By: Nicole Martins Ferreira August 17, 2017

Fear of failure can be both crippling and motivating. When crippling, it can prevent us from achieving our goals and dreams. When motivating, it helps push you to the next level to achieve greatness. But it’s hard to know how much fear is needed to succeed. Or how much it’s setting us back. To overcome fear of failure, we first need to understand what’s causing it.

Causes of Fear of Failure

You’re a perfectionist

fear of failure

Perfectionism can take many forms.

Do you rewrite your product descriptions repeatedly?

Are you spending more than three weeks making sure your store looks perfect instead of marketing it?

Have you told yourself that it’s all or nothing?

Did you beat yourself up after your first ad failed?

Perfectionism can hold you back.

It can make you do the same tasks repeatedly without ever making progress. You might delay your business’ launch because everything isn’t just right. And so you prevent yourself from achieving the success you deserve.

When I built my first store four years ago, I didn’t just build one store.

I built four.

At the same time.

I added 600 products to one of my online stores. I kept adding all this work to my plate, instead of focusing on the marketing. But I was also afraid of marketing my brand and getting no sales. After my first six months of entrepreneurship, I made $100. And I was forced to return to a 9 to 5.


Because I spent more time perfecting my store than growing it.

Don’t fall into the same trap.

But perfectionism can also be a great thing.

After my first Facebook ad failed four years ago, I was so embarrassed, I took action.

I spent all my time reading articles about the psychology of Facebook ads. What colors performed best on Facebook? What types of pictures stood out? Which audience should I be targeting? What was the copy format that worked well? It led to my second ad converting at 0.04 cents.

You’re afraid of criticism

fear of failure

In a perfect world, we’d all get high fives for everything we do.

Found time in your busy schedule to exercise? Here’s a high five for that!

Managed to work on your business after putting your kids to sleep? High five to you!

Had a great day today? Yup, here’s another one!

Landed your first sale? Well that deserves two of these bad boys!

Unfortunately, we don’t always get praise for our little wins from customers or our friends and family.

But we’ll definitely get criticism for a small mistakes, big ones and everything in between. Our fear of failure grows with each piece of criticism we receive.

One piece of negative feedback and we become personally hurt.

One customer refund and we fall apart.

“It’s over,” we tell ourselves.

But, it’s not over.

You can redeem yourself. Or you’ll learn how you can improve, build a better business and become a better entrepreneur. You’ll quickly learn to master the art of customer service instead.

Instead of ‘I suck at running a business. I got a refund on my first sale,’ it should become ‘I got my first refund, what can I do to improve? I’m going to ask the customer who refunded the product for feedback. Then, I’ll use the feedback I receive to make better decisions. While I can’t prevent all refunds from happening, I can work towards keeping it within the 1% average.’

You’re insecure

fear of failure

While daydreaming about becoming an entrepreneur or store owner, you picture yourself as confident, successful and rich. Every idea in your head is genius. ‘I’m born to do this,’ you tell yourself.

But then you tell your parents, best friend or coworker your brilliant idea.

And they hate it.

‘That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.’

‘You want to quit your job to become unemployed?’

‘The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And honey, you’re poor.’

‘OMG. That’s your business? I thought you sent it as a joke.’

And all of a sudden, every bit of insecurity you could ever feel about yourself comes rushing in.

It completely takes over.

The confidence you daydreamed about? Gone.

The success you’ve always wanted? Delayed.

And the money? It’s not there.

You made the rookie new entrepreneur mistake. You sought validation from those you love.

While I hope most of you have a supportive network of people around you, not all of you will. I had a family member call me a joke. My mom kept telling me she would be proud of me if I got a real job. And I had a stranger tell me that high school dropouts can’t be successful.

It took four years to get to the point where no one questions me anymore.

Where I feel confident in my business. And in myself.

Want to know how to built up my confidence?

I stopped talking to people about my business.

