Are you afraid of failure? Maybe you’re starting a new job or working on a scary goal. Or maybe it’s something you’ve tried before–like trying to lose weight.
Whatever it is, you’re afraid to try because you’re afraid you’ll fail. That’s how I felt when I started blogging 7 months ago.
I was sure I was going to fail and also sure that everyone was going to make fun of me. Who does she think she is, writing a blog? To me, blogging was completely scary.
The Strange Thing About Blogging
Blogging is an interesting phenomenon. Many of us are newbies at writing, learning as we go. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on the confidence of the blogger – we don’t get to learn in the privacy of our homes.
We get to invite the whole world to our learning party.
Of course, the whole world isn’t really watching us or we wouldn’t be bottom dog bloggers, but that’s beside the point. The point is that they can watch if they want to.
For those of you who don’t blog, can you see how intimidating this would be? It’s like sounding out your first word ever in front of the entire school – including the 6th graders and including that person in your life who already thinks you’re a loser.
This worldwide stage creates a dilemma for us insecure types. What if we fail? It’s a scary thought.
It helps to get a biblical perspective. Here are some questions I wrote to have conversations with God about my own fear of failure. I hope they’ll help you with whatever you’re afraid of.
This blog post was originally written as part of a series on ministry and blogging.
Fear of Failure Questions
- What is your goal? Be specific.
- Do you feel like you have to succeed?
- If so, why do you think you feel that way?
- Who* do you think will make fun of you or condemn you if you pursue this goal or fail to reach it? Name names.
- For each person on your list, answer the following questions:
- Is this person an accepting, positive, encouraging person by nature?
- Does this person agree with what you’re doing?
- Given this person’s personality and preferences, do you think it’s realistic to expect him to be positive about your project? Why or why not?
- What will you need to accept if you decide to press on with this goal?
- Is God enough to satisfy you even if everyone else rejects you or if you fail to reach your goal?
- Do you think He wants you to press on with this project? Why or why not?
- Is there anything you need to trust Him with? If so, what?
- What can you thank Him for in this situation?
* I ask these first two questions because most people who fear failure have a critical or condemning person lurking somewhere in their life. If you don’t, answer the questions for the world at large.
Fear of Failure Bible Verses
Psalm 27:1, 3, 5 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.
Psalm 91:2-4 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 147:2-3 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart
Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
You can also find these questions and Bible verses in the Renewing of the Mind Project.
Kari Scare says
You really do a good job of walking people through the steps of adressing their fear, especially those almost frozen by it. Most importantly, you base it in scripture. This is truly where healing is found for fear and insecurity.
Thanks, Kari. Fortunately I’m a multi-purpose fault/weakness person so I get to try them out on myself to see if they work!
Kari Scare says
I think working what we write through ourselves is the only way to stay genuine and authentic. What makes your posts powerful is that they are personal for you. That, my friend, is a strength.
Elizabeth Archer says
I agree with Kari! :o) My normal response to things like this is asking myself- “What’s wrong with you?”
I know! Not very effective! LOL! I think it’s my Dad asking me that. A memory as a child of “how do I get through this without help!”
With your encouragement, I love now working through it step by step like this. No panic, no chastising, (sp?) no condemnation- just clear directions!
That’s so great that you love working through your issues with God, Elizabeth – I do too. I always used to beat myself up and am so thankful God has freed me from that for the most part. When I slip back into it, I remember what a crummy way that is to live life!
Loren Pinilis says
I believe it was Jeff Goins who said to be thankful when you, as a blogger, are in relative obscurity. That gives you the chance to learn and to stretch yourself while you don’t yet have a humongous audience.
What?? The whole world isn’t really watching??? Just kidding – for me, it’s not the whole world that’s scary – it’s the one or two people I know who are condemning of my beliefs or critical by nature. God is teaching me that I don’t need to make everyone happy – but I still have a ways to go with that lesson.
Karen Foster says
Barb, you have an amazing ability to post questions that cut right to the heart of an issue. Yes, I have that condemning person that lurks inside of me….it’s me! And going on vacation, allowed me to stand back and re analyze many of the things you are addressing. Keep on pressing on! :) Love your blogs.
