Starting your own business is a big move. It’s a move that many people dream about their whole lives, allowing them to become independent and take charge of their own success. Do you have a fear of failure to start your own business?
Today, one thing remains constant: change and the fear of failure in business. This fear of failure can appear through physical symptoms like panic attacks keeps you awake at night, questioning whether your venture will succeed or crash and burn. This fear can paralyze you.
However, with such big rewards at stake, there are also significant risks, and it’s fear of those potential failures that hold many people back from pursuing that dream.
But what if we told you that this fear of failure could be your most outstanding teacher? What if you can overcome fear?
You must find ways to move past this fear of failing to start your business and begin your path to success. Here are a few ways you can overcome fear of failure to start your own business.
What is Fear of Failure?
What is fear of failure or atychiphobia?
Atychiphobia is the term used to describe an intense fear of failure. It’s derived from the Greek words “atyches” meaning unsuccessful, and “phobos” meaning fear. This fear can be so overwhelming that it prevents individuals from taking risks or pursuing opportunities, potentially restricting personal and professional growth. Overcoming atychiphobia is crucial to innovation and growth.
This fear can be so overwhelming that it inhibits them from attempting tasks or pursuing opportunities that might lead to failure, even when these actions could result in significant personal or professional growth.
It might appear as hesitation to take necessary business risks, unwillingness to implement new strategies, or anxiety about meeting performance targets. It may also cause individuals to fixate on perfectionism, leading to stress and burnout overly.
But, atychiphobia and perfectionism are not the same, although they can be related. Perfectionism refers to the tendency to hold yourself to an extremely high standard, often unrealistically so. While perfectionists fear making mistakes, not all of them have atychiphobia. Some perfectionists may be motivated by their high standards rather than weakened by the fear of not meeting them. On the other hand, someone with atychiphobia might avoid attempting tasks due to the fear of not succeeding, even if they do not identify as a perfectionist.
What Causes the Fear of Failure?
So the question here is, why do we fear failure? Here is a list of the most common symptoms of fear of failure:
Negative past experiences or failures in the past can lead to the development of this fear. If an individual has faced intense consequences due to previous failures, they may develop an intense fear of experiencing failure again.
Social Pressure and Expectations
The fear of being judged or criticized by others for failing can contribute to atychiphobia. This could be pressure from family, friends, peers, or societal norms and expectations.
Individuals who identify as perfectionists often fear failure intensely. Their high self-imposed standards and fear of making mistakes can result in atychiphobia.
Low Self-Confidence or Self-Esteem
Those with low self-esteem or confidence may doubt their abilities and fear that they will fail.
Uncertainty and Lack of Control
Fear of the unknown or feeling a lack of control over the course or outcome of a situation can trigger atychiphobia. This is particularly relevant for entrepreneurs and startup owners who often work in volatile and unpredictable business environments.
Consequences of Failure
The potential negative outcomes of failure, such as financial loss, job loss, or damage to reputation, can cause individuals to fear of failure.
Lack of Preparation
Not feeling adequately prepared or equipped to handle a task or situation can lead to a fear of failure.
Remember, understanding the root causes of the fear of failure can help develop strategies to overcome it. For our target personas — entrepreneurs, managers, marketing professionals, and startup owners — recognizing these triggers can enable them to manage their fear of failure better, take calculated risks, and see failures as opportunities for growth and learning.
1. Understanding Failure as a Learning Opportunity
Remember that success isn’t linear but more of a spiral path with peaks and valleys. There will be many ups and downs with negative consequences from each step, especially in the early days of your startup.
Failure is not the end of the journey but a stepping-stone on the route to your success. In today’s digital age, where trends shift rapidly and new technologies emerge, it is an opportunity to learn, adapt, and innovate.
Failure is a subjective term. What one person views as a failure, another view as a learning process. After all, if you never experience a setback — and never make any mistakes — you will miss out on the chance to grow as a leader and to improve your business model.
Take, for example, the rise of remote work, which has accelerated because of the global pandemic. Many entrepreneurs initially struggled to manage their teams remotely, seeing it as impossible and as a failure. However, those who viewed this as a learning opportunity implemented effective remote work strategies and leveraged digital tools like Zoom and Slack. In such a way, they found success in this new normal.
If you start to view “failure” in these terms — as an opportunity for learning — it won’t seem like such a scary proposition.
2. Think of What You Have to Gain, not What You Have to Lose
With the significant risk that brings extreme fear failing comes the possibility of tremendous reward.
If you never take a risk and never go after your dreams, you may avoid “failure,” but you’ll also miss out on success. Without taking risks, there will not be opportunities. It is so simple!
When you start thinking of what you have to lose and feel intense fear of failure, shift your focus: Don’t think of the things you could lose that you currently have — think of all the opportunities you will lose if you don’t take a risk.
The cost of inaction could be far greater than the cost of what you fear you will lose.
For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that helps you change negative thinking about failure. Remember that negative thoughts can cause painful problems like low self-esteem, self-confidence, and lost opportunities. Through such therapy, you see that some things that you consider “failures” are excellent opportunities for learning and growth, giving you a new light on things around you.
3. Confront Your Worst-Case Scenario to Eliminate Fear of Failure
Fear often arises from the unknown. What if my product doesn’t sell? What if I can’t secure funding? By confronting these fears head-on and understanding that the worst possible scenario is often recoverable, we can mitigate them.
Often, what we fear will happen is worse than what is actually likely to happen.
Instead of allowing yourself to become consumed with anxiety, turning over every possible scenario, skip straight ahead to the worst-case scenario. What does it include? Is the business going under? Depleting your savings?
