You think that you cannot do something, are afraid of making mistakes and only want to start when you are sure that you can do it. Fear of failure is a specific form of uncertainty and often arises during a new school or working year and during exams and exams. How can you protect yourself against this?

All young people are sometimes afraid of failure, according to, an initiative of the Nederlands Huisartsen Genootschap (NHG). That is normal and motivates you to do better. But as soon as a child is extremely afraid of failing, that can become a problem. Then it can no longer concentrate properly, it will make more mistakes or it will not even be able to do anything anymore. According to the website, this fear mainly occurs at school.

According to psychologist Ellen Huijsmans, fear of failure often starts at a young age, because then you learn too emphatically that you have to adapt to the other. That is why you are not afraid of being liked. It is also possible that you have such a strong focus to perform that your feeling will depend on your performance.

Fear of failure is sometimes accompanied by perfectionism, that you want to do things too well. "That's basically a good feature, if you also learn to settle for a 7 instead of always aiming for a 10."

What you can do if you suffer from fear of failure

  • Seek help from a general practitioner, a psychologist or a mental health professional
  • Visualize that you are achieving that one exciting thing or doing it well
  • Meditate

According to Gert-Jan Ossevoort, self-proclaimed fear of failure expert, the potential for developing fear of failure is deeply rooted in our society. There are no figures, but he thinks that at least two thirds of people have an annoying form of fear of failure.

A doctor or practice assistant can help

"At school, tests emphasize what we have not done well and as a result points are deducted," says Ossevoort. According to him, this focuses on what goes wrong instead of what goes well and creates a serious fear of mistakes for many people.

While according to him you can best learn from what went wrong. "The most successful people will agree that they have learned more from their mistakes than from their successes. That is because they did not experience them as a mistake, but as a signal to look for another way, another solution or another approach. "

If fear of failure assumes forms that block you and that you can no longer come out of your words during a presentation or that the other person still does not like you, psychologist Huijsmans thinks it is smart to seek help. You do that at a doctor, mental health practice support or the psychologist.

"During guidance, we look for rules that you have learned in the course of your life and we work on trust." Ellen Huijsmans, psychologist

Huijsmans. "In counseling we look for the beliefs and rules that you have learned in the course of your life. We will work on trust and gaining success experiences. This will help you to come out of the paint again and your fear will fall to healthy uncertainty."

People who do not seek help but who suffer from severe fear of failure run the risk of being burned out, the experts say. This is because fear can lead to a bore-out, because people do not take up enough of a challenge and therefore become exhausted. It can also lead to a burnout, because the fear puts so much pressure on you. You can prevent this by seeking help on time.

According to self-proclaimed fear of failure Gert-Jan Ossevoort, meditation is a good way to combat fear of failure. (Photo: 123RF)

Meditation against fear of failure

Whoever does not want therapy straight away, but can use some help during the first school or working days, presentations, exams or exams, according to Ossevoort benefits from meditations. This technique ensures that your body and mind relax completely through focus and attention. "Start meditating about a month before your exam or exam or another important moment."

Ossevoort prefers to do meditations when he goes to sleep. "Then the state of your brain changes and you can plant instructions properly. For example, visualize the moment that your diploma is awarded. Then you step into your exam with strength instead of the idea that you are not going to make it."

According to Huijsmans, fear of failure is not that bad at all. According to her, uncertainty keeps us alert and critical. "If you have that in a healthy form, then you get the best out of yourself and you get the most happiness. It is therefore not important to eliminate fear of failure, but especially to reduce it to a healthy form."

This is how you start meditating (five to ten minutes)

  • Sit upright on a chair, make sure your back is straight and place your hands loosely in your lap or on your knees
  • Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body: feel how your feet touch the floor, how your thighs and buttocks make contact with the chair and how your back touches the backrest. Feel how heavy your head actually is. Then cover your entire body with your attention: from your toes to your crown
  • Notice your breathing now. Where do you feel it the strongest? In your stomach? Your chest? Your nostrils? Follow your breathing for a while with that attention: from the beginning of your inhalation to the end of your exhalation. Do not change anything, just notice it
  • If you notice that you are wandering with your thoughts, then bring your attention back to your breathing. What sometimes helps is to count the breaths: 1 on an inhalation and 2 on an exhalation, 3 on an inhalation, etc. Until you reach 10. Then you start again at 1.