That’s brilliant, Karen – sometimes we’re much harder on ourselves than others, aren’t we? I had the same experience of stepping back and looking at life when I went camping for five days a couple of weeks ago – it really helped me see things more clearly when I got back. It’s also been helping me to work through these issues as I write about them – I’m definitely seeing progress! Thanks for the encouragement – I’m glad you’re liking the blogs!
Great Bible Study.
Yes, I’m afraid of failure but not as much as I’m afraid of never trying. I’m also more afraid of having to answer God as to why I didn’t do something. I’m saved by grace but I will have to answer for the things I do in this life as well as the things I don’t.
I just don’t want to disappoint God any more than I already have. I know I’ll keep messing up, but I’d rather mess up while trying than mess up by letting the world pass me by. Like the Bible says, God has prepared things for me to do in this life.
I love what you said, TC: I’d rather mess up while trying than mess up by letting the world pass me by. That’s not the way my mind works but I can see that that’s the better way to go. And the way God would rather have us go. Thanks for the insight!
Ngina Otiende says
Am I afraid of failure? I used to be! Paralyzed was more like it. I only attempted those things that i thought I’d succeed in. I wasn’t confident in my writing – I thought there were other better writers (which is true really). Now my confidence comes from knowing that failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen to me. Not trying is worse. And ofcourse, God won’t leave me because i tried and failed ( had this story going on in my head for a long time) :)
That’s great to hear that you’ve overcome it, Ngina! I also have a history of not trying at things I don’t think I’ll succeed at. Maybe that’s one of the reasons blogging has been so hard for me. I would like to have that “not trying is worse” philosophy but don’t have it yet. I am moving closer towards a submissive spirit though – being okay with whatever God allows and not feeling like I have to be rewarded – so that’s a good thing. :)
Lincoln Parks says
Awesome post Barb. Failure is not an option for me so I totally dismiss it out of my mind. The minute anyone things of failing they have already lost. I am loving the quotes.
I love your positive attitude, Lincoln. I’m thinking of the movie, Chariots of Fire, where Eric Lidell (is that his name?) was going all out in the race pushing for the finish line. I need to be more like that! One of the wonderful things about God, though, is that He can use even failure for His purposes. Sometimes I think He keeps us from succeeding quickly because He wants to teach us lessons we can only learn through failure.
Kari Scare says
Another movie that relates is Apollo 13. Because Gene Kranz refused to even explore the possibility of failure, they were successful in bringing the astronauts home. I also believe that everyone involved learned a lot about themselves and about thinking beyond the limits we too easily place on ourselves.
Thanks for your comments, Kari – I replied to you and Lincoln at the same time – you can see it down at the bottom of this comment stream.
Kari Scare says
Wanted to second your “failure is not an option” approach. Having the mindset of simply not exploring failure as a possibility can have a major impact in staying fully committed in all areas of life.
You guys (Lincoln and Kari) are making me think! With my approach (I’m going to fail but I’m willing to try for God) I won’t enjoy the battle very much because I have the mindset that I’m going to fail. And I might be less likely to succeed because I have a defeatist attitude.
With your approach, I would guess you would be more positive, enjoy the battle more, and also be more likely to succeed.
I wonder if I use my approach to protect myself from failing – if I expect it, it won’t hurt so much if it happens sort-of-thing. I think that’s a definite possibility. I’ll have to think about that!
With your approach, do you feel like it’s actually impossible to fail – or do you recognize that it’s possible but dismiss it because it’s not helpful to think about it?
Also, what happens if you do fail? Are you more likely to blame God or does that not really make a difference? I suppose that might depend more on how you perceive God rather than on your winning/losing mindset.
Kari Scare says
Expectations certainly do play into our view of failure. I really do try not to expect things to go a certain way, to not pre-define success to some extent. What I mean by that is I try to know God’s will and follow it knowing I am going to be successful as He defines it even if the world doesn’t define it that way (and often it doesn’t.) I also believe that as long as you did your best and truly tried to please Him, nothing is a failure. Sure, we’ll make mistakes, but we learn from them and move on, thus making the mistake a learning experience and not a failure. So, I guess it is impossible to fail because God guarantees success in His will. But again, it’s His view of success, not the world’s. Proverbs 16:30 says, “Commit your ways to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Perhaps it’s that we have to live counter-culturally to not be afraid of failure? I’m open to more discussion on this, Barb.
