One of the most common and deadly fears people have is the fear of failure. And this fear in particular has dire consequences:

It creates a life where every decision is clouded by the terror of making a mistake. Where opportunities are left unexplored because the risk of failure looms too large. A life shackled by the fear of failure leads to stagnation—professionally and personally. Even your relationships suffer because a fear of failure prevents you from being your true self. Living with this fear for too long means never truly knowing the full extent of your capabilities or the depths of who you are.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?

When you liberate yourself from the gripping fear of failure, you view every setback as a stepping stone to something greater. Your relationships improve because you show up as your true self. Your career takes off because you’re no longer shackled by this pervasive fear. And by embracing failure, you unlock a more adventurous, spontaneous, and fulfilling life.

It won’t be easy—it takes time and effort to address and overcome this deep-seated fear. But it’s possible.

In today’s episode, you’ll discover where the fear of failure comes from, and even more, how to use both modern and ancient wisdom to overcome it and live a more fulfilling life.

Listen now.

 Show highlights include:

  • Why attaching your value as a person to your success and failures is a recipe for fear and disappointment (4:54)
  • The Buddhist monk’s secret for overcoming your fear of failure (7:38)
  • How striving for happiness keeps it out of your reach (and how to find joy without searching for it) (8:24)
  • 2 simple, yet wildly effective ways to find peace and fulfillment within yourself right now (even if you haven’t achieved everything you want) (10:37)
  • 4 exercises to help you directly engage with different parts of yourself and understand why they manifest as fear and anxiety (14:34)
  • The daily “Radical Self-Acceptance” practice that not only enhances your personal relationships, but also deepens your relationship with yourself (18:55)
  • How to become more aware of your intrusive thoughts and transform them into positive ones in just 5 minutes each day (20:06)
  • The dire consequences of living a life controlled by your fear of failure (and how it bleeds into every aspect of your life) (26:15)
  • How embracing failure improves your relationships, boosts your attractiveness, and infuses your actions with a sense of purpose and freedom (27:17)

    Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to take this quick quiz to access my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at now.

For more about David Tian, go here:

    Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:


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Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.

David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. In this episode, we’ll be digging into the fear of failure. Now, obviously, this is common, but why is it so important? If you don’t get a handle on your fear of failure, you’re going to miss out on opportunities that will just slip through your fingers, potential that never gets fulfilled, and perhaps the toughest pill to swallow, you might never feel truly worthy of unconditional love. Without overcoming this fear, achieving a sense of significance, certainty, love or connection will always seem just out of reach. [00:52.8]

There’s a prevalent myth about the best way to deal with this fear, which is to just barrel through it. Power through, right? This approach is flawed on two fronts. First, if you fail, you’re just hammering home those same fears even more. It’s like picking out a wound that never fully heals. On the other hand, if you succeed, you’re actually still in danger. Why? Because it reinforces the destructive belief that your worthiness for love or in connection hinges solely on your success.

So, stick around as we dissect this myth, unpack what’s really going on with our internal narratives about failure, and provide you with actionable strategies to truly free yourself from the shackles of fear. By the end of this episode, you will not only understand the detrimental impact of not confronting this fear properly, but you’ll also have the tools to start making significant changes in the way that you perceive failure and success. Conquering your fear of failure isn’t just about avoiding negative outcomes. It’s about opening yourself up to a life where you feel worthy, truly worthy of love and connection, regardless of the highs and lows. [02:05.1]

All right, so let’s dig deeper into understanding the roots of our fear of failure. This fear often sprouts from the ground of perfectionism. And where does this perfectionism stem from? It’s usually rooted in a profound fear of not being worthy of love and connection. Using the IFS therapy model—that’s the Internal Family Systems therapy model—we can explore how different parts of ourselves contribute to these feelings.

For those unfamiliar, IFS is a transformative and empathetic approach to psychotherapy, and it’s an evidence-based practice. That is, it’s been proven through multiple studies. IFS therapy recognizes the multiplicity of the mind. Simply put, it suggests that our psyche is made up of various parts, each with distinct roles, emotions and viewpoints.

In the context of the fear of failure, let’s consider the parts that push us toward perfection. These parts are often trying to protect us. They believe that if we can just be perfect, then we won’t be vulnerable to criticism or rejection. [03:08.3]

Then there are what are called the exiled parts. These are the aspects of ourselves that carry intense feelings of shame or pain. They often feel not good enough for love, and these painful feelings don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They’re usually conclusions that are drawn from painful childhood experiences.