The lack of external validation bothered me. Really badly. So I stopped seeking it.

Game changer.

You can also build up your confidence with positive self talk and pump up mantras. But we’ll get to that later.

You’ve experienced failure

fear of failure

Fear of failure can grow stronger and stronger with each of your failures.

Spent $1000 on Facebook ads and didn’t get a sale?

Launched your store three months ago and still have no traffic?

Built a failed business three years ago and scared to try again?

Did someone copy your entire store and beat your social media followers?

Mistakes aren’t failure.

Obstacles aren’t failure.

Competition isn’t failure.

Giving up is failure.

The day you call it quits is the day you officially become a failure. By calling it quits, I don’t mean shutting down your store to work on another one. That’s pivoting. I’m talking about refusing to ever try again.

Maybe your first business isn’t a winner. Or in my case, my first six weren’t winners.

But then one day, a light bulb goes off.

Everything you’ve learned from your mistakes creates this clear path.

And BAM!

Suddenly, you understand what it takes to create a successful business.

You figure out Facebook ads.

Traffic starts pouring in.

Your conversion rate increases.

Customers start tagging you on Instagram when they receive their product.

And you finally start to realize how amazing success is.

Signs of Fear of Failure

There are a number of tell-tale signs that you’re experiencing fear of failure.

You might start trying to lower people’s expectations.

fear of failure

Your goals get smaller.

You start underselling yourself.

You’ll even start retracting some of the statements and claims you once made.

Your goal of making $1000 in your first month, suddenly changes to ‘one sale in a month.’

You know you’re better than this.

Don’t lower your standards.

You’ve got this.

If you feel like no one believes in you today, just know I do.

I see success stories every day. Yours is next.

You feel sick and stressed

fear of failure

The enthusiasm you once had for running your business starts to disappear when you experience fear of failure.

Maybe you start experiencing anxiety or panic attacks.

Or you start feeling physically sick.

You become so overwhelmed by taking the next step that you just can’t do it.

Break it up into baby steps.

Instead of having 100 products on your store at launch, add 25.

Instead of spending all your money on Facebook ads, spend $20.

Rephrase the language you use.

I like the word ‘experiment’. It’s helped me lower my anxiety.

‘My first experiment with Facebook ads performed poorly. For my next experiment, I’m going to…’

You’re thoughts are overwhelmingly negative

fear of failure

You’re so talented. Smart. Creative. I mean if anyone is going to kickass in business, it’s you.

Seriously. I mean it.

But sometimes, you’ve got to tell that little voice in your head to just…


‘Sorry brain, you’re not allowed to send me negative vibes. I’m ignoring you until you send me positive ones.’

And if the negative grows louder and LOUDER.

Watch this YouTube video 1000000x.

If you need to watch motivational videos first thing every morning.

Do it.

Works for me.

Could work for you too.

A small piece of criticism leads you to spiral

fear of failure

Criticism is the best thing that could ever happen to you.

Didn’t expect to read that did you?

We live in a world where so many people tell us what we want to hear. Then behind our backs, they tell the truth.

But when someone has the courage to give you honest feedback directly to you…


Now you know what your exact weaknesses are so you can get better.

It’s what you do with the criticism that turns you into a better entrepreneur.

When someone tells you the brutal honest truth, say ‘thank you’ because now it’s even easier to skyrocket to success.

You’re working on pointless tasks

fear of failure

You’ve got a cold hard case of fear of failure when you start working on tasks that waste time instead of tasks that make money.

Stop importing a never ending stream of products to your store.

Stop checking your email every five minutes.

And stop researching and planning like you’re still in school.

You don’t win points for doing administrative work.

But you can make money for focusing on customers and marketing.

Aim for the big wins:

  • Hitting your 100th sale.
  • Having customers share pictures of their new products with their friends.
  • Getting a positive Facebook message from a fan who loves your brand and just bought four items.

