Overcoming fear of failure

Getting through the tough stuff

Overcoming fear of failure

1 min read

Te Mana Whakahaere



Cultural Identity


Healthy Lifestyles

When you commit to study, fear of failure sometimes comes with the territory. Maybe you’re learning something new. Maybe you’re the first person in your whānau to have pursued higher education. Maybe you’re feeling extra pressure because of the visa you’re on or others’ expectations. Maybe you’ve got a lot on your plate. Maybe you left school without any qualifications or it’s been a long time since you did any study. 

Whatever is contributing to this fear for you, just know you’re not alone. Fear of failing or letting others down is something we all worry about sometimes. The key is to not let these worries hold you back from giving things a go. He rā anō āpōpō – remember, tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, another chance to try again.

Victoria stands at her workplace in front of a colourful mural painted onto a water tank, smiling into the distance

“For someone doubting themselves about their study, I would just say go for it. Go for it! The rewards at the end are just awesome.”


Certificate in Health and Wellbeing

Tips for overcoming your fear of failing or letting others down

Name it to tame it

Naming what you’re feeling is a powerful way of putting things in perspective and understanding how certain fears might be holding you back. The bottom line is that your feelings are normal, human and valid.

Reframe failure

Failing can feel scary, as many of us have grown up thinking it’s a bad thing but most people (including some of the most successful people in the world!) find they learn more from their failures than their successes. Thinking in new ways about failure gives your brain time to stretch and grow – and frees up valuable headspace for new learning, making you much more likely to succeed. He iti hau marangai e tū te pāhokahoka. Just like a rainbow after a storm, success follows failure. 

Adjust your expectations

Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? Have you taken on too much work? Set realistic goals and be proud of yourself when you achieve them. One of our ākonga gave some great advice about this: “Don't aim for perfection, aim for your best.” – Carmina, Grad Diploma in Information and Communication Technology

Be kind to yourself

Failing isn’t fun but it’s nothing to be ashamed of and it doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again. Make a list of five things you like about yourself and go back to it when you need a boost. Remember, it’s normal to have doubts and it takes time to figure things out – you will get there. Believe in yourself.

Try new things

Whether it’s seeking advice or trying new study techniques, courses, and strategies,  working on your weaknesses in brave new ways might feel uncomfortable at first but it’s an awesome way to overcome your fears.

Do something you’re good at

Turning your attention to something you’re already good at for a little while will help rebuild your confidence and remind you of your strengths.

Give it a go

If something new feels intimidating, break the task ahead into bite-sized pieces and see how you get on. A small step is still a step forward.

Talk to someone

Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Reach out to someone you trust, ask for help from a tutor or mentor, or talk to support services – people want to help you and want to see you succeed.

Follow your dreams

Whāia e koe te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei. Pursue excellence – if you stumble, let it be toward a lofty mountain. This whakataukī is about challenging us to pursue our dreams and our goals. We will all stumble at times, and when we do, it should be while we are working toward achieving the things that mean the most to us so we can learn, overcome and keep going.

Advice from other ākonga (learners)

Draw from the experience of people who have walked in your shoes. You are not alone.