How To Stop Feeling Like A Failure

Guest Post by Joanna Warwick of Grown Up Kids Only 

You have your big dreams

You know where your want to get to, you know what you want to be doing and you’re ready to take some bold leaps to change your life.

You’ve read lots about how to do it, you feel inspired and the time has come.

Then you go to take action and …you bottle it!

You’re cross and frustrated and can’t stop berating yourself for feeling afraid, for being inadequate, for being such a failure!

Firstly let me assure you, you are not alone in these feelings.

I know, I’ve been there and honestly still occasionally it happens, because I always want to grow and be bigger and bolder in my life.

Secondly what if I told you there is a natural explanation as to why you feel this way and it has nothing to do with being flawed.

My most recent experience of feeling this way inspired me to write this post.

I am a surfer. I live by the sea and I would say I’m pretty in love with everything to do with the water and never happier than when I am in it.

Except recently for 6 months I wasn’t able to surf due to injury. I had hurt my neck and back and I needed to take some time out to get my skeletal structure back in place where it’s meant to be. So ultimately I could once again be strong and healthy.

It took help from others and so a quick note of recognition is necessary to my chiropractor and masseuse who are both truly wonderful healers in helping me back to health.

A month or so ago I was signed off to surf again, but instead of rushing back into the water, I held off. I made up excuses to myself to delay the inevitable, because I was scared; scared that I would get hurt again and that I wasn’t strong enough.

Eventually I got back in, I chose a day when the surf was small and clean so I could take it gently and gradually build up my confidence again. I was surprised to realize that my fitness was better than I expected and with a few surfs I was bouncing back.

After a couple of weeks I was invited by some friends to a different beach with heavy surf. Going for a party-surf, as it’s coined, is fun; as it always is to play with like minded people. I so wanted to join in and be a part of it.

It wasn’t great weather though and the surf was big, messy and windy. As we stood on the cliff looking down all I could feel was my stomach sloshing around like crazy with fear. They were all still going in and I didn’t want to be left behind.  So I shared how I felt, then ignored it and carried on getting ready.

I would not be beaten by fear!

As we began paddling out my mates were looking out for me, but I told them to go on without me (I’m fine, I can do this alone!) Of course the good old universe knew better and soon another mate was also struggling to paddle out next to me.

So together we stopped, reassessed and headed further up the beach to a rip, which would suck us out back like an elevator. Neck and neck, she and I got closer to the others, the waves parted and the way ahead was clear. With that my fear shot up a notch and I bottled it!

I splashed around a bit in fury for being so silly. Thoroughly beating myself up for being weak!

However later on, having heard my mates shared experiences they all informed me that it had been tough, one even said it had been the worse surf she had in years and with a little bit of reflection, it all became clear and I was reminded once more.

My instinct had been right. I wasn’t wrong. I had been right to feel fear.

I had been in contact and surrounded by the chaotic energy of the wind, rain and sea and my instinct told me it was not safe.

We live a world that is so geared up to pushing ahead, achieving, being busy as though life is a race to keep up with other people that we often ignore and forget not only our inner wisdom, but our animal instinct.

It’s simple; fear is there to alert us to DANGER…

And there are two behaviors which contribute and increase fear.


When we isolate ourselves and try to BE STRONG and do it all alone, we will get scared. It’s in our evolutionary makeup, to be part of a pack, just like all other mammals to keep safe from danger.

Isolation equals exposure to danger.

On that day I tried to isolate myself, I didn’t want to be a nuisance. I was able to step out of that by sharing my fear and not trying to hide my feelings, however I didn’t allow myself to be supported by those around me, as we paddled out.

When we do allow ourselves to be seen and supported by people we trust we always achieve more and overcome our fears.


When we rush to move forward or make changes, out of sync with how we really feel deep down, fear will leap up. As children many of us were taught to hurry up, keep up and please others and therefore not listen to our intuition that says what is right for us as individuals.

To feel secure in who we are and what we do it is essential to understand our own individual natural pace and move in harmony with it.

There is no shame taking your time to work things out.

A bold life is not based on always taking big bold steps, it about taking brave small steps, always moving forward and building the confidence to do bigger and bolder things

Ignoring Animal Instinct

As I experienced in the surf that day my body knew best. For fear of missing out I tried to push myself, too much, too soon and ignore what my body was telling me.

On an instinctual level I knew that physically I wasn’t fully ready for heavy surf, I would be out of my depth and unsafe.

My friends are all extremely fit and experienced surfers and even though I have surfed for 9 years, I had not surfed for 6 months. I had taken a step back and I needed to acknowledge the level I was at now. To give myself a break and have a bit of patience and recognize it was OK to listen.

What would I have missed out on?

I didn’t fail by stopping. I just wasn’t quite ready for the next level.

By acknowledging my vulnerabilities, I could give myself what I truly needed to move forward and be ready; a little more time and practice.

The same goes for you, in wherever you’re getting stuck in your life.