Then there’s the True Self. This is a central concept in IFS therapy. The True Self isn’t a part of us. It’s our core Self, embodying qualities like calmness, curiosity, compassion, connectedness. It’s like the wise leader of our internal family. When you strengthen your connection to your True Self, you start to cultivate a grounded sense of worthiness that doesn’t rely on nailing every target or being affirmed by others. [03:56.3]

To bring this to life, let’s look at a real life example. Consider Sam, a guy I worked with who always felt like he was under a microscope, driven to be the top of his class, the best in his job, perfect in every way. During our sessions, we discovered that his relentless strive for perfection stemmed from his childhood, of course. Growing up, Sam’s parents were emotionally distant, only showing approval when he achieved something notable. This pattern taught him a dangerous lesson: his worth was dependent on his achievements.

Through the therapeutic process, we began identifying and speaking to different parts of Sam. We met his perfectionist part, always on edge, fearing failure. We also met the exiled part that held the deep-seated shame, feeling inherently unworthy of love unless he was perfect. By facilitating dialogues between these parts and between these parts and Sam’s True Self, he began to understand that his value as a person wasn’t tied to his successes or his failures. [05:00.0]

As Sam got more practice and experience staying in the state of his True Self, his Higher Self, he found that he could approach life with more curiosity and less fear. This shift didn’t make him immune to failure, but it changed how he responded to what he thought were setbacks at the time. Mistakes or failures were no longer a threat to his self-worth and he was able to see that, in fact, they were opportunities for growth and learning, and some of the best ways for him to learn. His relationships improved, too, as he no longer sought validation through achievements and was able to connect with people more authentically as a result.

Okay, so how can you start to reconnect with your Higher Self and address these parts of you that are driven by fear or shame? First, it’s about recognizing that these parts exist in you and understanding their positive intent. They’re not your enemies. They’re parts of you trying to protect you, based on old scripts and wounds, though. [06:04.6]

The next step is to cultivate the qualities of your Higher Self, like curiosity, compassion, and connectedness. The more you can stay in the state of your Higher Self, the more all of your parts will be helped. When you feel the stirrings of fear or the push to be perfect, pause. Go inside and reflect. Bring in curiosity. “Why is this part so active right now?” you can ask yourself. “What is it trying to protect?” Show compassion if you can. Acknowledge the fear or shame that this part is holding and do it without judgment, and connect with the part. Remind it that it’s not alone, and that you in the state of your Higher Self is there to lead.

Reconnecting with your Higher Self and transforming your relationship with failure doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey. But every step forward is a step away from fear-driven perfectionism and towards a life where you will feel genuinely worthy of love and connection, no matter your achievements or your material success, or your mistakes or failures. [07:11.4]

Now, I’m going to do something that I haven’t done consciously yet in this podcast series, which is to weave in some ancient wisdom here from ancient sources, specifically, here, Buddhist and Daoist sources, to illuminate how our attachments, especially to outcomes, lead us right into the arms of suffering and fear. I find it fascinating to see how these ancient philosophies intersect with modern psychological insights and I hope you do, too.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a revered Buddhist monk once said, the root of suffering is attachment. He was, of course, here repeating a common Buddhist principle. This simple yet profound statement sheds light on why we experience so much fear of failure when we cling to the idea that we must achieve certain things or maintain certain relationships in order for us to be happy or worthy. We set ourselves up for fear and disappointment, and are in denial and continue to be in denial of the very nature of life. [08:07.7]

Attachment doesn’t just refer to material things, of course. It can also be our attachment to an outcome or a specific path of success. On this theme of the impermanence of life and of our own lives, Daoist philosophy, specifically, ancient text, the Zhuangzi, has a lot to teach us. The Zhuangzi speaks about the importance of flowing with life’s natural rhythms, embracing change, and the inevitability of impermanence.

One of my favorite passages goes, “Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.” It’s about finding joy not by forcing conditions to be a certain way, but by adapting and flowing with what life presents. These teachings from the Zhuangzi perfectly encapsulate the ancient Daoist view that life is constantly changing, and suffering arises from our resistance to this natural flow. Imagine how liberating it would be if we could approach our fear of failure with this mindset. Instead of dreading change, we can embrace the possibility that comes with each new challenge or setback. [09:10.7]

Now bringing back in the Buddhist perspective, the teacher Pema Chödrön offers a powerful take on dealing with our inner turmoil. Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves. This teaching urges us to look inward for peace and fulfillment instead of seeking it through external achievements. This internal balance is crucial when we deal with fear of failure.