If you’ve got a few signs of fear of failure, it’s not all bad. Fear of failure can also be a positive experience.

Why Fear of Failure Is Good

fear of failure

Too much fear of failure is bad. But a little bit can help you grow.

It’s about finding the balance.

When you start getting scared, it means you’ve got something to lose.

Maybe you just got laid off, and you need a win real bad.

Or maybe you don’t have a lot of money to invest in ads and need to make enough to feed your family.

We’ve all got obstacles and challenges.

It’s okay to be a little scared when trying something new.

And it’s even okay to think about giving up.

You’re going to have moments that make you question what you’re doing.

Moments where you have no idea if you’re on the right track or about to fall flat on your face.

There will be times where you’re banging head against a wall in frustration.

You’re normal.


Having that little bit of fear helps push you towards achieving your goals.

It reminds you that you’ve got a lot to lose and so you need to step up your game.

And encourages you to make smarter decisions.

If you’re on a budget, look for creative marketing ideas.

If you’ve failed 20x before, don’t make the same mistakes you once did.

Channel that fear into something positive.

Failure is good for business. And for success.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure in Business

You’ll need to learn how to overcome fear of failure if it’s preventing you from success.

Visualize success

fear of failure

Visualizing success has been proven to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals. About 66% of entrepreneurs believe that visualizing their goals can help them create their business plans.

Picture yourself going through the process of achieving your goals.

What are the steps you take in your head?

Create a vision board of your goals.

If you have to cut out pictures from magazines and stick it to a piece of paper do it.

I like to add my vision board as my desktop background image.

Write your goals down. Don’t forget the end date too. Set a realistic goal like ‘Make $100,000 in revenue in 2018’ if you’re starting out today.

When you look back at that paper a year from now, you’ll likely be amazed by how you actually achieved a goal you thought you forgot about.

Remove yourself from failure

fear of failure

Fail fast.

When you fail, immediately take the lesson out of the failure.

Then, remember the lesson.

But forget the failure.

It’s easy to get sucked into a vortex where all you see are the endless streams of failures you’ve experienced.

Detach yourself from the failures.

In the future, you just need to remember what the lesson is.

Focus on your wins

fear of failure

On my laptop I have an achievements folder. It has screenshots of all my big and little wins. Milestones I hit in ecommerce, positive comments I got from writing on Oberlo, kind messages from friends on social media.

Create your own achievements folder. Add it to your desktop.

On good days, add to it.

On bad days, look through it.

You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve accomplished in such little time.

Pay attention to how much you’ve learned

fear of failure

Your mistakes are going to teach you so many lessons.

Extract the lessons from each mistake you’ve made and remember them.

Write it down if you have to.

And when you move forward on your next project, do so with confidence.

Because business people who make mistakes become the best entrepreneurs.

It’s like reading a book.

The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become.

And the more you fail, the more experienced you become.

Those experiences are what will turn you from an average person into an expert.

Set realistic goals

fear of failure

Only you can stop you from dreaming big.

But sometimes when your goals seem unattainable right now, you delay yourself.

The world needs you to set a high bar.

To dream big.

So if your goal is to help 1,000,000 customers, but you haven’t launched your store…

Start small but with the dream goal in mind.

How many customers do I need to get today to achieve my goal in 5, 10 or 20 years?

Maybe in your first week, you set out to get five sales.

And then escalate your growth from there.

Setting mini goals for your big goals is what can help make success more attainable.

Be honest about the worst case scenario

fear of failure

Our mind can build us up to be a rockstar.

Or break us down until we’re dirt.

Sometimes it imagines these extreme worst case scenarios that aren’t going to happen.

Have you been in a plane crash every time you’ve boarded a plane?

If you’re reading this, probably not.

But you’ve probably thought about it before taking off on your first flight.

The odds of you crashing and burning in business are low.

Our imagination can sometimes get the best of us.

Don’t invest $1,000 in your first advertising campaign if you’ve never created an ad and have a tight budget.

