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Fear of Failure

"If I fail this test, it means I'm a failure."

We all feel pressure to succeed in school, at work, or in our social circles at times, but sometimes that fear makes us put off or avoid a task that has the potential for an unsuccessful outcome.

As a student, the fear of failure can come from many different sources:

  • You might be setting unrealistically high standards for your work.
  • Your family or friends might have high expectations for your school success, and you don't want to disappoint them.
  • You might have experienced a difficult failure in the past and are afraid of repeating it in the future (e.g. having a panic attack during a presentation, being ridiculed over a test result, etc.)

A fear of failure could stop you from trying new things, create self doubt in your abilities, stall your goal progress—or make you feel like your only option is to cheat using course-sharing or homework help sites.

Tips to Overcome Fear of Failure

Use one of these tips the next time you're feeling afraid of failing:


Visualization Techniques

Visualization is a practice of imagining what you want to achieve in the future and helps direct your subconscious to focus on that end goal. You might picture yourself completing a difficult project before the due date, or you might picture yourself having a hard conversation with someone where you both walk away feeling better about an issue. The key here is to find a way to focus on your goal so that you can plan out the deliberate steps needed to get to that final point.

You could

  • Create a visualization board with inspiring images that represent your end goal.
  • Write out your goals and put them on your computer screen so you can see what you're working towards each day.
  • Rehearse potential situations and imagine different ways that the conversation might go to help you prepare for different outcomes.

Vision Board example. Titled My Vision Board. Text reads: Pick an image or write a few words to represent what success looks like for you this year in the following categories: Personal, Family, Relationship, Career, Health, Lifestyle. Post this sheet where you can see it every day to stay motivated!

(You'll find a PDF copy of this Vision Board template at the bottom of this webpage!)


Redefine Failure

Redefining failure is closely related to developing a growth mindset, where failures or setbacks are seen as learning opportunities. This is a daily practice that you build up over time, but it can allow you to become more flexible and resilient when things don't work out as planned.

Next time you're unsure how to start on a project and you're worried about failing, try to break down the project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Watch this video to find out how:

Mental Health Supports at Sheridan

If you’re having difficulties managing stress, adjusting to college, or feeling sad and hopeless, please reach out to the Counselling Services team on Sheridan Central.

Sessions are free and confidential.

Additional Files