So before you beat yourself up for failing or being inadequate, you need to check out that just because your head says you’re ready, you might not actually be ready in your body or soul and that should not be ignored and maybe you need to take a step back to re-check, so that you can move forward when it’s the right time.

Or perhaps where you think you want to be boldly leaping too isn’t actually right for you and that your instinct is telling you this and you have not been listening.

Danger comes in many forms and your instinct will always tell you even if your eyes or desires see something different.

When the time comes and you are ready to try again aim to take smaller consistent steps instead of big leaps and I promise you will feel totally confident in your choices and exhilarated by your actions.

Remember; small steps are the building blocks to bold changes.

Jo Warwick is a writer, energetic healer and an accredited counselor specializing in human development based in the UK. Her blog ‘Grown-Up Kids Only’ is dedicated to new style of adulthood. It's about embracing freedom, confidence, inner-strength, courage, love, commitment to personal values and above all having fun and adventures; because fun is NOT exclusive to childhood. For your free copy of Seven Simple Steps for Overcoming Fear in Everyday life 

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  • Vidya Sury September 3, 2012, 6:42 am

    πŸ™‚ It is true that the fear of failure prevents us from spreading our wings and flying, Jo. So we even spread our wings…but won’t make the effort to flap them. I’ve learned most of my life lessons from children – who never hesitate to try again, no matter how many times they don’t succeed. Somehow, that attitude takes a backseat as people grow up.

    Thank you for a great read. Thank you, Tess.

    Love, Vidya

    • Jo September 3, 2012, 11:17 am

      Hi Vidya,
      thank you for you lovely comments and yes I would agree children are great at teaching us what we need to remember as adults and be braver.

  • Leanne Regalla September 3, 2012, 7:12 am

    Love this, Jo! What a great story!

    It can take a lot of reflection and experimenting to know if our fear is just normal nerves to stepping up bigger or a true danger signal. I think we get better at identifying these different kinds of fears with practice. But first, I had to have people in my life who supported me in trusting my inner voice, because I spent a lot of time in my young adulthood ignoring it.

    Love your point about not doing it alone, not wanting to be a bother. Another something that with time I’ve definitely gotten better about. πŸ˜‰

    • Jo September 3, 2012, 11:22 am

      Hey Leanne,
      thanks for the love πŸ™‚

  • Bill Apablasa September 3, 2012, 10:17 am

    Loved your post Joanna. I liked how how you talked about “the natural pace and harmony of our decisions.” Because of our fear of the unknown, and our own own uncertainty, it seems as if we’re always trying to rush through life. And as you so aptly put it, “there is no shame in taking your time to work things out.” Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jo September 3, 2012, 11:18 am

      Thanks Bill…

  • Elle September 3, 2012, 10:26 am

    Great points Joanna. Sometimes baby steps are all we need to be bold. Sometimes just being kind to ourselves, is what we need. Sometimes not pushing is the boldest move we can make. And taking the time to slow down and listen to our inner guidance could very well be the boldest thing we can do in that moment.

    Thank you and Tess for the reminder that boldness can take many forms.

    Love Elle

  • Jo September 3, 2012, 11:20 am

    Thanks Ellie, I so agree sometimes slowing down is the boldest move we can take – I wish I had said that ! πŸ™‚

  • Paige | simple mindfulness September 3, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Many of your wise points here, Jo, are things that it took me years to learn, mostly through my yoga practice. There are no deadlines or competitions. We do our best every day and that best will be different every day. We need to listen to our bodies more than our heads.

    Whenever I’m feeling rushed to do things, I’ve started asking myself, “Who made up that deadline anyway?” Life doesn’t have a finish line to race toward. It’s a series of experiences so we might as well make the most of each experience as it comes. Enjoy the present moment without fear of what future moments may bring.

    I continue to see so many correlations between surfing and yoga. I’m so looking forward to trying surfing.

    • Jo Warwick September 4, 2012, 5:37 am

      Hi Paige, thanks for your comments. I am also an avid fan of yoga and it iwll definitely be a good foundation for trying surfing !

  • Galen Pearl September 3, 2012, 1:39 pm

    Perfect post for me today! I just spent the weekend exploring my discomfort with a particular situation. My discomfort and fear make me want to rush to act, which is really about trying to control the situation, which really means trying to control things outside myself that I can’t control! Just listening to my inner voice and being with the discomfort is sometimes so hard. Your examples are in a different context, but I can relate so well. Good reminder for me today. Thank you.

    • Joanna Warwick September 4, 2012, 5:45 am

      Thanks Galen…;)

  • Ali September 3, 2012, 7:53 pm

    Hi Jo
    I needed to hear this today…a reminder to trust my gut instinct and pace myself so I’m not overwhelmed and fearful. Thank you.

