Beating Fear of Failure

By John Ellsworth

Fear of failure is one of the many mental obstacles which can impact athletic performance. It is characterized by the following:

An avoidance of risks. (E.g. plays conservatively, tries to protect score, etc.)
A strong concern about what others think about him/her or his or her performance. (E.g. makes assumptions about what others think, mind reading, etc.)
An avoidance of embarrassment (e.g. avoids mistakes by playing “safe”, fear of what will happen, etc.)

Whatever the symptoms may be, fear of failure ultimately causes athletes to hinder, rather than advance, their ability to succeed. While social approval is desired by all people, regardless of their athletic abilities, is should not be the driving force behind how an athlete performs especially in competition.

I challenge you to answer this question:
Do you compete for yourself, or do you compete for the approval of those in your athletic circle (e.g. coach, teammates, parents, audience, etc.)?

As you ponder the answer to the above question consider how you make decisions or what determines your reactions in your sport. Ask yourself: Do I feel that everyone is watching me when it is my turn? Do I fear how others will react if my performance is very good, or very poor? Do I have ideas or thoughts about what others may be thinking about me or my performance? Do I sometimes feel myself stiffen up when I am in a stressful situation in my sport?

If you have answered even one of the above questions with a “yes” then you likely have a strong fear of failure. While fearing failure is normal, you should begin to change your mind set. Instead of fearing what others may think, protecting your score or playing safe, recognize that there is no failure where you are trying to take your performance to the next level.

Give yourself the “right” to make a mistake. Don’t worry about what others may think or try to read their minds. Focus your energy on making the effort to let your brain trust in your body’s ability. Do this and you will establish a new approach to taking action toward improving your performance.

For more information about this article or for information on mental game coaching contact John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach at Protex Sports, LLC. www.protexsports.com.

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