Fear. Of. Failure.
It has such a presence in most of our lives, right?
The fear of failure has bubbled it’s way to the surface in my own life in these past few weeks, and of course, I’ve also heard the same fear from others come up a lot recently. I always find it fascinating how, as a coach, the things I’m going through are usually the same things my friends and clients are coming to me about, too. Funny how life works that way!
My own fear of failure has been coming out recently because I’m launching into an area that is unknown for me in my business. When I got back from SE Asia, my determination and drive to love my life was even stronger than it had been before. I’m not sure what shifted in me while I was abroad, but when I came back, I felt more fiercely devoted to my happiness than ever.
One of the changes I wanted to create in my life to be more aligned with my joy was to start doing live events, speaking engagements, collaborations, and live workshops. I absolutely love private coaching and my virtual programs, AND I wanted to add to my offerings to include more live, face-to-face interaction.
But … this is unknown territory for me. I’ve never really done anything like this.
I have built my virtual business from behind a phone and computer screen, and while I know deep down that it’s time for me to come out into the open more, I don’t know how this will all work.
Therefore, my fear of failure has been front of mind, and at times, has admitedly shaken me.
I am learning to navigate this time with compassion, deep self-care, and as much patience as my impatient self can muster.
I know that, like me, you may be experiencing your own fear of failure so I wanted to share a story with you about a time recently that I dealt with fear of failure in a really productive way.
Let’s zoom back to September 2015. I had just launched Master Your Life, my most important piece of work I have ever put out in my life. I had spent so much time and resources on this launch, and not only that, I had truly poured every ounce of heart and soul into it. The program was an extension of myself – everything I had learned, everything I cared about, everything I wanted other women to know.
The first day it launched, 2 people signed up.
And then… crickets.
For a long time.
I was crushed.
I was ashamed.
For days, I was spinning in my head and felt like a cloud was hanging over me at all times.
And then one day, I was laying in my bed. Anxious, fearful, and defeated.
And I said to myself, Jamie, this is not how you want to feel, and not how you need to feel. Your fear is causing you to feel like shit and it’s taking you down. What are you so scared of?
I realized I was so scared of failing, so I decided in that moment to “simulate” my worst case scenario.
I laid in bed, and I said, okay, worst case scenario is that nobody signs up. I will have to admit to my friends, my family and my clients, that Master Your Life didn’t work out. I may have to cancel the program if I don’t get enough sign ups. I will have to tell the 2 people who signed up that it didn’t work out and apologize and refund them. I’ll have to admit failure to my business coach who put so much faith in me, and her and I will have to go back to the drawing board. I’ll have to find a way to make more money for the rest of the year.
And I noticed how my body felt as I went through all of these outcomes.
The most painful, squirming-in-my-body fear that came up?
The embarrassment of telling my friends, family, clients, and even the public (on my website, etc.).
The embarrassment of publicly failing in such a big way. I had talked up this program for months, and I would have to tell everyone that it just didn’t work. The embarrassment.
And then I asked myself, what are you so scared of with this? What might they think of you that you are so scared for them to think?
And the answer here… they would look down on me. They wouldn’t see me as smart as they do now. They wouldn’t see me as successful, accomplished, or able to do anything.
And as I leaned into my actual fears… my body physically felt it. All the shame. All the squirming. All the discomfort in my body.
And I kept going like this…what is so scary about that Jamie? What are you trying to not have happen? What would be so bad if it did? And I kept letting my body feel it.
Here’s what became clear as I did this: It all comes back to love.
We are all scared to not be loved and accepted.
As I drilled into my fears, it all came down to one core thing: I want to be loved and accepted by people and I was scared that by failing, they would see that I am capable of failing and not love and accept me in the same way.
But such a beautiful thing happened as I did this exercise:
Once I identified my core fear, I saw how crazy it was. I literally simulated the specific failure of this program, and through fully leaning into the feelings of failure, I began to see and feel the reality of how my friends and family would actually respond.
They wouldn’t care.
They would see me as a human being who has ups and downs, successes and failures.
They would relate. Undoubtedly, they would relate. They have been there in their lives, too.
They would love and support me and make me feel better.
They would love me just as much if not more.
They would love me for being human and for having failures and for being real.
And most importantly, I could love myself fully even if I failed. I knew that I was just as worthy of a person, no matter what.
And then, my whole body relaxed. I knew I was safe. I could fail. I could have nobody else sign up. I could cancel the program if I had to.
And I would still be safe, and loved and adored. Both by myself and by others.
Everything relaxed, I could breathe again.
And I was free.
And you know what happened after that? I marketed the shit out of that program… from my heart. Not from a place of “I am so scared to fail so please please buy my program”. I marketed it from “I really believe in this, and here’s why, but I am not desperate for you to buy this because my self worth is okay regardless.”
And it worked. Tons of people signed up and it was the most incredible couple of months, guiding these women through something I cared about so deeply. But I strongly believe that if I had put out fearful energy, it would have been a different story.
So here’s my suggestion for you if you’re feeling scared to fail:
Lay down, in your comfy bed, and simulate what “failure” would look like in whatever area it’s coming up for you. Feel it in your body. Let yourself feel how dreadfully uncomfortable it feels. Cry if you need to, hold yourself, breathe through it.
And as you picture and feel your worst case, failure scenario, keep going deeper. Ask yourself, “and what is scary about that”? And when you get that answer, ask again “and what is scary (or hard) about that”? Keep going until you get to what feels like the end of the road (hint: it will have something to do with love, safety or belonging).
And then, when you get to that thought of your love, safety or belonging being threatened by this failure, start to question if that is really true. Get curious about that belief that you have (like my belief was, “my friends and family will look down on me and love me less”), and see if that’s just old programming or if it’s actually real. Play with it, get to know it, question it.
You will probably find that your worst case scenario is not as threatening to your core as you think it would be, and you may be able to relax.
And here’s the thing: the reason why doing this exercise and managing our fear of failure is so important, is because if we want to pursue the things that MATTER to us and that we really want, we WILL run into fear. So we need to know how to care for ourselves in our experience of fear. It is one more form of deep, self-care.
What do you think? Do you deal with fear of failure? If you want to share in the comments what you’re scared of failing at right now and how it’s affecting you, please do. I’ll help coach you in the comments.
Thanks for listening, and I am so here for you.