Hometown Ideas · Inspiration · Underemployment

Surviving the Quarter-Life Crisis: Overcoming Your Fear of Failure

Going down to the swimming hole on the Miramic...

This week while reading Paul Lima’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing, I came across a section on the Fear of Failure. I was surprised to find such a coherent description on what I, and so many other twenty-somethings, have felt without even understanding it:

“Fear of failure is the fear that you’ll do something… and fail at it.” Sometimes we’re afraid to put ourselves out there because we don’t want to let ourselves down.

So you’re just starting your adult life. You want everything that you’ve always desired: a job, a significant other, a house, a car… the list goes on and on. You got yourself a fancy college degree, plenty of internship/volunteer experience, and now you’re applying to job after job with no luck. Some of your friends seem to have acquired exactly the things that you desired – without so much as batting an eyelash. Are they just exceptionally lucky? Why do you have to work so hard with nothing to show for it?

You’ve come to this point though where it feels like you’re failing at everything. The feeling of failure will propagate and increase to anxiety-causing levels if you let it. When you face rejection, be in on an academic proposal, following a job interview, or in your personal life, it can cause you to question your abilities. But it doesn’t have to.

Everyone fails.

An no one enjoys failure. But it is a fact of life. Some of the world’s most successful people have failed, countless times, only to succeed after swimming in a sea of rejection. Don’t believe me? Check out One Hundred Rejections and 50 Successful People Who Failed at First. Fame and fortune, or just finding a place to stay afloat, require persistence and a thick skin.

You have to understand that failure isn’t always as black and white as it may seem. Maybe your research article isn’t necessary because a similar one was published earlier this year, or maybe a candidate with more project management experience beat you out for that job you truly desired. Of course, it’s hard to gain suitable experience in a job market that is saturated with over-qualified individuals, but these are factors that stretch outside of our control. You’ve got to hang in there and keep putting your name into the pool. And never stop moving forward.

In Paul Lima’s Six-Figure Freelancer he talks about using your fear of failure to fuel your success. You’ll probably always worry about failing when you start a new project, or even when you submit your resume, but this shouldn’t stop you in your tracks. Maybe you’ve never done something before – so what?! Use your fear to fuel your desire to learn more, to develop your new project, and to help keep you motivated.

You’re in charge of your own destiny – so don’t stand on the sidelines fuming about your failures. Keep pushing yourself through and never let fear get the best of you.

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6 thoughts on “Surviving the Quarter-Life Crisis: Overcoming Your Fear of Failure

  1. This is an appropriately times, well written post about something I’ve been struggling with the past few weeks. While I’m out of the twenty-something age range, it’s not that far behind me and I see how many of my decisions (and consequent inactions) were guided by the fear of failure.

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder!

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