If you get a negative email from a customer and it makes you mad, respond tomorrow instead. It’ll prevent you from reacting emotionally.

Use your best friend Google to help you learn business law so your business is run legally.

You’re so smart.

Don’t act like you haven’t read a million articles about starting an online business.

I know you’ve done your homework.

There’s a 99.9% chance that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen.

You’re ready.

Is failure even bad?

fear of failure

When Sara Blakely was growing up her dad would ask her “What have you failed at this week?” Her father would be disappointed if she didn’t have anything that week.

He encouraged her to fail.

She credits most of her success as a billionaire to failure.

To Sara Blakely, failure has less to do with the outcome and more to do with the effort.

Failure is what helps you make progress.

Face your fears every day

fear of failure

Every day try something new.

Experiment constantly.

Avoid having all of your eggs in one basket.

Don’t rely solely on one tactic to make money online.

Mix it up.

Having multiple streams of revenue for your business makes the losses less noticeable.

Less disastrous too.

Positive Mantra For When You Feel like Giving Up

fear of failure

I’ve spent my life daydreaming of success.

I refuse to let today be the day that I let the dream die.

I’ve worked hard to get to where I am. And I’ve come a long way.

Today’s challenges and setbacks aren’t powerful enough to stop me from moving forward.

I am in charge of my life.

Not my parents, my friends, my significant other, or my enemies.


I decide what goals I set because only I know what I’m capable of.

And I’m unstoppable.

I won’t let my fear prevent me from making a difference.

The world needs me to bring my A- game every day.

After all, with every goal I achieve, I’m able to reach out and help another person in need.

Every time I doubt myself, I will remind myself of how far I’ve come.

The person I was yesterday isn’t as strong or intelligent as the one I am today.

I have everything I’ll ever need to achieve my goals.

If I need money, I’ll make it come to me.

If I need help, I’ll connect with the right people.

And if I need purpose, I’ll find it in those suffering around me.

I have the power to change the world around me.

And I’m going to start today.

Famous Failures

fear of failure

Steve Jobs – Apple

Steve Jobs was once considered a failed businessman.

He was fired from Apple, a company he created.

After his failure, he launched a new company Pixar which went on to become a huge success.

At the same time, Apple started failing.

And he was brought back as CEO.

Steve Jobs once said, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

Walt Disney – The Walt Disney Company

fear of failure

Walt Disney, the mastermind behind one of the most beloved brands, was once fired for “not being creative enough.”

So he created his first business Laugh-o-gram Studios.

It went bankrupt.

He eventually went on to win 32 Academy Awards.

When reflecting on his failures, Disney said, “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid. I’ve never had the feeling I couldn’t walk out and get a job doing something.”

Mary Kay Ash – Mary Kay Cosmetics

fear of failure

Mary Kay became an entrepreneur during a time where it was unacceptable to have women in the workforce.

However, after her failed marriage, she needed to support her three children.

And she had no skills.

She found a position as a salesperson and was eventually promoted to National Sales Director.

However, she struggled to move beyond this role.

And her male assistant was making twice her salary.

So she quit.

With $5000 to her name, she bought a skin care recipe, opened a storefront and launched her first business.

Her first nine employees were her friends.

At the end of her first year in business, she had made nearly $200,000.

By 1979, her public company had made an astonishing $100 million.

Mark Kay Ash has said, “For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.

Next Steps For Making Progress in Business

fear of failure

Don’t let fear kills your dreams.

Whether it’s taking the first step in starting a business or moving forward with your brand’s marketing, you’re ready to do this.

Write down your goal for today. Even if it’s small.

Like creating an ad.

Writing a blog post and sharing it everywhere.

Reaching out to influencers.

Or finishing your website for launch.

Don’t stop working until you finish today’s goal.

Once you’re done, plan out tomorrow’s goal.

And then do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

Focus on the baby steps.