By cultivating self-compassion, we allow ourselves to experience setbacks without harsh judgment, viewing them instead as opportunities to learn and grow, in fact, perhaps the best opportunities to learn and grow. The lessons that are seared into our minds that we learn at the deepest levels are the ones we’ve earned the hard way through going through the mistake and reflecting. [09:59.0]

Lin Yutang, a notable figure in the last century who bridged Eastern and Western philosophies, also speaks to this. He said, “The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Our fear of failure often comes from over valuing things that in the grand scheme don’t contribute to our true happiness or self-worth. By focusing instead on what truly matters, our compassion or personal growth, our ability to love and connect with others, we can minimize the fears that arise from not achieving or losing superficial measures of success.

So, how do we integrate all of these teachings into our daily lives? It begins by recognizing that our self-worth isn’t tied to our achievements or to our relationship status. We can find peace and fulfillment within ourselves right now by practicing mindfulness and compassion. It’s about seeing that impermanent nature of our experiences and learning to flow with them, not against them. [11:02.8]

In practical terms, this might look like observing when you feel attachment rising, especially when you’re focused on specific outcomes. At that moment, offer kindness to yourself. Acknowledge your effort and accept whatever result comes your way. This practice doesn’t mean you stop striving to achieve goals. Rather, it means you don’t let the fear of not reaching them end up governing your life.

By embracing these principles, you start to see failure not as a terrifying end, but as a natural part of your journey through life and growth, a part of the ebb and flow of life. You learn to appreciate the process itself rather than just valuing the outcome. This shift can profoundly change how you approach every challenge and opportunity you come to. [11:50.8]

No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.

Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.

Learn more about this transformational program by going to

That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.

All right, let’s roll up our sleeves and get practical. How do we take these deep insights from Buddhist and ancient Daoist philosophies and make them work in our daily lives? How do we help those protective parts of ourselves that are so afraid of failure understand that your Higher Self is well equipped to handle life’s ups and downs? [13:04.8]

Here are just some actionable strategies that you can start applying today. This is not a comprehensive list, but just to get you started. First, we’ll look at mindfulness. This isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a powerful tool. Mindfulness practices, like those found in DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) can be incredibly effective. I teach a lot of these in my program, Emotional Mastery. These practices teach you how to stay present and engaged, observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Let’s say you’re starting a new project and you feel that familiar wave of anxiety about failing. Instead of letting that anxiety take you over, you take a moment to practice mindfulness. You focus on your breathing, notice where you feel the anxiety concentrated in your body, observe it without trying to change it. This simple act can help reduce the intensity of your fear and bring your Higher Self back into the driver’s seat. [14:02.1]

Journaling is another fantastic tool. It’s something I recommend often because it provides a safe space for your protective parts to express themselves without fear of judgment. You can start with a prompt, like “What am I really afraid will happen if I fail?’ or “What does my protective part want me to know?” Writing down these thoughts can help you understand and reassure these parts that you and your Higher Self is capable and resilient, more than able to handle the setbacks.

Now, let’s look at some specific meditations and self-dialogue exercises from Internal Family Systems therapy. These are designed to help you directly engage with different parts of yourself. A simple exercise to begin with involves visualizing a recent moment when you felt fear of failure. In your mind’s eye, separate yourself from this fear and sit down with it as if it’s another person, because, after all, it’s a part of you that’s holding that fear. [15:00.8]

You can ask this part questions like, “What are you trying to protect me from?” and “What do you need to feel safe right now?” and “What is it that you want to share with me, or want me to know or understand?” This dialogue can create a new understanding between you and your protective parts, helping them to trust in the strength and wisdom of your Higher Self.

Ideally, you would be having these dialogues led by a professional therapist who is trained in these models, but you can also give it a try on your own, and at the beginning, many people derive some benefit from that. These techniques aren’t just about coping. They’re about transforming your relationship to fear and failure.

By regularly engaging in mindfulness, journaling, reflection and dialogue, you invite your protective parts to relax and gradually integrate with your system and your Higher Self. This integration doesn’t erase the fear, but it changes how you respond to it, making you more resilient and open to life’s full spectrum of experiences. [16:08.1]

Now, moving forward, let’s look at how we can nurture real sustainable love and connection in ourselves. This isn’t about finding something outside of ourselves to complete us. Instead, it’s about cultivating it from within, and this ties, of course, beautifully into the framework of Internal Family Systems therapy.

