Ask Annah: How Do I Move Forward When the Past Keeps Repeating Itself? Part II: Overcoming Fear of Failure

Annah ElizabethAsk Annah, Loss, Grief, and Healing, Mental HealthLeave a Comment

Dearest Neighbor,

I hear you.

I feel your fear.

I think it is fairly safe to say that all of us have experienced times where we keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Maybe you keep choosing relationships with people who tear you down rather than lift you up.

Maybe you burn dinner more nights than not because you are distracted, worn out, or trying to do too many things at once.

My children thought the kitchen smoke alarm was the dinner bell.

Maybe you spend most of your time running late and missing out on or sabotaging opportunities.

Me? I have been perpetually five minutes late and have joked that I will be late to my own funeral. One funny neighbor chuckled and said, “Yeah, the hearse will break down or something.”

Maybe you keep having emotional outbursts in public and worry that you will forever be judged or shunned.

Maybe you take the scriptures literally and are perpetually weighed down by your inevitable sins.

Maybe you habitually forgot to turn in your homework as a kid and now you can’t remember to pay your bills on time, which has caused you all sorts of financial and relationship grief.

[Insert your whatever situation.]

I think it is also fair to say that all of us have experienced times where, no matter how hard we try, now matter how  much effort we invest in something, we just cannot seem to reach our goals.

Maybe you’ve studied and prepped and you still haven’t passed that personal or professional exam after four attempts.

Maybe you’ve done everything you know how to do but your relationship seems to be getting worse than better.

Maybe you keep struggle with addiction–sex, food, shopping, gambling, drugs, nicotine, or pick your poison–and keep falling back into old patterns of behavior.

Maybe you are a yo-yo dieter and can’t seem to keep your weight at a level that suits you.

Maybe you feel like you are wandering through life in search of something meaningful and fulfilling and keep finding yourself moving from job to job or place to place.

[Insert your whatever situation.]

What happens when you keep repeating behaviors you know aren’t serving you in positive ways or you just can’t seem to get where you want to be?

Fear of failure creeps in.

You begin to doubt your entire self, all of your five facets come under attack. You doubt your sanity, your ability, your emotions, your intuition, and your place in this world.

You may become paralyzed by this fear and feel unable to make decisions about the slightest things; maybe you can’t even decide what you want for dinner.

Fear causes you feel stuck and trapped.

Fear. Is it friend or foe?

What if I were to tell you it can be both, Neighbor?

When it comes to healing, there are two sides you can consider, the unhealthy fear that holds you hostage and the healthy fear that acts as a guide into uncharted or unfamiliar territory .

I’ve always told everyone who will listen that when you are afraid, it is a sign that something is important to you.

The pivotal task is to identify where within your five facets the fear lies, what you are afraid of, and then find a way to harness the power of it in positive ways.

More often than not, the first fear you can label is like plumage, it’s what you first see, but when you look more closely, you will find the details that comprise it.

Fear of failure.

Your task is to first identify which facet(s) your fear is attached to.

It could be attached to your social facet: fear of rejection or abandonment. It could be attached to your physical facet: fear of being able to provide for your family.

When you delve even deeper, you will likely find some identifying belief that is your deepest fear. Maybe you believe that people who “don’t fit in” are somehow “flawed.” We all know how social stigmas and conditioning play into our sense of self. Maybe you believe that it is the man’s job–HIS ULTIMATE ROLE–to provide for his family and losing your job means you cannot do the one thing you are responsible for.

Once you are able to shine a spotlight on your fear, you can begin the discovery process of what will work for you.

Plato once said “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

As you may well know, it can be the hardest part, too.

When you’re afraid of failing, it can be exhausting or downright debilitating, but if you really want to shift to something more positive, you must take that first step.

No matter how you see yourself as failing, the ways to move forward into healing your conflict are much the same.

Here are five suggestions to help you find resolution in your fear of failure.

  • Identify the fear’s root.
  • Identify the facet(s) that are impacted by your fear.
  • Identify the common triggers or themes in your current action.
  • Choose different behaviors: study in a different place. Try different sorts of social gatherings where you can meet new people.
  • Set yourself short-term and long-term goals. Give yourself one new behavior to try for one day, then two days, then ten.

Recognize that failure is not a four-letter word, it is not something to be ashamed of.

Failure is an opportunity for personal and soul growth, a vessel that shows you what you do want by showing you what you don’t want.

I am not only honored to receive your queries, I LOVE answering them! As the saying goes, The only stupid question is the one not asked. Let us know your burning, nagging or curious thoughts! You can leave your question in the comments or email it to us. All questions are considered anonymous.

Until next time, yours in hope, healing, and happiness,




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