And as you become more confident, start setting higher standards.

Achieve bigger goals.

There’s something special about you.

You’re ready for success.

And everyone knows it.

Launch your first store today.

If you ever feel like giving up or need some encouragement to get you through the day email me at nicole.ferreira@oberlo.com, leave a comment here on Oberlo, or send me a message on Twitter @nicolemarfer and I’ll send you some encouraging words or a ‘you can do it’ gif.

If you loved this article, don’t forget to SHARE it!

Have you experienced fear of failure? How did you overcome fear of failure in business. Let us know your story in the comments!


  • Crystle Coleman

    Great article. Thank you!!!! I am working on a new venture and really needed something like your article to give me inspiration.

  • Nicole

    Thanks so much Crystle! If you ever need motivation while building your store contact me anytime!

  • Rogel Rosas

    Amazing post!!!! really great content and accurate way to give some positivism out there!! I really enjoy reading this post. Thanks for it Nicole

  • Nicole

    Thanks for the feedback Rogel. If you ever need inspiration, feel free to send me a message. Sending positive vibes your way! Hope you have an amazing day!

  • Rowel Tancio

    Sitting at a library reading this.. felt like I was elevating of the ground, I’ve had 8 months of hardship but this has really shown me how much a person like you can make an impact on how to face fears and failures and how to overcome it. That word I will always say to myself “How can I embrace sunshine without the dark cloudy days”


  • Nicole

    Haha, thanks Rowel! Glad you found it helpful. I’d imagine the past eight months have been challenging but I’m confident you’ve got what it takes to find the light at the end of the tunnel. While experiencing hardship it can feel like the end of the world. But once you overcome it, you realize how strong you are, how great you are at overcoming adversity, and how you did whatever it took to make your dreams come true.

    I like the phrase you say to yourself. Mine is ‘What can I do today to make tomorrow a little better?’ It’s less about making tomorrow a great day, especially since some challenges and hardships can be too overwhelming to solve in a day. It’s about taking the baby steps for making each day a bit easier to deal with.

  • clem4jesus

    Great content, Nicole!!! Already archiving this article.
    I opened my first Shopify store(trial versions) in April, 2017. I have not made any sell yet; but, I’m beginning to learn that focusing on marketing and customers is the key to huge sales. I hope to cross this huddle soon. I’ll PM you, Nicole. Permitted?

  • Nicole

    Thanks! It took me a while to get my first sale when I opened my first store too. You’re right, a marketing and customer centric focus is how you start getting sales. You need to put your brand out there to find your audience. Whether it’s Facebook ads or guest blogging or influencer marketing, there are so many ways to find new customers. But you need to go all in with at least one method. Your first attempt at a Facebook ad might fail but if you keep testing and trying it out you eventually start to get better at it. It takes patience and time. I think you’ve got it in you to get your first sale but also your 1000th. You can contact me with any questions anytime.

  • Mattyboy1965

    I needed that, thanks Nicole! I’ve been trying to crack this E-Comm thing (Amazon FBA, Shopify, Click-Funnels, Affiliate Marketing, etc.) for nearly a year now (but with little success so far) since being made redundant in May last year aged 51 (and also now currently a full time carer for my dad, since his recent stroke).

    Failure isn’t an option for me especially in my current situation so I have to push on, and your article was just the motivation and reminder I needed. Thank you. 🙂

  • Petra Kershaw

    I have an intense problem with what I call “Impending doom” and its really holding me back. I truly believe that I have the traits that it takes to become a successful financially stable person and yet there is this block which does include fear of failure but also when I feel overly happy or confident, I then quickly get this panick in my gut that says “Oh oh…” It’s also what I call “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. I think it comes from somethings in my childhood but not sure. I just want to finally get rid of it! I’m 55 years old and still struggling financially, sensely and needlessly. I’m even willing to undergo ECT to eliminate this problem because I do believe it is also related to depression, which I am diagnosed with having for most of my life. I appreciate any feedback! Thanks,

  • Petra Kershaw

    How do you REALLY know what to sell? I mean I have a store now, since June with no sales and now I want to capitalize (pun intended) on the upcoming holidays so I want to start another store without a specific “niche”. I just don’t know what to sell. I think my ideas are wonderful but will the rest of the world???? I know there are no guarantees, but I can’t go on with no sales and only dissapointment. I guess trial and error. I have things I’m passionate about I’d like to sell but I’ve read not to do that.