In most cases, your worst scenario is one that you can bounce back from in a few weeks or months. Once you realize that you can likely recover from what you see as the worst possible outcome, you can let go of your fear of failure.
Consider the recent wave of startups focusing on sustainability – a response to growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products. Even if the worst possible scenario occurs – the product doesn’t sell – you can still pivot, rebrand, or repurpose your offerings. Remember, every ‘failure’ brings you one step closer to success.
4. Plan and Prepare
Fear of the unknown can fuel our fear of failure. We don’t know what to expect, so we are unprepared to succeed.
You can overcome this fear by creating extensive plans and preparations. Brainstorm all possible obstacles and problems and plan how to overcome them. Set goals for your business and create strategies for achieving them.
Research the products, services, and market you are entering. No plan is foolproof, but being prepared ensures you can identify and address any potential issues.
Also, take calculated risks. Don’t be afraid to take chances to move your business forward. Just be sure to weigh the risks and rewards before taking action – it’s important to understand what could happen if the risk doesn’t pay off.
The more prepared you feel, the more confident you will feel and the less fear and anxiety.
5. Have a Backup Plan
In this changing and unpredictable startup landscape, having a well-thought-out backup plan is not just advisable — it’s absolutely necessary for long-term success. A backup plan is a strategic tool to navigate the uncertainties and challenging projects that may arise along the entrepreneurial journey.
Even the best-laid plans can fail. Instead of allowing fear of failure to hold you back from even trying, have a backup plan in case your original plans are failing. So your business idea is a bust — what will you do next? Try a secondary business idea. Head back to work? Live on your savings for a few months?
What to include inside your backup plan? Here are some important aspects to include inside your backup plan to overcome fear.
Product Line Diversification
For example, one aspect of a backup plan can be diversifying your product line because of overcoming fear.
By expanding your offerings and exploring new avenues, you can mitigate the risks of relying solely on one product or service. This allows you to tap into different market segments and adapt to changing customer demands.
Alternative Funding Options for Overcoming Fear
Another crucial element to include in your backup plan as a fear response is alternative funding options. Relying only on one funding source can be risky, especially when external factors such as economic downturns or shifts in investor preferences come into play. When you diversify your funding sources, such as seeking venture capital, angel investors, or even crowdfunding, you can strengthen your financial position and increase the likelihood of securing the necessary resources to fuel your startup’s growth.
Think About Possible Partnerships
Identifying potential partnerships can be a valuable component of a backup plan. Collaborating with strategic partners who complement your strengths and fill in your gaps can provide additional support and resources when needed.
These partnerships will add to your own performance. They can open doors to new markets, enhance your brand visibility, and create synergistic opportunities to help your startup thrive even in challenging times.
Failure isn’t as hard to face when you have a backup plan.
Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from realizing your dreams of starting your own business and attaining financial independence. Use these strategies to overcome that fear and take charge of your future.
Did you have a fear of failure when you started your business? Tell us how you overcame those fears in the comments!
6. Don’t Think About Past Failure
If you’ve gone through traumatic negative consequences due to failure, it’s natural to develop a fear of reliving those uncomfortable consequences. Alternatively, you might be burdened by the belief that your past failure has caused catastrophic outcomes, leading to some loss.
Such deep fear of failure can have a significant impact on your overall well-being, mental health condition, and future decision-making process.
When you relentlessly criticize yourself for past failures and negative experiences, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself this crucial question: “Have I genuinely failed, or have I simply experienced temporary setbacks that I can overcome now?”
It’s important to remember that failure is often just a stepping stone towards growth and success. So, don’t let self-doubt keep you from adopting new opportunities and striving towards your goals with renewed determination.
You must have a growth mindset and the ability to keep pushing forward. Identify the benefits of past failures and remember that every experience, whether it is a failure or success, is an opportunity to learn and evolve.
7. Increase Your Self-Compassion
Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness, particularly in times of failure or difficulties. It means acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks, and these are not signs of personal inadequacy but part of the shared human experience.
When individuals lack this characteristic, they may be harshly self-critical, strengthening their fear of failure. They might view any mistake or failure as a reflection of their worth, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors.
Here are some practical steps to achieve this:
Step #1: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about staying present and acknowledging your feelings without judgment. When you experience fear of failure, instead of trying to avoid these feelings, allow yourself to sit with them. This acceptance can help reduce the intensity of your fear.
Step #2: Reframe Negative Self-Talk
Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Would you speak to a friend in the same way? If not, it’s time to reframe your internal dialogue. You need a positive thinking. Replace harsh self-criticism with supportive and understanding language.
Step #3: Recognize Common Humanity
Understand that everyone has experienced failing and makes mistakes, and it’s a universal part of life and the human experience. You’re not alone in your struggles; there’s comfort in knowing others have faced similar challenges and prevailed.
Step #4: Forgive Yourself
Everyone has moments of weakness or poor judgment. Instead of feeling fear of failure, forgive yourself. Realize that these moments don’t define your self-worth or potential.
Step #5: Gratitude Journaling
Write down three things you’re grateful for each day. This can shift focus in daily life from fear of failure to positivity and success, fostering a kinder attitude towards yourself.
Remember That Sometimes There is Value to Failure
If you want success, you need to make your business better today than yesterday and tomorrow than today.
If you don’t try, you will not know! If you try, there is a possibility of failing.
However, you need to know that improvement is a consequence of failure.
If you don’t experience failing, you can’t improve yourself and your business.
Failing means learning. It will show you more possibilities that you can’t see, making you more productive.
No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because… All that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.
~ Mark Cuban