There is something about a blank page that is intimidating. Each time I write a new article, start a new design or start a new journal entry, I can’t help but stop and feel a bit of fear.
I know, it sounds crazy.
That fear used to paralyze me. I wasn’t able to start anything new without a great deal of effort and willpower.
As a designer, that is a complete nightmare.
I used to think I was alone, until one day I talked to my brother about this. Since he is an illustrator, I was curious about his ability to tackle the blank page and create such amazing illustrations.
I was utterly shocked when he told me he felt the same way.
That moment was when I found one of the biggest allies of perfectionism: Fear of failure.
Fear of failure is one of the biggest threats to anyone that works for themselves, be it an entrepreneur or a freelancer. It can keep you down and far from achieving your goals.
This fear is easy to spot once you know the signs. You feel that immense desire to start something and achieve your goal, but suddenly you stop. You can’t bring yourself to work; you are too afraid to make a mistake to start anything.
I have seen this over and over again. Great people with business ideas talking endlessly about them but never taking a step towards their goals.
The fear is so consuming that you spend a monumental amount of time triple checking everything until it’s entirely perfect for launch. Even the smallest of errors can drive you into complete paralysis.
You start asking yourself questions like:
- What if the idea doesn’t work?
- What if I’m not as good as I think I am?
- What if I ruin it?
And little by little your confidence disappears, and you stop trying. You give up without putting a fight.
But why does this happen?
There are a lot of reasons. These are just a few that I have encountered when I help entrepreneurs launch their products and services:
- Past Failures: An event in your past may have created a powerful emotional reaction, and now you are afraid of creating new things. This one affects me every day.
- Overwhelming amounts of information: Your research may have uncovered a lot of information that people who you perceive as professionals or role models use to launch their ideas. Now you start seeing those behaviors, tools, and techniques as crucial parts of the project, refusing to move forward without them.
- Impostor syndrome: You believe you are not qualified enough. It’s even worse when it’s tied to your self-esteem. In my experience, impostor syndrome affects a lot of designers and writers.
- A huge overwhelming goal. You have set your sights too high, and now trying to tackle the challenge seems impossible. The goal is so out of reach that even starting seems to take you towards failure immediately.
Fear of failure strikes close to home for me. I have walked that path and it took me a lot of effort to stand tall and face it.
If you have ever felt trapped by this intense fear, let me tell you: You can overcome it.
I do it each time I write one of these articles, and thanks to a little bit of constant effort, I’m now challenging myself to write every week for a year.
How do I do it? Simple, I allowed myself to start small.
When I adopted my sustainable growth mindset, fear of failure started losing its grip on me. I was able to complete longer and bigger projects without feeling the anxiety and stress of not even starting.
When you keep the scope of your project manageable, it’s easier to create momentum and reach your goals.
That’s why I recommend you to follow these steps to overcome your fear of failure.
- Acknowledge what’s happening. It’s entirely ok to be afraid. It’s just your reptile mind going completely crazy. Take a deep breath and accept this is happening, don’t judge yourself too harshly.
- Keep things simple. Take a good look at your project and ditch anything that isn’t essential. Simplicity is critical to overcoming paralysis. Keeping things simple will show you the road you need to take to accomplish your goal.
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Remember, you can always go back and fix something. It’s your project and you can set empowering rules around it.
- Realize that mistakes are not the end of the world. Errors are only a problem if you don’t learn from them. Be responsible and take some time to learn what went wrong and how you can prevent it. This learning mindset will help you grow and boost your confidence.
- Allow yourself time to process your emotions. I know it sounds “woo-woo,” but you are an emotional being. If you feel any uncomfortable emotions, just take a few minutes to process them.
Will the fear disappear? No, you will still feel it, but it will no longer paralyze you. Instead, you will learn to recognize its roots, and it will be easier to overcome it. You will feel empowered and build momentum.
It’s not easy to face your fear, but with each small victory, you will be closer to your goals. If you ever feel it overwhelming you again, take some time to run through this process. Soon you will feel how it loosens its grip and you can achieve your goals one by one.