  • Nice one. Keep moving on fellow store owners who started on June! You will never know, maybe the right moment is just on the tip of our fingers now. click that place order button on your ad now. the onlyway to drive traffic although there is no conversions. ADS
    A friend in FB may like your page but will ignore you, a family may buy from you, but finding the real customers is through ads and its only ads. SeO do it as part time.
    Ads make it full time. I like window shoppers in my store. I like watching visitors growing up 200 from 20 per day. With ads against no ads. numbers don’t count. but visitors are precious! They may buy or not. its business as usual..
    Online Gmall 6 sales in 2 months.

  • Nicole

    I responded to you via email Petra!

  • Nicole

    Family is so important. It’s amazing how you find the time to work on an online business while caring for your dad. My aunt in Portugal was caring for my grandmother for four years – it was her full-time job. Taking care of a sick parent can be extremely exhausting. Yet, you’ve still got the motivation to succeed which is inspiring. If there’s anything you ever need help with, my email is listed in the article. You can contact me anytime! You’ve got this!

  • Tala Baba

    I was about to give up after spending lot of money on facebook ads, I will continue chasing my dream to be free from working for someone else have the freedom to do what I want..

  • Mattyboy1965

    Thank you for your kind words Nicole. Dad isn’t too bad (it’s mainly just his memory mainly at the moment) and still manages to be self sufficient (up to a point). I’m very fortunate that he only lives 5 minutes up the road from me so I “commute” to his house every day and work out of his study (now kind of my office).

    As I said earlier failure is not an option for me as at the age of 52, when my father finally no longer needs my care (which will hopefully be not for many years yet), and despite 20 plus years as a marketing professional, I will no doubt be “unemployable” as far as any corporations are concerned.

    This really is the only way forward for me ad so I must make it work. Thank you for your kind offer of help at any point (it’s much appreciated) and I may very well take you up on the offer at some point.

    In the meantime, keep the motivational articles flowing!

    All the best,

    Matt 🙂

  • Jack Patel

    after an absence of 10 years I have restarted my health supplement business, initially it was easy peasy with my brick and mortar shop but now with internet I am finding it difficult.I have some body doing my shopify store,but not really happy

  • Shaheer Ali

    I can relate to this a lot! Thank you so much for writing this, amazing and very positive and constructive post! Looks like i will spring back into action very soon now!

  • Petra Kershaw

    I’ e reading all the comments and thanks Nicole! However, I really haven’t gotten any feedback from anyone who has had that same feeling of “impending doom” or “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. In other words, “when things are going really good for me” I get this tightening in my gut and the a “Oh oh, what’s going to go wrong or bad?” hits me. I”ve lived this all my life and I’m tired of it. So tired that I’m considering something drastic like ECT because it has been that debilitating in terms of achieving success. I feel I have alot of all the other ingredients, but this DEMON won’t leave me, I can’t seem to let it go! Thanks in advance!

  • Nicole Martins Ferreira

    Hey Petra, I imagine it’s difficult living with anxiety. I sometimes get anxious thinking things will go wrong too. I tend to overthink situations on a regular basis. I’m not sure of the right solution to your problem, I highly recommend reaching out to a health professional as they’re more qualified to give you the help you’ll need for your specific situation.

  • Nicole Martins Ferreira

    Thanks Shaheer! Have you sprung into action yet?

  • Rokas Golcas

    Great collection of quotes, loved the article!