Fear of Failure

Baby always wins

How your ‘inner baby’ can fix your fear of failure: rediscovering the innocence and fearlessness we felt when we were young can help us live a more free, liberated existence, writes Neil Patel

The human ego is the only reason we know of ourselves as individuals. The ego gives you the sense of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Without it, you cannot refer anything to yourself.

When you were a baby you were hardly aware of your own ego. You existed, but you didn’t really know you existed.

You couldn't refer to failure as you failing. You experienced it objectively. Almost as if it were just some random failed attempt by something or somebody else.

You certainly didn’t take it personally. You barely knew you were a person at all! You didn’t know what you were!

And it didn't matter that you failed to walk and talk a hundred times before you were effective. To be honest, you never really stopped and thought about it. Can you remember analysing yourself as a baby?

It didn't even matter that your failures were sometimes a source of entertainment for your family’s laughter and pleasure. In fact, you actually enjoyed the attention (and, as a toddler, when you figured out what made them laugh, you sometimes even did it on purpose!).

You were pretty innocent. You were close to your soul then. And although you had the same ego you have today, it was underdeveloped and your awareness of it was minimal.

You were like an animal in that way: animals have very little ego awareness or self-consciousness and therefore feel less embarrassment than us. That is why you see those ‘funny’ videos of animals chasing man-made riddles like a ball on a piece of string — they are not egotistical enough to care about how ‘silly’ they look. And why the little old rich lady can dress her poodle in a hideous red tartan dog jacket and the poodle carries on as if nothing in the world has ever changed.


But as we get older we begin to notice ourselves more.

The mirror doesn't exist from 0-13 years old for most humans, but after the teenage years hit, suddenly you notice yourself in it. And others notice you. And the self-conscious hypersensitive side of the ego is born. You suddenly exist to the world! And that’s scary.

Now we have a situation.

If you have confidence instilled in you from somewhere, you still don't care how many times you fail, or fall! You still think like your little baby-self with regards to self-consciousness. Although you do have an ego to refer to, you don't care when people laugh innocently at your mishaps, or even when people tell you to stop doing something because you’re ‘no good at it’ — it’s like water off a duck’s back. You try again anyway!

Sometimes that inner confidence expresses itself in a slightly twisted way, as arrogance or narcissism, but whatever the case may be, at least you get through without a fear of failure for the time being. You will have to deal with the arrogance later!

Or you become so engrossed in yourself that your fear of failure begins to stifle you.


You freeze whenever a desire challenges you to behave in a way that may lead to failed attempts. For example, the baby trying to walk becomes the adult wanting to do a salsa dance class, but stops in fear of looking like they have two left feet!

You freeze simply because others may get to know what you’re doing and laugh at you, or consider you inadequate in some way. But remember, as your baby-self you’ve clearly proven that you can learn things despite failing incessantly — whilst also being the source of slapstick comedy for people five times the size of you!

Back to basics

Now imagine yourself back as a baby again. Imagine you cared that much.

Imagine that you were so conscious of yourself that when an adult laughed at your babbling speech and even copied it back to you, you thought: 'Right! Well I shan't be doing that again if you’re going to mock me!'

Or when your sibling pushed you off the sofa you were gripping onto, trying to walk, you thought: 'That was mean! I'm only eight months old, how dare you! I am not walking whilst he's around!'

Imagine how slow your progress would be. You may still be babbling and crawling around the carpet at your parent’s house!

But you didn’t do that did you? You cried a bit when your bottom hit the floor (and adults laughed whilst picking you up) but you tried again and again.

The mentality of an adult who lives with a fear of failure is that they stop themselves from growing because of what they think failure means — both to themselves and others.

They also think that if they do decide to try something, which they are not fully comfortable with, that they should be sheltered from laughter and criticism during that time. The truth is that everyone can relate to failure because everybody has failed at one point or another, so it’s not headline news to them.

Yes, a few people may make a joke out your failings, but it’s rarely vicious. It’s mostly just their humour. And you should remember their motivation is not evil. A vast majority of people will pay little but a passing interest in your failings. Most people have a lot more important things to think about than you!

The only thing that actually cares about any of your failed attempts is your own ego. Your soul doesn't care one iota.


Baby always wins

Look at the baby, it’s close to its soul. It has its objectives and it will do everything to achieve them – milk, food, sleep, change nappy, play, walk, talk – whatever! It always wins. Baby always wins.

It is only the ego that develops the crushing pain, dejection, rejection, shyness, self-abuse and ultimate self-destruction that shrouds you from a happy and successful experience of life.

It is not your soul. Your soul is fine! You are fine.

Go back to innocence. Go back to fearlessness. Look at it all very simply again. Just like when you first learnt to walk. Let people laugh. Let them talk. Let them even try and stop you! But if your desire is wholesome, legal, safe and fairly sane — then absolutely go for it!

If you continue with a fear of failure in any area of your life remember that little baby you once were, and remember how brave you used to be.

As I often teach: If success is at the top of a ladder, failures are the rungs that will get you there.


Neil Patel, founder, director and grandmaster at Chi Kri Yoga (chikri.com)

Neil Patel

Neil Patel comes from a long family linage of yogis. He has run Chi Kri Yoga in London for the last 31 years.