3 Things Entrepreneurs & Leaders need to know about Fear and why you’ll never feel fulfilled if you don’t understand them

If there has been one emotion that has held me back more than any other, it’s fear. I also know that unless you understand your fears and move past them, they will hold you back.

My mother’s fearfulness shaped my belief that the world was a frightening place. It took me a lifetime of learning to understand this didn’t have to be true for me. Unless that is, we make it so.

Fear is a misunderstood sensation that greatly influences our decisions, behaviours, and lives. With over three decades of experience as a psychotherapist and coach, I recognise the profound impact fear has on our lives.

At the heart of our fears lie two primal apprehensions: the fear of rejection and the fear of failure. These stem from: 

Fear of Death: The Ultimate Fear

Existential psychology posits that the fear of death is the foundational fear from which all fears emanate. This dread is not solely about the end of life but about what it signifies: the cessation of existence, the unknown, and the ultimate loss of control.

This existential fear is a universal condition, a silent undercurrent influencing many aspects of human behaviour and thought processes. It’s this confrontation with our mortality that often leads us to seek meaning, purpose, and connection in life. For more on existentialism Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir

The Primal Fears: Rejection and Failure

When it comes to our psychological makeup, two fears stand out: the fear of rejection and the fear of failure. These seemingly distinct fears are significantly influenced by our earliest experiences and intertwined with our existential concerns.

The Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection is as primal as fear gets, originating from our innate need for social belonging and acceptance. The fear can often be linked to childhood experiences of rejection, whether from family, peers, or significant others.

These experiences show us that we must do everything possible to avoid the painful reality of rejection. This fear can take on different manifestations, like social anxiety, risk avoidance, and constantly seeking approval.

Children who experience rejection might develop a heightened sensitivity to the opinions and actions of others, perceiving rejection even where it may not exist. The fear of being cast aside can result in defensive and cautious behaviour patterns, which can hinder personal and professional relationships.

Recognising that past fears can distort our perception, making us see rejection instead of acceptance and isolation instead of community, is the challenge here.

The Fear of Failure: Stemming from a Lack of Empowerment

The fear of failure closely relates to feelings of competency and self-worth. This fear often stems from not being empowered during our formative years.

Children who experience overprotection or unfair criticism may develop a belief that their abilities are inadequate, their efforts are never enough, or failure is intolerable. This lack of empowerment leads to a fear of being seen as less than others. Sometimes it leads to a reluctance to take risks, and a tendency to abandon easily in the face of obstacles. They will pretend to be uninterested or move on to something more important to conceal their embarrassment and shame.

The level of empowerment in childhood greatly impacts our response to challenges and setbacks as adults. If we’re not encouraged to explore, fail, and learn from our mistakes, we start thinking that failure means we’re not good enough, instead of seeing it as a normal part of learning and growing. This fear of failure can cripple our ability to innovate, hold us back from pursuing our goals, and prevent us from fully realising our potential.

Responding to Our Fears

Understanding the origins of our fears is the first step toward addressing them. Understanding that our fears of rejection and failure may stem from early experiences and existential concerns allows us to approach them with compassion and insight.

The next steps involve actively working to reframe our fears, understanding that rejection and failure are not only inevitable but essential components of a rich, engaged life. Some, but not all of these include:

Strategies for Overcoming Fear Include

Creating a supportive environment

Cultivating Self-Compassion

Seeking to understand the root causes

Healing the wounds impacting you NOW

Cultivating A Growth Mindset for the freed YOU


The fears of rejection and failure, while deeply rooted in our existential dread of death and shaped by early experiences, are not insurmountable. By confronting these fears with understanding, compassion, and strategic action, we can move beyond them to lead lives defined by courage, growth, and resilience.

As a psychotherapist and coach, I’ve witnessed first-hand the transformative power of facing our deepest fears. In doing so, we not only free ourselves from their grip, but also open the door to a life of greater meaning, connection, and fulfilment.

Next time… How to deal with these fears

Sarah Banks