The Paralyzing Fear of Failure

smashed car equals fear of failure


You tried driving once and when you ran over a curb on your first try, you threw up your hands and refused to drive again – My mom, referring to me at 16 years old.

I did not try driving again for over two years. My fiancée’ convinced me to try driving his manual 4 speed. I drove down the road, pulled into my driveway, and crashed it into the well platform on the side of the house.

I learned to drive 12 years later.

Failing at the Penny Drop



When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do during recess was playing on the bars. I was amazed at friends who could perform all kinds of cool tricks on the bars. I spent my time hanging upside down with my hands on the bars and then carefully flipping my knees off and landing on my feet. I could drape over the bar and do a flip that way as well.

Yes, my routines were limited, but if you knew how long it took me to try getting on the bars in the first place, you would know that was a big step for me. I went through two school years of performing limited tricks and then I stopped as I was far behind everyone else. I was constantly reminded of that by a particularly snooty classmate.

Forget the one knee over and one knee under thing. I knew I would fall. The penny drop? My sister could do that. I thought she was a star. I tried it once. I fell on my face, hurt my neck, and had to listen to the smirks and giggles. I never tried it again.

Years later, I am still struggling with that paralyzing fear of failure. When something is new or powerfully important to me, I put it off and I make excuses.

What if I fail? What if I can’t handle it and I ruin everything? It is not surprising that I am not a leader. I am not saying I would not make a good one, but it is difficult to find out when I allow myself to let my fear of failure cripple me.

Fighting Through Fear

I started college with the intention of becoming a medical assistant and possibly going on from there. Family circumstances meant I had to give it up as I would even today. My family is most important.

I didn’t go back — well, for that degree, anyway. A few years later, near the beginning of online education, I began attending Kaplan University, where I was pursuing a career in web development. Again, family issues took over and I put it on hold for a couple more years. Next was University of Phoenix, where I continued to go for web development.

I was at the end of two years and was half of a class away from achieving my associate’s degree. At the time, I planned to get some entry level work and continue for my Bachelor degree.

Then I started having seizures and I developed problems with my memory. To make matters worse, my once excellent reading comprehension hit a wall. I put it all on hold and had planned to go back, but it took a few years before I was diagnosed. My health did not improve during that time.

I feel much better now. I feel excited when I realize I am thinking of finishing school. Fewer signals are getting crossed and I can fully understand what I read. I may not ever be the same, but I know I can still learn.

And then I get scared. A subconscious part of me is hesitant to trust that things will work out. I am tired of getting my hopes up only to have them dashed to pieces. Of course, the subconscious mind always brings the message out through emotions, thinking, decisions, and actions. I believe it.

What does one do when one’s profound fear of failure blocks the rehabilitation of the subconscious mind that drives it?

And things still go around and around…

I am studying independently. I am learning the ins and outs of HTML 5 and continuing to study programming.

Maybe I do it because I am not proving myself to anyone but myself. That is much easier than watching my friends and family frown and walk away.

Or maybe I do it because I love to learn.

There is one thing about which I am sure  – we’ll call it  my “epiphany”.

It is not my opinion of myself that brings on this fear of failure.  It is the fear of having others witness that failure that has me paralyzed.

If you experience similar or have some advice to offer, feel free to comment below!






  1. Hi Karla thanks for sharing this. You should know that the fact that you went back to uni so many times despite the hardships suggests you are truly stronger than you think. It’s completely normal to fear failure, especially when the support and opinion of those around you matter so much. But when you remind yourself of that feeling when you finally succeed , even if it’s in something so small, it is so worth it. I could never understand people that have no ambition and no drive. It’s those exact things that define us , and our ability to persevere , and fight our fears to reach outstanding results. I’ve learnt to compete against myself. What may take me a year to comprehend or achieve might not take as long for someone else. But I know exactly how hard I worked to get there and how much I improved and that’s all that should really matter. Don’t ever give up! You already have my support 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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