We’re all afraid of something. Falling, dying, getting sick, losing all your hard work, never finding love.. The list goes on. We walk around this planet holding these fears, and a lot of the time they don’t hold us back too much. Scared of falling? Don’t try balancing up high. What about getting sick? Eat healthy and respect your body! How about dying alone? We have tinder for that now. There are rational and easy fixes, or distractions for a lot of our big fears. But what about fears that are more overlooked, like the fear failure?
Fear of failure is also known as Atychiphobia; the abnormal, persistent, and unwarranted fear of failure. Sound familiar? Familiar yes, but that doesn’t mean we all suffer from Atychiphobia. Every human has a normal amount of doubt when it comes to their own ability. If you are the exception who is always 110% sure you will succeed in all things you do, then great!
So back to the discussion around the target audience who aren’t hugely successful and are in fact living quite a quiet and restricted life, this one’s for you.
What causes the fear of failure?
Think of a time way back when, a time when you were perhaps traumatized or embarrassed. Maybe you had demanding parents, or successful older siblings to look up to, maybe you were the older sibling feeling the pressure to be the role model and good example. Were you part of a big group of friends at school? Major and minor events in our lives distinguish how we look at challenges in the now, and if we decide to view them as positive or negative. But it doesn’t stop as kids. We are catapulted into adulthood without much preparation and now we lay in full view societal expectations, what we do for work, our relationships, our personal education, even our culture comes under the microscope.
Symptoms of Atychiphobia
No one likes to fail. It’s not like I ever rushed to tell my parents got detention or failed my exam at school. I was embarrassed initially. So while failing can give you surface feelings of frustration, sadness, anger and disappointment (maybe even regret), the bottom line those initial temporary feelings are not usually enough to trigger an actual phobia. They are simply reactive to the situation. With Atychiphobia the feelings are more intense and the psychological threat to one’s own self-worth and motivation is damaging long term.
- Extreme mental anxiety
- Digestive issues
- Muscle tension
- Panic (short rapid breathing, dry mouth, sweating, nausea)
- Complete avoidance
Trying comes with one of two outcomes, success or failure. These symptoms will usually arise in an atychiphobic person when they are asked to do something they have not done before, or a task they know they will not be 100% successful at. The mental process becomes very clouded and cluttered, with the feeling of fear (of failure) paralyzing the person or causing them to break down. When this form of fear is left untreated it grows, worsening over time causing a drastic loss in motivation, self-confidence and generally depression will follow if it wasn’t already present to begin with.
How to treat Atychiphobia
Because this type of phobia has no universal proven cause, treatment will vary on individual cases. Overcoming this phobia is all down to the individuals will and determination to move past it which isn’t easy. The human mind has spent years creating its own system, spending time making all these triggers, and created a negative routine way of thinking. Going in there and changing that shit up is not going to be a walk in the park. Just as I manage depression I know I need to be nice to myself, but my mind is not used to it and an unwanted battle of stubbornness occurs within. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is about changing your thought process, which in this case is an effective tool to use to better cope with situations deemed frightening or likely to fail. There is no need for pharmaceutical medication, as these mask problems not cure them. Counselling and therapy are the most popular options, and for someone who sees a therapist every week I can definitely say yes therapy helps, it is a long road but a road I am willing to walk it.
Today I am grateful for the first blue sky in weeks.