Five Ways to Debunk Your Fear of Failure

valeriedenisephotos-17I have a Giving Key that says “Fearless.” If you don’t have a Giving Key , I encourage you to get one, and then give it away.

I bought my Fearless key for myself in January of 2015. It was my mantra for the year, and let me tell you, I pursued fearlessness in an unusual and slightly terrifying way. I still wear my key almost every day, and haven’t yet been blessed with the right moment to pass it along.

The word Fearless itself invokes fear. It’s scary to be fearless. Terrifying actually, to live in a state of mind that means not having to be afraid. Fear does so many good things for us. Here’s a few moments when fear has saved me:

  • When I was in high school, and was encouraged to sit on the hood of car while the driver raced a jackrabbit down the road. Fear of dying saved me.
  • When I was accepted to a college so, so far away from home, and was young and naive enough to think that I should go simply because it was such a good offer. I went somewhere else. Fear of homesickness saved me.
  • When I was in college and traveling most weekends to rodeo, many times in towns on the other side of the state, and I made the decision one weekend to not drive myself only because I didn’t know where I was going. Fear of getting lost saved me.

I could go on, but notice a trend – Fear of failing is not any of these things.

Fear of failing has never saved me.

When I first talked to my tribe about being fearless, one of them pointed out that being fearless is so audacious – like assuming that I could not and should not have fear; like nothing could stop me.

But I think fearlessness is different. Rather than audacious, I think it’s vulnerable. Fearlessness opens you up to so many other emotions on a daily basis: shame, judgement, comparison, embarrassment, guilt…

When I’m chatting with entrepreneurs at any stage of their lives, fear of failing ALWAYS comes up.

  • What if my work doesn’t get noticed?
  • Is there room in the market for one more of us?
  • How about when I don’t feel inspired?
  • What happens if nothing sells?
  • When do I decide to quit?
  • Who will hear my battle cry?

So many of us walk into a new adventure fearful of failure.

Newsflash: Failure is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be scary.

With my Type A, planner and overachiever personality, fear of failure is something that I chose to look at as another opportunity to make a plan. When I realized this, I repeated this mantra:

I am fearless and I can walk into this new adventure with the knowledge and tools to overcome any fear of failure.

Doesn’t that sound so much better? This makes you FEARLESS.

However, gaining that knowledge and having access to those tools is a whole other story. That itself is a task. In my own journey to be fearless, I strived hard for these first, using them as the building blocks for my year of vulnerable fearlessness.valeriedenisephotos-20

Using my top 5 “failure fears,” I found and executed the tools I needed to overcome them. These are also failure fears I hear from my own tribe, and my clients, almost daily:

Failure fear #1 : What if my work doesn’t get noticed?

That my friends, is entirely up to you. If you want your work to be noticed, shove it in people’s faces, make work that stands out above the crowd. The simple answer to getting your work noticed is creating work that is undeniably noticeable. Sub-par work does not get noticed. Is your real fear that you aren’t talented enough to make the work that will be noticed? See below…

Failure fear #2 : What if I’m not talented enough to make the work that will be noticed?

We are all adults here – c’mon, you know that your talent is not something to be questioned. This is plain ol’ fear of failure creeping on up into your soul, and you’re letting it get the best of you.

To overcome this failure scare, simply pursue enhancing your talent. Continue your education – Skillshare and Pinterest are there for you. Find a lady boss out there that you admire, and strive to “replicate” her work in order for you to simply learn how to do it. Now, disclaimer, DO NOT SELL THIS WORK. Use it as a learning tool, and then make your own using the skills you acquired.

Talent is defined as “aptitude or skill,” making talent something that can be acquired or learned. If you feel as if you aren’t talented enough to make it, don’t give up – get learning.

“If you feel as if you aren’t talented enough to make it, don’t give up – get learning.”

Failure fear #3 : Is there really room in the industry for another one of us?

You betcha.

This is a fear I have almost on the daily, and I have to remind myself of this constantly – there is plenty of work to go around. There are BILLIONS of people on this earth, and only one of me. And because I am the type of person that needs real facts and not just motivational fluff to convince me of something, here are some cold hard truths that I continue to tell myself:

  • There are currently 6 (ish) graphic design firms in my city of Chico.
  • There are 88,077 people living in Chico.
  • There are approximately 7,500 businesses currently operating in Chico.
  • That means that I have the opportunity to serve potentially 1,250 existing businesses and the opportunity to serve a potential 13,450 individuals who may or may not ever need design services.

Um, ok, I think I’m good. And that’s just locally.

Trust me, there’s room for you.

Failure fear #4 : What happens when you don’t feel inspired?

Been there, girl. Going through an uninspired time is inevitable and really terrifying, especially if your businesses is a creative one.

There are lots of tips and tricks out there on how to stay inspired or spark your creativity, many of which encourage getting outdoors, listening to music and stepping out of your comfort zone.

My tip is a little bit different – accept the fact that you are going through an uninspired season, and question that instead. Why are you feeling this way? What is going on in your life that is hindering your creativity and squashing your inspiration?

For me, if I reflect on my life, I almost always find that it’s rooted in relationships. If I am struggling in my creativity, I can usually bet that there is someone I love who is suffering or that I am at odds with someone dear to me. My relationships are my inspiration, and when they aren’t in tip top shape, neither is my work.

Work on fixing the real root of the problem, and I promise your inspiration will return with bells on.valeriedenisephotos-22

Failure fear #5 : Money. How do you make any money, and what happens if you don’t?

Fear of money is the most daunting, hindering and debilitating kind of fear. It will literally stop you in your tracks as fast as you got started. It will slap you in the face and then laugh at you. It’s awful, and careless and makes you feel sick to your stomach all the time. I get it.

Your relationship with money can be good or bad, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary either way.

There is no guarantee in entrepreneurship that you will make any money. Cold. Hard. Truth. I can feel the red flush of fear coming to my cheeks as I write this.

However, making money is in fact quite simple. If you work, you will make money. The question is always this instead: How will you make enough money?

Now, I’m about to be super transparent with you guys, and I hope it doesn’t make you think less of me… My money fear started this way – fear of not making enough money. But I did make enough money. In fact, after 5 years, my money fear has switched.

Current money fears – how in the world do I manage making this much money, where am I supposed to put it and why is the government taking so much of it?

My point – money fear never really subsides.

Money fearlessness, however, is how I got to my current situation. I was steadfast about money. I wholeheartedly believed that if I was persistent, did good work and charged what I was worth, that I would make money.

I encourage you to change your initial money failure fear into a money accomplishment fear: How do I make any money and what happens when I accomplish that? Turn that fear into something that is positive rather than an inevitable failure. It will change your relationship with money and your heart will feel differently.

Fear of failure does not even have to exist in our lives. How relieving is that? We can simply just not have it. Once you have the tools to address failure head on, and know that in fact, it may happen, but you don’t have to fear it and you have the tools to overcome it.

Being fearless can be the most invigorating season of your life. For me, embracing fearlessness with the right tools to move forward was the only way to not feel like I was being reckless. It’s important not to mistake fearlessness for recklessness – being fearless is an emotional and spiritual state of mind, while being reckless, well, let’s just say I’m really glad I didn’t ride on the hood of that car.

And repeat, over and over again, until you’re so fearless, your heart aches –

I am fearless and I can walk into this new adventure with the knowledge and tools to overcome any fear of failure.

Photos by Valerie Denise


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