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“I won’t be able to do this.” “I am not just good enough.” “Why bother trying when I am not going to succeed anyway?” “I can never learn/perform or be as good as other children in my class.”

We all harbour a fear of failure in our hearts. It could be failure to do well in school, failure to qualify for a team, failure to accomplish a target or failure to succeed in life in general. The fear of failure can sometimes be so strong that we do not even attempt to achieve our goal and quit even before we try to do it. This is because failure is associated with many negative terms like defeat, shame, disappointment and frustration.

It is true that failure can be very traumatic. Sometimes this emotion can be so strong that we decide never to try again. It can shatter our self-confidence and make us wary of setting new goals or making any further effort. And this, young friends, is a big mistake. A wise person once said, “This thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

If we allow the fear of defeat to overwhelm us, we will miss great opportunities in life. So how can we overpower this dread of failure that can make us so afraid that we go through life without attempting anything new or trying to pursue greater heights? Let’s take a look at this monster and learn how to deal with it.

Signs that you are afraid of failing

Some signs that you have an overwhelming fear of failure is feeling excessive stress, unwillingness to participate in school activities, not wanting to speak in front of large groups and afraid to present your point of view in class discussion. You might not want to take up any extra-curricular activity, learn a new craft or even take up a hobby.

Causes of this fear

A bad experience in the past can make some children very reluctant to try again. For example, during a school drama or  debate, you forgot your lines and let your team down. Your fellow students might have said something sarcastic or supporters of other teams might have made fun of your mistakes, making you feel like a failure.

Maybe during an important match you have a bad day which could happen to any sportsman. You think that you have failed and decide to quit. Strict teachers, unrealistic expectations from parents and unsupportive friends can also make such situations worse.

Being lazy and self-centred can also make some children afraid of trying new things and failing in the endeavour. Such children keep on thinking about themselves. “What if ‘I’ fail?” “What if I’ can’t do it?” “What’s in it for ‘me’ anyway?” Instead the focus should be, “By trying, I can make my parents proud”, “By hard work, I can make my school name shine”, or “By giving my best, I can do something for my country.”

How to overcome this fear

The first thing you have to tell yourself is that everyone fails at one point or the other, because life is not a smooth and easy journey for anyone. The setback can come in any form but it should not be the end of the world for you.

The second most important thing is that you have to evaluate yourself honestly. Were you really good enough or were your expectations unrealistic? Did you work hard enough? Did you prepare as much as you should have, because in today’s competitive era you have to give your best shot every time.

The third thing is to pick yourself up and try again… and again and again. This is your life and these are your dreams. Nobody else is going to fulfil them except you. You do yourself a big disservice when you say, “Never again. I quit” because that is when you truly fail! The previous flunks were just temporary setbacks.

Seek help from others

The future is bleak if you think you know it all. Never be shy or too arrogant to ask questions from those who can help or guide you. You might face a few rebuffs but every crumb of knowledge helps. Read biographies of great people and keep inspirational quotes to help you in moments of despair.

Learn from your failures

Do you know that failure can teach you more important life lessons than success?

It is true that you learn more from your setbacks, failures and losses than your wins and successes. Failure helps you discover how strong a person you are. It can also show you who your true friends are. It can motivate you to discover your hidden talent, do more, be better and overcome obstacles. It can reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and this self- knowledge is the key to success in life.

Failure can also make you more understanding and compassionate towards others because you can understand their pain and anguish better. It trains you to be more disciplined, persevere in face of adversity and never take things for granted.

Seek inspiration

Do you know Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor? Reason given: “He lacked imagination and had no good ideas?” Disney’s other businesses also failed and he became bankrupt. Today Walt Disney’s name is synonymous with creative cartoon characters and a multi-billion dollar entertainment business.

Albert Einstein was labelled ‘mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social’ by his teachers. He was expelled from his school. Einstein later became a Nobel Prize winner and world renowned physicist.

Oprah Winfrey was fired by a TV station where she worked as a reporter as she was declared “unfit for TV” because of her weight and bad hairstyle. Today, she is one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful business women in the world.

Actor and director Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director after his first audition, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier never gave up, won an Oscar and became one of the most respected actors in Hollywood.

You might not believe it, but Michael Jordan was actually dropped from his high school basketball team!

Maybe you keep sending your stories and poems to magazines and newspapers, and they never get published. Failure to see your name in print can make you very angry and dejected, and you decide not to write again. Do you know Enid Blyton, Stephen King, Dr Seuss, Emily Dickinson and Jack London each received hundreds of rejection slips from editors and publishers before they became bestselling authors of their times?

Do you know why these people were so successful in life? Not because they were born lucky or were super-rich or had influential family members. They all had to battle their inadequacies, their personal problems and yet they never let the fear of failure or rejection stand in the way of their dreams.

So dream on, work hard and treat failure as stepping stones to success! You’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished!

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