Overcoming the Fear of Failure

for bookkeepers Jul 08, 2024
fear of failure



I’ve been getting a lot of DMs recently that focus on the fear of failure: when you want to try something new, but you're afraid of what will happen if you fail, or what other people will think if you fail.

These thoughts are totally normal. Trying something new often brings the fear of failure or judgment from others. These feelings can stem from a desire to succeed and be accepted, but they can also hold you back from personal growth and new opportunities.

Embracing vulnerability and adopting a growth mindset can help overcome these fears, as can focusing on the potential rewards and learning experiences rather than the possibility of failure.

Overcoming the fear of failure, judgment, and wasted effort is crucial as you make the choice to get off of the sidelines and embark on this entrepreneurial journey. I want to help you get there, so let’s talk about how I typically address these fears and uncertainties in my own life.



Acknowledge the Fear

The first step is simple: acknowledge the fear of failure.

Suppressing, silencing, and wrestling with it does not make it go away. You need to give yourself time to speak your fears and look them in the face before you can dissipate them.

I suggest getting out a pen and paper and jotting down your unfiltered, honest, vulnerable, and realistic fears that are circling in your mind.

This is for no one but you. No one's judging you here. Writing these fears down will not make them come true—in fact, they will immediately lose some of their potency.

Here are some of the fears and worries I've heard over the years:

What if I'm not good enough?

I didn't study accounting in college—how can I possibly compete with others who have more experience and credentials?

Can I really make a stable income from this?

What if I can't find enough clients to pay the bills?

What if people don't take me seriously as a professional?

What if I make a mistake with taxes or legal requirements while running my business?

What if I get overwhelmed and can't handle the workload?

What if no one wants to hire me?

What if I can't keep up with the latest software and tools?

Who am I to think that I can start a business?

Working from home sounds great, but what if I feel lonely and isolated?

Do I have the discipline to manage my time effectively at home without a boss or set hours?

I know you probably share some, if not all of these fears—so I can tell you from experience that acknowledging them openly is the first step in overcoming them.


Face the Worst Case

Next, I go on to address the absolute worst-case scenario.

Running through worst-case scenarios is one of the ways that I dissipate the fear of failure…and any other fears that I have in my life.

If you’ve watched the show This Is Us, you know that this is a game Randall and his wife, Beth, commonly play.  It’s a playful game of venting where they come up with these outlandishly terrible worst-case scenarios, and though the topics they’re discussing aren’t lighthearted, it feels lighthearted by the end; the worst-case scenarios end up so ridiculous that they’re laughing by the end.

When you carry through your fear of failure all the way, it brings you to a point of comfort that is really, really helpful.

So pretend you just read me your list of your fears and worries. Can you tell me the worst-case scenario at the end of each fear you have? What would happen if it does all go horribly wrong?

For example, let’s take the fear of inadequacy. The worst-case scenario here is that you discover that your skills aren't sufficient, and you make significant errors in your client's books. This results in losing clients, damaging your reputation, and potentially facing legal consequences for mistakes.

For the fear of failure, the worst-case scenario is your business doesn't take off. You spend a lot of money and time without seeing a return on investment. You have to close your business, go back to a traditional job, and deal with the disappointment of failure and the judgment of others.

For the fear of financial instability, the worst-case scenario is you can't secure enough clients to sustain your income. You struggle to pay your bills and might have to dip into savings or take on debt. The financial stress affects your personal life and well-being.

Confronting these worst-case scenarios can help you realize that even if these fears come true, they are often not as catastrophic as they seem. Facing your fear of failure can often remind you that failure isn’t permanent. It can also lead you to a place where you can ask…



Now What?

So, your worst fears were valid. Your fear of failure came true. What happened in that scenario is awful.

Now what?

Let’s say you made some significant errors, and it affected your clients and reputation. Now you’ll take this as a learning opportunity. You'll invest in additional training and certifications to improve my skills. You'll also hire a mentor or consultant to guide you through complex cases until you regain your confidence. You’ll reach out to your clients, own up to your mistakes, and offer to make things right, demonstrating your commitment to improvement and transparency.

Or maybe your business didn't succeed, and you had to close it down. Now you’ll assess what went wrong and identify the lessons learned. You'll update your resume with the valuable skills and experience you gained. You'll seek a stable job to recover financially and build your confidence back with this experience under your belt. You might even try again in the future, better prepared and with a clearer strategy.

Or perhaps you struggled financially and had to use savings and take on debt. Now you'll create a strict budget and repayment plan to manage your finances. You'll look for a part-time job or a freelance gig to stabilize your income while you rebuild your business or pursue other opportunities. You’ll seek financial advice to make more informed business decisions going forward.

See? Even in the worst-case scenarios, there are actionable steps that you can take to recover, learn, and move forward.



Let’s Review…

So, to recap:

it's completely normal to have a fear of failure, judgment, or the unknown when embarking on a new venture. These fears can hold you back from taking the first step, but by acknowledging them, you can begin to overcome them.

Remember, writing down your fears and worst-case scenarios help to diminish their power. Confronting these scenarios head-on shows that even if things don't go as planned, there are always actionable steps that you can take to recover and learn.

You might even realize your worst-case scenario is exactly where you are today…and isn't that a rude awakening?

These exercises aren’t all you can do to fend off the fear of failure. For another of my favorite tools for confronting the fear of failure, listen to Episode 183 of Profits + Prosecco now!



Want a peek behind the curtain into LIBBY, my program all about what it really takes to have a simple and scalable (and successful) bookkeeping business? Get access to my free, on-demand four-part series, 6 Secrets to a Simple, Scalable Bookkeeping Business: www.katieferro.com/6-secrets

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