In IFS, again, the True Self plays a pivotal role. Think of the True Self as the core of your being, your Higher Self, the core that embodies qualities like compassion, calmness, and clarity. It’s from this center that we can truly meet our own needs, and by extension, form healthier connections with other people. Why is this important? Because the only one who can consistently and fully meet the needs of our own parts, those aspects of ourselves that might be wounded or fearful, is our True Self. [17:00.3]

If we’re looking for someone else to fulfill our needs for love, acceptance or significance, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. No one can do that for us, especially on a permanent basis. It’s not fair to them and it’s not healthy for us. Sustainable love and connection come from a place where we love and accept ourselves first. It’s about filling our own cup and letting our relationships complement rather than complete that fullness.

Let’s dive deeper into how this works with IFS. Each part of us has its own desires and fears. Some may be desperate for love, because they hold memories of not being loved enough way back then. Others might fear connection because they associate it with pain or betrayal—and here’s where the magic of self-love and acceptance come into play. By turning inward and fostering a nurturing relationship between you, your Higher Self, and your parts, you begin to heal these wounds. You teach these parts of you that they are already loved and accepted unconditionally by the most constant presence in their lives: you. [18:09.3]

This self-love is not a one-off event. It’s a journey, an ongoing process of engaging with yourself in a compassionate, accepting way. It’s about making a daily commitment to sit with your parts, listen to their concerns, and reassure them. Imagine doing this every day. How grounded and secure would you feel in your own skin?

Now, when you interact with others, you’re not driven then by a neediness or lack that someone else needs to fill for you. Instead, you engage with them from a place of fullness. Your relationships then become healthier, more balanced and genuinely connected, because they’re not burdened with the impossible task of keeping your emotional ship afloat. [18:54.7]

Here’s a practical action that you can do each day. Spend a few minutes in meditation or quiet sitting reflection, checking in with the parts of yourself that you’re aware of, especially the one that has the fear of failure. Ask these parts how they’re feeling and what they need from you right now. Then from the space or state of your Higher Self, respond to these parts with kindness and reassurance, with compassion, courage and confidence. This feeling can prompt in you the state of radical self-acceptance and can ground in you self-love, and prepare you to interact with other people in a more open and healthy way.

The beauty of this approach is that it not only enhances your personal relationships, but more importantly, deepens your relationship with yourself. You become more self-aware, more resilient, and more capable of navigating life’s natural ups and downs. As you continue to practice self-love and radical self-acceptance, you will find that the love and connection you experience with others become reflections of the love that you hold within you for your own parts. [20:05.8]

Alongside these practices, I can recommend also some Buddhist and Daoist ancient practices, and these are practices that have stood the test of time through thousands of years. Let’s start with mindfulness breathing. This is a fundamental technique in Buddhist meditation. It’s simple, yet incredibly powerful.

Here’s how you do it. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus solely on your breathing. Feel the air enter through your nostrils, filling your lungs, and then leave your body through your mouth. Slowly leaving through your mouth. When your mind wanders, as it will, gently guide it back to your breath once you notice your mind wandering.

This practice isn’t about stopping thoughts. It’s about observing them without attachment or judgment. Doing this daily, even just for five minutes, reduces anxiety and centers your mind, helping you face potential failures with a calm and clear perspective. [21:11.3]

In my previous podcast series, The DTPHD Podcast, I’ve devoted many episodes to the benefits of meditation, so I highly recommend, if you’d like to get my take on it, that you dig into those. I also provide many meditations—I think I’ve done over 100 now—meditations of my own in my courses and programs like Emotional Mastery, Freedom U, and Lifestyle Mastery.

It’s important to remember that these practices are not a quick fix. They require commitment and consistency to get the benefits, but the benefits are profound. By cultivating a calm and resilient inner state, you not only improve your own life, but also enhance your interactions with others, leading to more meaningful and successful relationships, both personally and professionally. [21:58.8]

Now let’s delve into some real stories, case studies of people who have navigated their fear of failure through the therapeutic processes of IFS therapy and Buddhist meditation or Daoist principles. Okay, take the story of Alex, for example.

Alex was a high-flying tech entrepreneur, whose identity was tightly wrapped around his business successes. However, the pressure to continuously perform at peak levels was crippling for him at the time that he came to me. When he found me, he was going through a particularly tough phase when it felt like his fear of failure was dictating his life.

