Top 3 signs fear of failure is holding you back

Dawn Walton
4 min readNov 9, 2015


Do any of these sound familiar?
- Some of the boxes from the house move 5 years ago still sit unpacked. You will get round to them one day. Maybe not today.
- The tax return needs doing. You still have a bit of time but then that was true last year too and you still left it to the last minute and risked a fine.
- You’ve lost weight before. And then you put more on again after. It just seems really hard for you to keep it off.
- You’re going to start going to the gym. You’ll sign up tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you say the same thing.

These are all examples of a behaviour that we often put down to procrastination or not enough time. In reality, they are often related to a part of you holding you back from trying too hard. Because if you give something your all and it still doesn’t work, then you have no excuses. You have to accept that you couldn’t do it and it’s way easier to believe that you could if you tried, than you are not capable.

Here are the top 3 things you might hear yourself saying that show a fear of failure might be holding you back:

1. I don’t have time
Time is relative. We find time to do the things we really want to do, and often don’t find time for the things we regard as unpleasant or hard work. Think of your day; how many minutes or hours do you think you are actually doing something truly productive? This does not include thinking about what you need to do, talking about it on Facebook or Twitter or organising things so you can do it. Let’s say you found the time. You sit down to complete a task — like writing a blog post — and you aren’t happy with the way the words fall on the page. Your mind goes blank. An hour later you have run out of lives on that Facebook game you were playing and you still only have one sentence written. What a waste of time. You would have been better doing something else. You are clearly no good at writing blog posts. Next time you think about it you decide there is no point because you are no good at it anyway. When someone asks you how you are getting on with writing that blog post, you dismiss the question by saying you haven’t had time yet. It’s easier to believe that than to believe that you are no good at it.

2. People look at me and don’t like me because I’m fat
Many people spend their lives trying to lose weight. Most will manage but then will re-gain the weight (and some!) after.
Have you heard the quote from Winston Churchill “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly”
Sometimes it is easier to believe that people don’t like us because we are fat, than because we are not a likeable person. Technically you can change how you look, but you can’t change who you are. So very often, failure to lose weight can be down to a subconscious protection response. If it stops you losing the weight, then you won’t have to cope with feeling unlikable. Of course, it’s not true.
Let me ask you two questions:
- Have you ever walked into a room and worried what people think about you?
Now answer this
- Do you think that you are that important, that when you walk into a room, people one think about you?
Exactly the same question expressed in a different way shows that we all see things differently. Nobody can read minds. So we can’t change who we are to meet our perception of what other people think of us.

3. Things don’t work for me
When you see someone who is successful, are you inspired by them, or does it put you off trying? Your response can be down to Orr’s law, which states “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”.
Imagine I gave you a class filled up to the halfway mark with chilled water.
You might take the glass and think “Brilliant. That’s just what I need right now. I was really thirsty”
Or you might take it and think “That’s typical that is. I only ever get half portions. I bet everyone else would get a full glass” The reality is that the glass is filled up to the halfway mark with water. What that means is down to you.
Sometimes, when we see people who are successful, it demotivates us. Other people get lucky breaks. You never do. You have to work for everything and even then you don’t achieve what others seem to manage so easily. Because of Orr’s law you pattern match through your memories to all examples that reinforce that belief. Anything that doesn’t reinforce it is ignored. Eventually it becomes easier not to try than get hurt by repeated failure.
However, you are only seeing half the picture. If you change what your thinker thinks, then you will find as much evidence to support the new premise as you did the old one. The more you notice your successes, the easier they become to notice.
So what?
By recognising that your behaviour comes from a fear of failure, you can work on where that fear came from. It is your subconscious that drives the fear to if you can work back to your earliest memory of feeling like you failed, you can probably identify where it came from.

Once you have the memory in mind, if you change any detail, it will change the structure of it and lose all meaning. If it is a person that made you feel this way, change their voice to Donald Duck, or a minion, or a helium balloon. If there wasn’t a person, change a detail in the memory. Make something cartoon like. Change anything and the memory structure changes. If the memory structure changes then your subconscious will back off, leaving you free to do those things you have struggled with in the past.



Dawn Walton

Therapist and brain reprogrammer. If 1 in 4 people in the UK has a mental heatlh problem, then 3 in 4 don’t. Not True!