Home > Uncategorized > Fear Paralysis: the Fear of Failure is Paralyzing

Fear Paralysis: the Fear of Failure is Paralyzing

There are many reasons for failure to achieve goals and one of the fundamental problems is being unwilling to plunge into uncertainty. Just because one doesn’t know how to do something, doesn’t mean one can’t just try, can’t just do something and see what happens.

Like rigor mortis, it’s as if the fear just freezes blood and muscle, and kills—the slow death. From an unwillingness to face uncertainty, it’s a short step to becoming unwilling to face failure. Such a common, mediocre fear.

Do you read about how to do things without actually doing them? Do you read too much and do too little? ‘But I just want to make sure I do it right!’, you may protest. But you’re wrong: it’s just fear of failure. Or perhaps more accurately, fear of realizing ‘what am I doing what the heck did I just do I just made a fool of myself that’s not how you do it I forgot what I’m supposed to be doing what am I doing’.

Something I wrote in my journal weeks ago: “I could have been calling places all morning to ask if they have work. But I didn’t. Why not? Well, because I don’t know how to ask. How exactly do you ask if someone is hiring, in a professional way that doesn’t sound desperate?”

It’s Not A Trivial Problem. What If You Do Fail?

What if I called all morning and found no one hiring? What if I sounded dumb? What if I felt like a fool and ended up with no results to show for it?

What if I invited a bunch of people to hang out, but they didn’t show up? Or I just came across as awkward and stupid, and what if I found out I don’t really have friends? Or, What if I felt like a fool and ended up with no results to show for it?

What if I laid out step-by-step things to do to be attractive to women, but couldn’t learn how? What if I don’t master the art of seduction, ever, and miss out on awesomeness? Or, What if I felt like a fool and ended up with no results to show for it?

What if I took continuous, mentally tiring action and yet still converted book knowledge into life change? Just in general? Okay, this one’s a bit stupider. It’s a legitimate worry, but one I think I can (continue to) figure out.

Or what if, despite being the president of the club and having (at one point) visions for where I wanted to take it, what if I end up being a terrible leader for SHIFT? A mediocrity?–what if I don’t get things done?

And so on and so on.

A Partial Solution?

These fears need not hold you back. There are ways of ensuring success that have little to do with personality or fears or ego, and that focus more on behavior modification and proven principles for “self-modification for personal adjustment” in general (academ-ese for self-improvement), and I’ll write about them soon. But not today.

Today I’ll just note that you have to actually do shit and learn to not be hurt by rejection, perhaps by changing some aspect of the punishment into positive reinforcement.

To recap: fear of failure is killing me when it comes to finding a good job, building a social network, dating, leading SHIFT, and making changes. Like I said, this is not a trivial matter.


I think I can go to 20 places a day asking if they’re hiring. And I can do so confidently. And that’s that. I think I can perform ‘rejection therapy’, or ‘social skydiving’ … well, I’m not sure. I can certainly message on OKCupid, and have reasonably successful dates.

What’s this partial solution I’m discovering?

Surprisingly, I think it’s indifference. I just don’t care all that much if I’m rejected now. It doesn’t freaking matter.

What to make of this indifference? Is it simple depression? Or is it a deeper realization that rejection really doesn’t matter? I don’t know–maybe both–I shall find out.

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