Fear of Failure – Atychiphobia
Have you ever been so scared of failing that you convince yourself you will fail, and don’t make the attempt?
Perhaps the thought of failing fills you with such panic, that to fail would be so much worse than giving it your best shot? Rest assured, you are not alone. There are many people whose thoughts of failure dominate their mind and they feel trapped in a no-win situation.
So how does someone become atychiphobic, or fearful of failure?
What causes this fear or dread?
Sometimes it has its roots in childhood, when someone puts the child down when they are attempting something new or different. Most of us have heard disparaging, cruel or demeaning comments directed at a child or an adult, which are supposedly constructive yet are purely critical, even if they have not been directed at us.
This verbal abuse or ridicule may have come from Mum or Dad, grandparents, siblings, teachers, babysitters or caregivers, and as we age, anyone from bosses, colleagues, academics and peers may contribute to the issue. Emotions kick in and overwhelm, thoughts of defeat run rampant and it is natural to shy away from having to endure another experience that leaves one open, vulnerable and defenceless.
Often the person suffering from fear of failure has an underlying anxiety or panic disorder, and when not treated, this contributes to those fears of failure. Sometimes there is a parent or sibling who suffers from anxiety or the fear of failure, and the child may learn these behaviours from a young age. When someone is anxious, they may easily conjure up anxious thoughts and feelings, worrying about looking foolish, being seen as an idiot or not good enough.
Success? You’ve got to be kidding!
The thought of success carries no positive weight at all against the over-riding thoughts and feelings, so many people have elected not to take a promotion, not to compete, or not to perform. They limit themselves and what’s even harder for them is they know that they are not living up to their full potential.
In our society as it stands today, success is often a measure of a person. It should not be, but it is. For many people, success is a way of demonstrating one’s personal self-worth and being successful therefore gives meaning to one’s existence. By not challenging defeat and going for success, life may then lose meaning both personally and professionally.
NO, I have to be PERFECT
To make matters worse, perfection is something else that our society often clamours for, and perfection is often synonymous with success. To fail would seem to suggest that one is less than perfect, so the afflicted sufferer ask themselves “why bother?”
Put into an untenable situation, or even the thought of one, the person suffers the usual symptoms of phobia, such as pounding heart, sweaty palms, dizziness, hyperventilation and feeling frozen or as though they are about to faint. Perfection of course, is not realistic, however that has never encouraged someone with the fear of failure
Help is available and fear of failure can be treated. It’s extremely important to understand that you are not the sum of your achievements and that you are a valuable and worthwhile person through your very existence, simply because you are you.
Treatment for Fear of Failure
Meditate on allowing the possibility of being able to change, for if I don’t attempt therapy for fear of failing the treatment, then it’s highly unlikely I can change how I feel and think. This is a pity, because there is mountains of research on the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnosis, and Mindfulness to reduce anxiety, relieve stressful thoughts and increase positive mindsets.
As Henry Ford would say, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you are right”. Take on board the following sayings, repeating them often and meaningfully while imagining the best pictures you can, and notice if there is a difference to how you feel:
“I am perfectly imperfect and so is everyone else, so that’s okay”
“I always do the best I can with the knowledge and internal resources I have at the time, and so does everyone else, so that’s okay”
“All it takes is practice. Positive mental practice combined with positive physical practice leads to accomplishment.”
“I make at least 4 attempts before I quit because I know that the first time, my head is filled with negative chatter which affects how I feel and perform. The second time, my head is thinking a little clearer and I take more in. The third time I know what is going to happen and can reassure myself that I can do it. The fourth time means I can focus on what needs to be done and every time, it gets easier and easier.”
After all, a baby learning to walk holds on, falls over, gets up, takes a step, holds on, falls over, gets up, takes a step or two and all the while everyone cheers the baby on. The baby actually does nothing more than be a true testament to their own existence.
What if I took the same approach to anything new? I wonder what would happen? Perhaps I would develop resilience, that attitude of keeping on going, of pulling myself up to my feet and taking another step?
Perhaps I would build small successes on top of each other and gradually learn something.
There is no failure there is only feedback
That’s right, feedback. Feedback isn’t about what’s right or wrong, good or bad, it’s about making adjustments – straightening feet, or bending knees, or holding tummy muscles tight. It has nothing to do with success and everything to do with mindset and attitude. Does the world really end if the baby falls over? I think you know the answer to that one. Give it a go and figure out what you can do differently. Praise yourself for the attempts, and cheer on your own internal bub.