• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Fear of Failure Can Lead to Growth

Take risks. Well, I don’t mean not wearing a mask because that is an obvious and scientifically proven call to action. What I mean is that I’ve noticed lately that people don’t want to take risks with everything from starting a new activity to sending out applications to considering a new job opportunity. Whether this has been the case forever or more the case lately due to the pandemic is uncertain. It is certainly understandable right now as there is a surge globally of Covid-19 infections. Economies are failing, and unemployment is rising. But we can’t just sit still mentally if not physically.

Starting a new activity

It probably seems like the worst time to start a new activity when everyone is buckling down with a new surge and with the winter coming. On top of that you might be restricted by a new partial or full lockdown.

Whether you are 25 or 85 you may just need a new activity for increased mental activity, especially as a distraction from negative stimuli from politics, education, etc. But are you afraid to start something new because you are afraid you might give up when encountering a hurdle or because you suspect the current global chaos will counter your motivation.

Giving up

You might have a whole history of giving up new activities before you gave them a chance and you fear that this might be another wasted effort. However, there is always the first time and you have to start somewhere. One way to look at it is to practice resilience.

In Dare to Lead, Brenè Brown talks about the “rising skill” of bouncing back in the face of adversity. She argues we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and being vulnerable is not a weakness.

You might not succeed the first time, but you will not start from zero the second time. You will have experience. I remember I had to learn this when I quit smoking. It took endless tries and each try I tried to improve on my method in terms of what worked and what didn’t. Ultimately, I did it, and in this case, trying something new, not smoking, might have saved my life.

Global chaos

Maybe regarding the pandemic chaos we need to take the Zen approach and think in the present while not giving up on our hopes and dreams. They say we might not return to the “norm,” whatever that is for whomever it is talking about, but rather we may find a “new norm” whatever that is. I’m curious who exactly will be involved in creating this “new norm.” Will all have a voice? How do we make sure the historically silenced have a voice? We hear new voices every day in the media, and we must make sure we are also willing to take risks to be heard and let others be heard and to collaborate with others in this opportunity for remaking and recreating this “new norm.”

Job opportunity

Many people have lost their job, including in my sector, education, as a result of the pandemic and the failing economies. The task to move forward might seem overwhelming as there is now so much competition for any one job. The only thing worse than not picking yourself up and trying to get a job is doing so and failing not once but multiple times.

Perhaps instead of looking at job getting as a test that you pass or fail, you should look at it as an exercise in personal branding. Time is short and money is tight but slow down and think about how you can reinvent yourself and make yourself the candidate in the right time and in the right place.

What do you have to offer/ What do they have to offer?/ Is it a good match? Don’t forget to ask also whether they have “failed” YOU and your expectations. It is a two-way street. Even though you might feel desperate, keep in mind that desperation eats at confidence. If you focus instead on a strong personal brand, the employer will know you are there for the job and not just a pay check.



A fear of failure can saturate your whole life and immobilize you. Although you might be restricted to some degree by the pandemic, there are things you can do which bring you self-value. You can start by Initiating communication, starting a new activity, or creating your personal brand for that opportunity. The beautiful thing is you “can’t lose” if you try these things because regardless of the outcomes, you’ve started building a history of experience on which you can draw for the next courageous and “daring” attempt.

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