Fear of Failure and How to Move On

Jennifer stands outside by a wooded area of campus.

This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Wellness Center. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanUWellness on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Jennifer leaning against the trail bridge on campus.
Author Jennifer Necsutu.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Of course, failure to accomplish a certain goal in our life is a common fear that we all experience. Some say fear can be so paralyzing for certain individuals that they “freeze” instead of “fighting” in response to the anxiety and stress of completing that specific goal. In other words, fear of failure can evolve into an obstacle in our lives and sometimes prevents us from becoming successful. 

According to neuropsychologist Dr. Theo Tsaousides (2017), there are several reasons why people are generally afraid to try to fulfill their goals, which include a setback to one’s self-worth, emotions of shame, loss of social connections, disappointing important people in one’s life and the dread of an uncertain future.

Moreover, fear of failure could potentially impact our mental and physical health should we allow ourselves to be consumed by it. Typically, those who are afraid of attaining a goal can eventually suffer from fatigue, emotional exhaustion, hopelessness, and/or chronic worry as well as become more unhappy with their lives and perform worse in their particular fields (Tsaousides, 2017). 

Jennifer sitting and smiling.

Despite these possible reasons and consequences for being scared to fail, it is crucial for us to realize that failure is what makes us human and is an essential part of our lives. Ultimately, nobody is perfect; we all make mistakes and fail endlessly. Failure does not make us a loser or any less successful than we were before. Rather, it gives us an opportunity to learn new challenges and build our confidence when we bounce back from a difficult situation.

Overall, just as the entrepreneur Courtney Johnson emphasized in his TedTalk (2018), we shouldn’t let the fear of failure prevent us from pursuing our goals, desires and dreams; it is the fear of not trying that we should be afraid of instead. Additionally, we should keep in mind that we are all strong in our own ways and can overcome our individual fears of failing to reach our full potential. Because, in the end, anything is possible if we continue to take our journey of discovering ourselves.

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Story by:
Jennifer Necsutu, junior biochemistry major, Wellness Center intern

Photography by:
Stephanie Batista, sophomore music industry major


Johnson, C. (2018, October). Failure is necessary [Video]. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/courtney_johnson_failure_is_necessary

Tsaousides, T. (2017, December 27). Why Fear of Failure Can Keep You Stuck. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201712/why-fear-failure-can-keep-you-stuck

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