How Fear of Failure Is Stunting Your Creative Growth

Do you fear the unspeakable?

The dreaded F-word, that realm of shame that looms over our heads with each excruciating choice or decision we make.


(or fancily known as atychiphobia.)

At one point or another, we all experience this irrational, all-consuming and frankly, exasperating fear. This phobia feeds on our tendency to stay safe and secure, against our refusal to leave our comfort zones and be thrown into the unknown, without the stability of sure success to pat us on the back. And to top it all off, we’re left with nausea-inducing pains, stomach churns, insomnia or even the occasional meltdown to make up for the chaos of doubts and what-ifs swirling through our minds. It’s truly no picnic, let’s agree on that, and we’d prefer to stay far out it’s way.

But how does this fear affect your growth as an individual?

1. You miss out on life’s essential lessons.

Yes, you read that right!

Failure is a lesson in itself, a twisted blessing in disguise. It allows one’s self to wallow in shame and self-pity, falling into the depths of despair, before taking a stand to overcome said obstacles. It serves as a determinant of our ability to forgive, move on, and improve onto better things. It’s really just a measure of our strength.

Let’s be clear, no one is born fully equipped with the ability to solve every dilemma, to succeed every expectation or perfect every undertaking. It’s natural to trip, stumble and fall face down (in other words, to NOT succeed). Particularly since we’ve been brought up in a culture that deeply values success and excellence, we often forget that our achievements are built upon improvements of past errors. You’re clearly not the first and definitely not the last victim to fall in the hands of failure.

So how do we make this big bad go away?

Accept it!

That sounds easy enough to say, but it’s the stone cold truth. Not all of us have safety nets to cushion our mistakes. Failure at one point or another will be inevitable. Rip that band-aid off and, in turn, make way for healing.

2. It warrants for stubbornness in the long run.

Fear hinders innovation.

Your growth as an individual is stunted by your stubbornness to swim uncharted waters, thus resulting in creative juices running dry. You dread the shame so you limit yourself, avoiding risks and uncertainty. 

Hey, I get it - no one likes being disappointed. The idea of curling up in our cocoons and steering clear of unfamiliar abysses sounds a lot more practical than having to face repercussions or self-inflicted shame of possible failure.

But, avoidance in turn leads to stagnance.

Think about it, if you constantly hit a red light and shut down every time a doubt pops up, you constrict yourself from a world of possibilities, some of which could end up being opportunities for betterment! Staying on the sidelines can lead to permanent non-attemption which robs you of new experiences. The excitement, the thrill, the adrenaline of taking a chance and have it turn out right, or sometimes even more than right, is a feeling like no other. It’s indescribable and worth it. Like that corny saying goes, you’ll never know if you never try.

Remember, our fear should not be directed towards failure but rather for not striving towards excellence.

Stop with the negative talk. Take simple steps, moulding that "I can’t" into an "I’ll try".

3. Your self-confidence begins to deteriorate.

Ever build up your expectations over something only for it to end up crashing down hard?

Yup, I bet that stirred up some memories. There’s no other way to put it, it SUCKS. You can’t see past the flaws and seem to only place focus on what’s gone wrong. This eats away your confidence and you don’t know how to move on.

Here’s a tip, stop beating yourself up for something that can’t be undone.

It’s toxic and unhealthy for your psyche, and all in all, an unpleasant experience. That bad score you got on your test or that botched presentation you did last minute cannot be rewritten or redone.

Instead of criminalising the phobia and resorting to self-loathing, attempt to eliminate all areas of possible errors in the process. Set attainable and worthwhile goals. there isn’t any point in painting illusory fantasies of impractical dreams because you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. And for every situation wherein fear gets the better of you, ask yourself, "what’s the worst case scenario?"

Although a taxing thing to ponder over, this process allows you to prepare yourself, both mind and body, for the repercussions of a possible defeat or loss.

There’s a particular quote from Grey’s Anatomy that I often iterate to myself when I’m drowning in doubt and confusion, “When there’s something you really want, fight for it. Don’t give up no matter how hopeless it seems. And when you’ve lost hope, ask yourself in 10 years from now, are you gonna wish you gave it one more shot?”

As cheesy as it sounds, the truth to it is simply giving your all in any scenario that alludes you, with nothing, not even an ‘irrational’ fear, standing in your way. Well, before the doubts come back to haunt you anyway.

We’re still climbing the steps of adulthood so race forth with no regrets or inhibitions of the past. And, if you simply can’t seem to catch a break, remember there’s always the comfort of ice cream and Netflix waiting for you with open arms! Or.... any other coping mechanism you prefer really.


Keep persevering!

Karen Grace Prince is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication (Honours). She is also an Events Committee Member for Taylor's Model United Nations.