Kari, thank you for your comments – and Lincoln, if you read this. I just got through with an hour long conversation and journaling session with God that I think will have a huge impact on my attitude toward writing. He showed me the source of my fear of failure – it was all wrapped up in things that happened to me in the past which I can’t go into out of respect for others – but it was a wonderful and liberating conversation. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog post today – God used you guys in my life. And do we need to live counter-culturally to not be afraid of failure? I would say yes. I would also say we need to work through anything in our past that was a trigger for the fear of failure.
Kari Scare says
Working through the past… oh my, yes. I have a friend who is living with not having done that, and her relationships are all being destroyed. I encourage you to push through all that to victory. She is deceiving herself and under a tight stronghold. The fact that you realize this is necessary means you are on your way to victory, my friend.
Thanks, Kari. I appreciate the support.
I forgot to say – I love your idea that as long as we do our best and try to please God, nothing is a failure. He brings good out of all things – isn’t that the greatest? Thanks also for the Bible verse – it’s a good one to remember!
Kari Scare says
Even what the world deems as failure, God can make into success. He is the Almighty!
From a Montana Front Porch says
I love Galations 1: 10!! I’ve read it before but never really ” read it”. I am my worst critic, always have been. My mom has always put things in perspective for me by reminding me who God is. He knows me down to the hairs on my head (and my arms :) ) . He made me in His image. He filled me with His gifts. Who am I to say that He didn’t do a good enough job? How can we listen to what others say when they aren’t the Creator? When they don’t know the plans He has for us?
I know by saying this that it sounds like I’ve got it all figured out, but I share this because I have to remind myself of it on a regular basis! Thank you for the great verses and the thought provoking questions!
“He made me in His image. He filled me with His gifts. Who am I to say that He didn’t do a good enough job? How can we listen to what others say when they aren’t the Creator? When they don’t know the plans He has for us?”
I absolutely love this!!! I think you should go out and shout it on the roof! I think I’ll shout it to myself!
Smiling at your comment about inviting the whole world to our learning party. Yep…that’s for sure. Always seeking to allow the Universe (my latest word for God) to be enough…more than enough. Lotsa wisdom here!
Thanks for visiting, Kathy.
Dan Black on Leadership says
I think #6 “Is God enough to satisfy you even if everyone else rejects you or if you fail to reach your goal?” is essential. We should do God’s will not matter what other people think or say. This can be challenging though because society can influence our actions. Our goal should be to please God and be directed by Him.
Great questions and passages.
Thanks, Dan. Question #6 always gets me. That’s when I start thinking, “Wait a minute, life is about God – not whatever else I think it’s about. And if it’s about God then I should be willing to do anything for Him.” Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that.
Hi Barb, I’m so thankful I came across your blog post. I’ve been applying for internships in top finance firms and each time i keep saying to myself ‘what if I cant to it?’ ‘What if I make a mistake?’ ‘What if I dont know any of the things I’m supposed to know at my level?’. The funniest thing is people around me see me as a confident and smart person. I have excellent grades in school but most times i start to wonder if I deserve the grades i get. I really don’t know who I can talk to about these issues. I just have to keep praying and reassuring myself in God’s word.
Barb Raveling says
Hi Oge, Sorry I took so long to reply. I’ve been out backpacking and just got back. That’s so cool that you’re applying for internships in top finance firms. I bet you’d be surprised how many people are feeling the same way you’re feeling – probably most of the others who are applying for those same positions! I’m so glad you’re going to God for help with those feelings. That will help you to enjoy the process and and also grow. I’m guessing you will do great at your internship. I’m excited for you and all you’ll experience in this stage of your life!
I messed up I had a,fear of failing God so I told him not to give me back his presence when he was restoring me but I want him and to fulfill his calling in my life. I had lack of trust but want him. Marsha I want to come back without him I will die and go to hell
Barb Raveling says
Hi Marsha! It’s always good to come back to Him. The nice thing about God is that not only does He help us with whatever He wants us to do, He also gives us grace and knows ahead of time that we won’t be able to do things perfectly. That’s comforting!