Lots of my clients talk about wanting to change this part about themselves. They don’t understand why they can start projects, but too often, they don’t fully see them to completion. Is it as simple as a ‘fear of failure?” Everyone hates to fail, but for some people, failing presents such a significant psychological threat their motivation to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed. This fear of failure causes them to unconsciously sabotage their chances of success or interfere with completing projects.
Failing can elicit feelings such as disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and confusion that, while unpleasant, are usually not sufficient to trigger a full-blown fear of failure. Its actually not failure per se that underlies the fear. Rather, a fear of failure is essentially a fear of shame. Some people find that themselves falling short of their own expectations not because they cannot manage the basic emotions of disappointment, anger, and frustration that accompany such experiences but because failing also makes them feel deep shame.
Shame can be a psychologically toxic emotion because instead of feeling bad about our actions (guilt) or our efforts (regret), shame makes us feel bad about who we are. Shame gets to the core of our egos, our identities, our self-esteem, and our feelings of emotional well-being. The damaging nature of shame makes it urgent for those who have a fear of failure to avoid the psychological threats associated with failing by finding unconscious ways to mitigate the implications of a potential failure, or by not finishing that project!