Through the therapeutic process, I was able to help Alex identify and communicate with his perfectionistic parts that were deeply entrenched in fear of failure. At the same time, I had Alex begin practicing Buddhist mindfulness meditation. Each morning, he would spend time simply observing his breath, watching his thoughts come and go without attachment. This practice helped him gain perspective on his intrusive thoughts of failure and imperfection. [23:02.6]

He also engaged in meditations on impermanence, reflecting on how his previous successes and failures had come and gone, which instilled a profound understanding that no single failure could define his self-worth. Alex’s journey took a significant turn when he embraced the concept of Wu Wei, the ancient Daoist idea of effortless action. Instead of striving to control every outcome, he learned to take actions aligned with his Higher Self and let go of the rest. This shift didn’t mean that he stopped working hard, but instead that he worked from a place of aligned flow without forcing outcomes.

As Alex’s journey unfolded, he discovered his Higher Self, calm, curious, compassionate, and connected. He learned to give himself the same unconditional love and acceptance that he sought from his achievements and external validations. This profound internal shift allowed him to approach both his personal life and his entrepreneurial ventures with a sense of authenticity and fulfillment that he’d never experienced before. [24:08.8]

Here’s another example. Let’s call him Jordan. Here’s another man whose life was defined by an all-consuming drive to be perfect in every role. For Jordan, it was as a father, as a husband, as a business owner. Jordan’s fear of failure made him rigid, unable to appreciate the moments of joy that sprang from the very roles that he said he valued.

Through the therapeutic process combined with daily practices in mindfulness and meditations on impermanence, Jordan began to loosen the grip of his perfectionistic parts. He learned to see his efforts as fluid, ever-changing and impermanent, which significantly reduced the stakes that he associated with every potential mistake.

Over time, Jordan found that he could act from a place of flow, of Wu Wei, engaging in his roles with passion and dedication, but without the attachment to perfection. This realization that he could embrace whatever came his way without fear of failure led to a richer, more rewarding life. He now enjoys a level of engagement with his family and a passion for his work that comes from a place of deep, authentic fulfillment. [25:16.6]

Notice that I didn’t get too much into the childhood roots of their fear of failure, because you can actually grow out of this debilitating fear of failure through coaching, through therapeutic coaching. Psychotherapeutic psychoanalysis helps to understand the sources and roots of it, but it’s actually not necessary. With the right daily practices, you could actually grow out of an immature place of the fear of failure, of perfectionism.

Let’s quickly recap the major points that we’ve covered in this episode. We explored the deep roots of the fear of failure, often tied to a relentless pursuit of perfection that can stem from not feeling inherently worthy of love and connection. We’ve delved into the transformative principles of IFS therapy, along with ancient wisdom from Buddhist and Daoist traditions, highlighting how practices like mindfulness, meditation on impermanence and non-attachment and Wu Wei can radically alter our approach to failure and success. [26:14.8]

Now I want to hammer home the dire consequences of a life shackled by the fear of failure. It’s a life where every decision is clouded by the terror of making a mistake, where opportunities are left unexplored, because the risk of failure looms too large. This kind of life leads to stagnation, not just professionally, but also personally. Relationships suffer as you hold back your True Self, and personal growth stalls as you avoid new experiences and challenges. Ultimately, living under the constant shadow of failure can mean never truly knowing the full extent of your capabilities or the depths of who you are, especially your resilience.

On the flip side, picture a life liberated from the gripping fear of failure. This is a life where every setback is viewed as a stepping stone to greater understanding and mastery. It’s a life where relationships are enriched, because you engage authentically without the pretense of perfection. Professionally, it’s a life where innovation and creativity can flourish, because the fear of failure no longer holds you back. [27:16.7]

Embracing failure as a natural part of the growth process leads to a more adventurous, spontaneous, fulfilling life. Imagine moving through life with the confidence that comes from knowing that you can handle whatever comes your way, not because you’ll never fail, but because you know that failure is just part of the journey, not the end of the road. This mindset doesn’t just change how you approach goals. It transforms how you live every day, infusing your actions with a sense of purpose and freedom.

Remember, the journey to overcoming the fear of failure isn’t about never failing. It’s about changing your relationship to failure. It’s about recognizing that every failure has the potential to teach us, shape us and propel us forward. It’s about building a life where your worth isn’t measured by your success or failure, but by who you are, and the love and connection that you can give to yourself, and more specifically, from your True Self to the various parts of you. [28:14.1]

Thank you so much for listening. If this has helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it. If you’d like to come on as a guest and do some coaching work with me, and we can feature some of that on the podcast, then write to and let us know a bit about your background and what issues you’d like to focus on, and we’ll see if we can hook up a time that the two of us can talk and we can put some of that on the podcast.

If you liked this, then hit a like or hit subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening to this on. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then David Tian, signing out. [28:49.7]

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