    • Jo Warwick September 4, 2012, 5:41 am

      Hey Ali, thats so good to hear – always trust your truth within..;)

  • William Veasley September 4, 2012, 9:41 am

    Jo: Nice to meet ya and I am glad you got back on your surf board! I was watching the movie “A thin line between love and hate” and when Martin Lawarence fell off a horse he was riding, he was told get back and back on the horse because if he quit then he would have given into fear.
    I have felt like a failure for much of my life because I had never made in real progress in overcoming my stammer. I gave up, gave into fear and thought I would never talk fluently, but I just need a ray of light and the right therapist. I did not give up and now I am actually starting to feel different about speaking. I do not know what I would do without my therapist.
    Sometimes I believe we just need a little help and encouragement from a pure heart.

    • Joanna Warwick September 4, 2012, 11:25 am

      Thank you William for sharing your story and it is lovely to hear that you found the right person to help you grow stronger – keep going πŸ™‚

  • Victor September 4, 2012, 10:49 am

    This post really spoke to me, Tess! Thank you for the inspiring message. I particularly liked what you said in your post, “It’s simple; fear is there to alert us to DANGER…
    And there are two behaviors which contribute and increase fear. Isolation and Rushing.” I can totally relate to this when I am met with resistance or things aren’t working as I wish they had. Your message is a great reminder to get up and going and keep pressing! Thank you! πŸ™‚

    • Joanna Warwick September 4, 2012, 11:27 am

      Hi Victor, Thanks for lovely comments and Im glad you enjoyed my post and it hit home for you.. Jo πŸ™‚

  • Sophie Lizard September 5, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Awesome post, Jo!

    So often we hear messages like “feel the fear and do it anyway” without the correct context. It’s nice to be reminded that a fear, once understood, can be used to guide us out of danger.

    Your surfing experience illustrates that nicely, as well as the point that fear is not a reason for shame, only a reason to seek understanding.

    • joanna Warwick September 6, 2012, 10:05 am

      Thanks for the support Sophie! πŸ™‚

  • Debbie September 5, 2012, 3:18 pm

    Very will said Jo. Fear can make you stronger when we listen to it. When we hit it head on without thinking we can run into a brick wall or as you say the wrong wave on the wrong day.

    Taking those small steps can make a big difference in getting over the fear and surviving the fear. For me i like the small step as you say and surviving the wonderful life.

    Life is a journey and when we take it slow, but steady we get where we need to be.
    Thanks for sharing your surfing experience.

  • Makuchala September 10, 2012, 2:02 pm

    LOVE it nans! xoxo
    ~Makuchala πŸ˜‰

  • Helen November 15, 2012, 4:28 am

    I needed to read this so much right now. The expectations I have set for myself are so high that I am not behaving in a way that is helping me get where I want to be. Super ironic. Because the feedback I am getting on my behavior clearly shows me my goal is getting further away! Taking it slow and enjoying the process speaks loudly to me. being humble and curious and celebrating small wins will be my approach from now on. And reminding myself I am not in a race (that is my mind construct) and instead be alert for the nice waves and enjoy the surf just because its fun, not because someone is watching and certainly not to get somewhere else.

  • Sara January 15, 2013, 7:00 pm

    Thank I was really depressed be4 reading this ; it really open ma mind to a lot of thingss

  • desteny February 25, 2013, 11:59 am


  • Rory March 28, 2013, 8:57 pm

    I really needed to read this too ..
    amazing how google can lead you to inspiring blog posts like this!
    I too suffered an injury to my neck and back which stopped me swimming- which I love. I also couldn’t work and had to go back to college and change profession.. But iit is fear that is the worst- fear can take over. But fear is also positive sometimes because it is instinctual and it is telling us that there is danger.. I then got panic attacks, depression- anxiety- you name it! The whole nine yards as they say. I think that slow and steady is good- you are right, from the time we are kids we are pushed and rushed, and very little is in our control… and by the time we reach adulthood- we don’t know when to stop, or pause or half the time even reflect and make a decision!… “small steps are the building blocks to small changes” ! .. Great advice..and I will take it with me..


  • Spaniard Lady January 15, 2014, 12:22 am

    Thank You for this!
    I was searching online for something, i don’t even know what I was looking for exactly, but when i opened this page, i just felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Just knowing that the feelings i was feeling at the time are normal and learning to accept them for what they are helped so much, but then providing us with what were to me motivational quotes…thank you. I am 19 and last year i withdrew from a university i was attending. I didn’t finish my first quarter because I knew deep down that it wasn’t for me. I chose to go to this university because my eldest sister had gone to school and really enjoyed it, yet deep down I always knew that I did not want to niether live somewhere far from home or stay in a dorm. I ignored those feelings and sort just went through the motions. In the end i just couldn’t take it anymore after only attending the university for only 3 months. I just realized that this just was not for me and it was defitnetely not what i wanted to be doing, i just never gave myself time to listen to my inner self and instincts that were telling me repeatedly that I was going to attend this university for the wrong reasons and that it was not meant for me.
    Thank you again

    • Tess January 15, 2014, 7:17 am

      I’m so happy I could help you. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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