Fear of Failure? Bust those limiting beliefs!

fear of fear lifeworkcoaching

Do you find it hard to see yourself as successful? Are you inclined to suffer from the Achilles’ Syndrome?* In other words, you have a weak spot that you are hiding behind a confident front, but think to yourself, ‘If only they knew what I’m REALLY like! Then you may be suffering from limiting self beliefs. 

It might be a mystery to you regarding the origin of low self-esteem, lack of confidence and dissatisfaction with life. However,  if you analyse this further there are common threads. They can include:

Let’s take the above self-limiting beliefs one at a time.

1) Old Childhood Messages:

Often I listen to people telling me that at heart they are not worth living the life they would love to have, that they feel held back. When we dig a bit deeper old family messages still hover about as if it were yesterday. When we start to challenge those assumptions we find THEY ARE NOT TRUE! Yes, and to repeat that THOSE MESSAGES ARE NOT TRUE! Check out who told you that you had to be perfect? Who said you must never share a problem? It is often someone in the family who has been so important in your life, even if they have died, that their world view has stuck with you. 

Taking Action

Tackle the Belief – ask yourself, ‘Where’s the evidence?’ ‘How did I come to believe this message?’ ‘Where did the family members get the message from?’ 

Once you start to question your beliefs, you will find they loosen their grip. You may begin to gain a very different perspective about beliefs that have become entrenched, stopping you from making friends, developing relationships , furthering your education or progressing at work. 

2) Responsibility before fun

It might be that some of us tend to be so responsible to the point where fun takes a back seat. The personality assessment model Myers Briggs Type Indicator suggests that if you are a ‘Judging’ type then you like to plan and complete tasks (the opposite, the ‘Perceiving’ type might tend to be more spontaneous, which can also have its downside). This trait can feed into feeling overly responsible both at home and work.

Taking Action

If you feel responsible for everything, you can end up excessively committing yourself to others and the tasks you have probably listed might be endless (Judgers can have very long lists!). Trying out the Responsibility Pie exercise might enlighten you and help you to do things differently.

 Here goes:

a) Think of an issue where you feel pressurised and feel so responsible to do it for others that your own relationships, work, goals and tasks are being neglected.

b) Make a list of all the people and situations involved, leaving your own name last. For example – taking on some of a new colleague’s customers because they haven’t been trained up. The list could include: 

  • The manager
  • The team leader
  • Your employers
  • The business climate
  • you

Now draw a large circle – this is your ‘pie’ – and give each on the list a slice of the pie. Often, when clients try this exercise they find that the segment of the pie for themselves is just a sliver!  You might then start to take stock of how responsible you really are for a problem and free yourself for more fun. 

3) Mind Reading and Crystal Ball Gazing

If there’s one thinking pattern that comes up time and time again, it’s the old habit of mind reading and crystal ball gazing. Are these scenarios familiar?

I know I’m too old/too young/don’t have the experience for this job and the interviewer will think so too – what’s the point of trying as I know I won’t get it


My last relationship was disastrous. No one will ever want to be with me. I’m doomed to be single for ever.


They say they want me in their social group, but they can’t really mean that. I’m so boring/fat/old fashioned etc etc.

Taking Action

Ask yourself:  ‘Can I really read people’s minds?’ ‘Where is the truth in such beliefs?’  ‘Do I have a crystal ball that tells the future?’ ‘Just because something bad happened in similar situations, how does this differ?’ 

It takes time to change old ways of thinking that have become ingrained habits. Be patient with yourself, take a breath and look at other possibilities, rather than taking that default position of trying to predict how others might think and what might happen. 

4) Fear of Change

Our beliefs can affect our feelings about change in a negative way, even if that change is good. This in turn can affect our behaviour in ways that are detrimental to our making progress. 

Change usually includes: denial, maybe anger, self doubt, apathy and depression, despair and anxiety. BUT we can also learn to adjust to changes by reflecting on things, take stock and begin to adjust to new circumstances.

Taking Action

Whatever the change you can have more control than you thought possible. It might involve shifting a bit out of your comfort zone. If you’re someone who tends to bottle things up, being a bit more open about how you’re feeling can feel intimidating, but you might be surprised by the amount of support you receive. You don’t have to ‘tell all,’  and you aren’t asking to be rescued, but if you can say more about what’s going on for you, it can help others to help you. Even though you might feel you are showing weakness, it takes courage to  ask for help, 

Remember – if you do what you always did, you get what you always got.

I hope the few pointers I’ve just given you are a useful start. Give it a go and bust those limiting beliefs!

* Legend has it that the Greek hero Achilles was invincible as he had been held by his heel and dipped in the River Styx, which gave him invulnerability –  that is apart from the one tiny area where he had been held. In the war with Troy an arrow pierced his foot on that spot and he was killed. 

Jen Popkin

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