How fear of failure holds us back
Updated: Jun 24
One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to making the decision to quit drinking (or any type of behaviour change for that matter) is overcoming our fear of failure. Fear of failure (also called "atychiphobia" - yes it has its own name!) is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals. Worrying about doing things incorrectly or failing, causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success. I know for me personally, this was one of the main reasons I continued to drink for long after I knew it was time to stop. I didn't believe I had it in me to succeed, and I was so worried about how I might feel if I did fail.
Often we are held back by negative thinking, specifically our inner critic feeding us story lines such as “I won’t be able to succeed in getting sober, so what’s the point?” or “I can’t make all the necessary changes, thus I shouldn’t bother trying at all” or “I won’t be any good at trying and I will feel worse for failing at it than if I don’t try at all”.
This type of thinking is known as black and white thinking and is very unhealthy especially for those people who need to make positive life improvements, as it holds us back from achieving our goals, and living the life we desire. Black and white thinking is when we think in absolutes, rather than all the space between. So something is either good or bad; amazing or awful; you succeed or you fail, with no space or grey area between. It's thinking at two ends of a spectrum, rather than within all the space in the middle.
One of our Thrivalist students, Claudia, discussed with us that a huge barrier holding her back from signing up to Thrivalist and quitting alcohol was that she had a fear of failing at sobriety. In fact it had held her back for quite some time and it wasn't until she started to read about other Thrivalist students' success stories and started to challenge her own limiting beliefs around failing to succeed at getting sober, that she was able to take action and quit drinking.
By reprogramming the subconscious mind, challenging our limiting beliefs and then re-writing them so that they are aligned with our highest self (and not our mean inner critic or ego), we can really break through anything that holds us back and achieve whatever it is we set out for ourselves.
“What really made the difference for me with quitting alcohol was learning how to challenge my inner critic when it fed me untrue story lines about not being able to succeed. By talking back to my inner critic, telling it to be quiet and then choosing a new story for myself, such as ‘I can achieve sobriety for myself’ rather than just accepting my inner critic to be true, I was able to have belief in myself that I could do it!” Claudia shared with us.
Claudia is just one of so many of our beautiful students who have also shared with us that a fear of failing was holding them back from doing the thing they so desperately wanted to do - get sober!
If you are struggling with this fear of failure yourself, below are six other ways we believe you can combat your inner critic, feel the fear and do it anyway.
1. Break your big goal down into smaller goals
Rather than immediately setting yourself the goal of long-term sobriety, set yourself a goal of maintaining abstinence from alcohol for a shorter, less overwhelming period of time. We recommend taking at least eight weeks off alcohol so that you can start to feel the positive effects of sobriety. This reduces your fear of failure as there is a higher chance of you achieving this goal. It's important that during these eight weeks off, you educate yourself as much as possible about alcohol and sobriety through reading, podcasts, joining online communities or signing up to Thrivalist.
2. Prove to yourself that you can do it!
With every positive step you take on your journey, be it a big one like reaching 30 days booze free, or a smaller one such as getting through your first Friday night without winding down with a wine, make sure you take note of the progress you have made, and celebrate yourself along the way! By proving to yourself (and your inner critic) that you have got what it takes to succeed, you build up your own self confidence and inner belief to keep striving further and further towards your goals.
3. Be inspired & supported by others
Other people's success stories are so powerful when it comes to overcoming your fear of failure. When we see other people around us and online making the same big changes that we have wanted for ourselves for so long, it allows our subconscious to be reprogrammed to believe it can happen for us too! I know that for me, I was inspired by someone I had known since childhood that shared his sobriety story on social media. Back then, I couldn't believe that someone had built a happy life for themselves without alcohol! Seeing this and following his journey helped fueled my own journey and to end up co-creating alongside Jen our amazing Thrivalist community of women all inspiring and supporting one another.
4. Turn your fear into fuel
I remember being a child and being really nervous about competing in the swimming carnival. My mum gave me the advice to “Flip the fear into fuel to make you go even faster”. It worked. It's a powerful tool for any fear we may have. When you feel the fear, let it be a reminder to how much you want the goal, and let it push you along further and faster.
5. Think about & visualise a positive outcome
The simple act of thinking positively, has the power to change the energy that radiates from you and as a result, what you attract back into your life. We know that our thoughts become our reality so when you focus on the negative outcomes such as “I won't be good enough to succeed”, that is encapsulated in the energy we are putting out into the universe, and most likely, what we will receive back. If you think you won't be able to achieve success, then you most likely won't. On the flip side, when you think you can achieve anything you put your mind to you will find it easier to step over your fear of failure to take the right steps and actions to reach your goal. Visualising this positive outcome is also so powerful. Taking some time during meditation, or any other moment you find time to visualise the positive outcome you want for yourself, is so powerful to attract exactly what you want into your life.
6. Work through the fear spiral
I love this exercise for overcoming a fear of any kind, but especially failure. When you work through the fear spiral asking yourself ‘And then what?’ over and over, you will soon realise that there is actually nothing to fear at all. Let's try it now:
Ask yourself “What's the worst thing that can happen if I do fail at quitting alcohol?”
I am assuming your answer will be something like: “I keep drinking, and not feeling great about my life.”
Then ask yourself “And then what?”
I am assuming your answer will be something like “I’ll try to quit again.”
Then ask yourself “And then what.”
I am hoping you get to a point where you land on a response such as “I’ll get better and better at trying, until I am so good that I do stop once and for all”.
Remember that in relation to quitting alcohol and reaching sobriety it’s not a matter of succeeding versus failing. There is no such thing as failing, you just keep getting better at trying as you learn more about yourself and how to overcome your drinking problem.
If fear of failure is holding you back from quitting drinking, try the above steps to help you break through the fear because when you finally do, you will be unstoppable!
Sign up to Thrivalist to join a beautiful community of like-minded women who will inspire and support you along your journey.