How Athletes Can Overcome a Fear of Failure

Tips to get over your fear and succeed on the field and in life.

I stayed awake in the middle of the night, not because I didn't want to sleep, but because I couldn't stop thinking about the opportunity I was about to turn down. The fear of failure had taken over.
I was scared.
What if I don't perform well. What if they don't like it. What if I stumble over my words, or better yet, what if I stumble in front of everyone.
Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.
The connection between fear, stress and anxiety are very closely related. Most of our fears are imagined, and if we can train our minds to protect us in these fearful moments through positive self-talk, we can control and dismiss that feeling before it attempts to take over and ruins your performance in your sport.
Below are 5 simple steps that can bring you closer to overcoming your fear of failure.

1. Identify your fear

When you're afraid to do something, you have to pause and understand exactly where your fear is coming from. Are you not confident in your skills or material? Is it the fear of all eyes being on you? Once you figure out what your fear is associated with, then you can begin to overcome that small part that's holding you back.

2. Being Scared vs being unprepared

Focused Athlete

Some people do very well at winging it or procrastinating, while others need to be extra prepared. Know who you are, know what you're capable of. If you're anything like me, you can wing it, but you won't be at your absolute best, and you'll have that much more work to do to soothe your anxiety.
Preparation is important for us mentally; do yourself a favor, prepare and rehearse and see if that changes anything. If not, you're now reassured that being unprepared isn't the issue.

3. Self-talk

Most of our fears are liars. They tell you what they think you want to hear and you listen because you think it's real. Challenge your self-talk; you can't believe everything you think, so the next time something negative or fear-related enters your mind, challenge it. We can change a lot of behaviors simply by what we choose to say to ourselves. Instead of telling yourself that you're scared, change that dialog and tell yourself that you are being challenged and you are prepared. Our brain and our body listens to what we say and adopts it as if it were real. Feed yourself positivity and see how that changes you over time.

4. Visualization

There is a right and wrong way to visualize. The point of visualization is to see yourself doing it perfectly. If you can not produce a clear image in your head and perform your skill perfect, it can hurt you more than it can help you—continue to practice or seek a professional for help. When you visualize, see yourself in all of your positive attributes—confident, energetic, positive, etc.—you should be in a comfortable environment, well relaxed. Again, your brain has no idea if this image is really happening or if it's pretend, so the better your visualization, the better your results will be.

5. Leave your comfort zone

Why are you even here? Ah, the fear. Author Neale Donald Walsch said, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." He couldn't be more right. Stepping out of your comfort zone takes courage, and it doesn't happen overnight. Taking baby steps until you feel comfortable leaving your comfort zone is important. Start by challenging yourself to do something small that you're scared of in your everyday life (that's safe and harmless to yourself and others), such as complimenting a stranger, or starting a conversation with someone who's reading a book you're interested in. Overcoming fear doesn't happen overnight, but with steady, conscious attempts, over time you'll be crushing everything that once scared you!
As my mother stood over my grandfather's dying body, she begged for him to say something to her. He opened his eyes one last time and said, "Stand up and Live."