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Fear of Failure Part I

Does fear of failure exceed your motivation to succeed?

Understandably no one likes to fail. But it’s a normal part of life. While everybody experiences failure, for some people failing presents a psychological threat. This fear gives rise to behaviors that unconsciously sabotage their chances to succeed.

Tied to shame

Feelings of frustration, regret, disappointment, anger, confusion and sadness can come from failing. Even though unpleasant, these are not sufficient to prompt a full blown ‘fear of failure’. The phrase is actually a bit misleading because it’s not failure itself that’s the main cause of unhealthy behaviors. When you look closer, a fear of failure comes from a fear of shame. Those who have this fear are motivated to avoid failure, not because they can’t handle the negative emotions that result from it, but because failure makes them feel shame as well.

A threat to our wellbeing

Shame is a toxic emotion that will threat our wellbeing. It’s because instead of feeling bad about our actions or efforts, it makes us feel bad about who we are. It hits us at the very core: our identities and our self-esteem. Its damaging effect triggers those who have this fear to avoid psychological threats by unconsciously finding ways to lessen the implications of a potential failure.


In psychology/therapy references, fear of failure is called atychiphobia. It’s the cycleof negative thinking, the intense worry, and the paralyzing hesitation to take action because of all the imagined horrible results that could happen when a goal is not achieved.

This fear influences the types of goals you set, the kinds of approaches you use to achieve them, and the level of standards you set as measures of success.

Researches in this field propose that fear of failure is multifaceted. Its cause is not only fear of shame but can be deep-seated. It can go as far back as childhood experience/s. Some who have this intense fear may have harsh parents who constantly criticized them. Others may have one unpleasant, yet unforgettable, experience where they had given a presentation or performance and failed.


Among the many toxic behaviors that arise from this fear, one stands out. People who have this fear create difficulties and hindrances in advance, a process called self-handicapping, to undermine their efforts to achieve a goal. They can then blame the obstacles later rather than themselves. For instance, they schedule the sales appointment at lunchtime when the prospective client is probably busy. Then, they can attribute the failed potential sale to having never connected with the client.

Another example, when there’s a big project, they tend to procrastinate so that in the event the project fails, they can blame it on the “lack of time” rather than on themselves. This intense fear triggers them to find a scapegoat they can conveniently blame to protect the self. This starts a chain reaction of avoidance behaviorsthat ultimately lead to actual failure.

In the end, this fear could cause even bigger problems that affect their physical and mental health. Oftentimes, they feel emotionally spent, experience fatigue and low energy, experience hopelessness and chronic anxiety, are more dissatisfied with their lives, and their performance in the relevant fields becomes worse.

Leverage Fear

To conquer fear of failure, take advantage of failure. Use that fear to steer you to take action.

It helps to expect a good outcome but to not be attached to it. Some goals require determination and focus. Others, however, require flexibility and openness.The ability to redefine and reassess the outcome of what you want to achieve safeguards you against fear of failure.

Ultimately, what makes you fearless (and resilient) is not the fact that you don’t experience fear, but that you are confident that you can dealwith the consequences of your actions. It helps you become immune to this fear as well.

Here to help

Do you have difficulties in dealing with this fear? Book an appointment at Jarvis Hypnotherapy. Our doors are open to help you.



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