s no wonder we worry about other people’s opinions so much!

Licensed therapist Kate O’Brien discusses what you should consider when getting over your fear of pleasing others. She states, “You’re not alone if you feel bad about the idea of letting people down.”


"Fear of disappointing others might turn into people pleasing or over-giving in relationships. It might look like always prioritizing other people’s needs, leaving you worn down, exhausted, or lonely,” O'Brien says.

She encourages people to remember that they are not always responsible for other people’s emotions.

That you can, “move with kindness and empathy towards others while still making the right choices for yourself.”

Getting out of this mindset takes time, and O’Brien encourages individuals to try doing the hard things little by little, so they don’t feel too overwhelmed later on.

2. You worry about destroying your future.

The fear that failure may prevent future aspirations, can be paralyzing. According to Winch, this is also one of the many signs you have a fear of failure.


Acknowledging that one failure does not define an entire future will better help you to learn and grow.

According to psychotherapist Kealy Spring, “We learn more from our failures than from our successes. Not only do we find out what doesn’t work so that we can adjust our future attempts, we learn about ourselves in the process and gain a bit of empathy towards others that may be struggling.”

3. You're scared people will lose interest in you.

Due to our society’s emphasis on success, a fear of social alienation if one is perceived as non-successful, is inevitable. We fear that if people don’t see us as successful, then they will no longer be willing to engage with us or view us as worthy.


Yet, according to research from the University of Waterloo, highly self-compassionate people viewed others failing as beneficial.

It led to them experiencing less shame and more positive emotions. On the other hand, those who were self-critical did not view seeing other’s failing as helpful — perhaps because they only look for flaws in themselves.

4. You worry that someone will question how smart you are.

Failure can be embarrassing, particularly when your intelligence is in question. This is why individuals who fear failure, also tend to worry about how intelligent they appear.

According to Haven Coaching, “Your fear of looking stupid is holding you back.”


Children with a growth mindset tend to stay and work on difficult challenges. This makes sense considering a growth mindset is when someone is okay with failure and may even gravitate towards it. This is due to them seeing failure as a form of learning and progression.

Regardless of how we appear to others, it is important to remember that failure doesn’t equate to a lack of capability.

By embracing the learning process of failure, we can reframe the narrative around intelligence.

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5. You fear you'll disappoint your loved ones.

The fear of disappointing your loved ones is connected to the fear of failure, often manifesting in perfectionistic tendencies driven by anxiety.


Research from the University of Michigan reveals that perfectionists “are more likely to experience decreased productivity, impaired health, troubled interpersonal relationships, and low self-esteem."

Additionally, perfectionism increases vulnerability to conditions such as depression, anxiety, test anxiety, social anxiety, writer’s block, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, impatience, frustration, and even anger.

6. You often lower people's expectations of you.

Lowering other people’s expectations as a way to avoid disappointment is a common strategy.

While it shields individuals from immediate disappointment, long-term consequences can include limiting your personal growth.


It's actually essential to keep your expectations high. According to Chicago Booth, “High expectations can bolster confidence, resulting in increased effort, more persistence, and even better performance.”

Although high expectations can cause higher embarrassment if you fail, it is suggested that incorporating strategies before setbacks can help alleviate concerns.



7. You have difficulty imagining what you could have done differently.

If you are having difficulty generating alternative scenarios for past actions, it may indicate a fear of failure.


In truth, the ability to envision different courses of action serves as a double-edged sword.

On one hand, it can bring about feelings of guilt, regret, and shame. However, it also can amplify positive feelings such as relief, satisfaction, and sympathy.

Despite these emotional possibilities, engaging in counterfactual thinking can still help liberate our minds!

According to the National Library of Medicine, “Counterfactuals help correct and improve behavior that has been unsuccessful in the past ... To have counterfactual thoughts about an outcome, one must have a reference point to which the present may be compared. Sometimes expectancies may serve as such reference points.”


Expectations are crucial to goal commitment. So, although reflecting on the past may be uncomfortable, in the long run, it can help improve your behavior and commit to your goals!

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8. You suffer from physical symptoms that prevent you from succeeding.

Fear of failure frequently brings about physical symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, sweating, or even muscle tension. These physiological responses occur due to how our brain is wired.

When we perceive something as a threat, our sympathetic nervous system activates.

When this happens, it can result in physical symptoms, such as heightened breathing. However, it is crucial to note that responses vary from person to person.


9. You often get distracted by other tasks.

The delicate balance between focus and distraction may often feel hard to manage. In most cases, the mismanagement of distractions often leads us straight into the clutches of failure.

This is why effectively navigating our distractions can be the key to breaking free from our low productivity.

According to UNC-Chapel Hill, successful management involves thoughtful planning, maintaining a clear mind throughout working, and ensuring quality rest.


Beyond these tips, it's important to highlight that when stress emerges so do distractions. By leveraging our emotional intelligence, we can also manage our need for distractions.

You may be wondering how to manage stress, though.

As much as you may not want to hear this, cutting down on social media is a start. According to the 2017 Stress in America Survey, there were higher stress levels among constant checkers, than those who did not check their phones as often.

As for distractions, we all know social media is one of the most tempting distractions of all.

10. You often procrastinate.

We’ve all been guilty of procrastinating on an assignment — maybe two or three —throughout our lives.


Did you know procrastination is more than just a means of avoiding the potential sting of failure? It often signifies an underlying fear of failure.

Researchers have found that individuals with higher scores in self-determination tend to engage in less procrastination. Meaning, “higher fear of failure predicted more procrastination.”

This may not come as a surprise. Many of us can relate to procrastinating out of fear of potentially failing.

Recognizing these traits in yourself may be uncomfortable, but acknowledgment is the first very important step in overcoming a fear of failure and stepping into your authentic power.

RELATED: 4 Easy Steps To Beat Procrastination In Every Area Of Your Life


Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career and family topics.