How do you react to failure?
“Failure is a transitory passage that prepares you for your next success”. This sentence from Denis Waitley seems particularly ridiculous to you. For you, every trial has been a failure, and today, you seek to avoid them absolutely. The risk of failure particularly anguishes you, and you have difficulty understanding it and getting rid of it. Take the time to understand what failure means to you.
- What is atychiphobia?
- Why am I afraid of failure?
- Genetic Factor
- Traumatic Factor
- Educational factor
- Personality Traits
- What are the symptoms of a failure phobia?
- Physical symptoms
- Psychological symptoms
- What are the impacts of failure phobia in life?
- Who are the people most affected by atychiphobia?
- What therapies can I use to treat my fear of failure?
1. What is atychiphobia?
Atychiphobia is a particularly strong, irrational and persistent fear of failure in the different dimensions of life (professional and personal). Nowadays, this anxiety is growing and more and more people are affected by this phobia. Indeed, social networks are vectors of a semblance of “perfection” and make people feel less self-confident because they have the impression of not being up to par. Like all phobias, this anxiety seems to take a particularly important place in your life. A place that you do not wish to give it.
This anxiety will push the anxious person to avoid situations that might put him or her at risk. The person then protects himself a lot and does not want to feel the same sensations as those which could be felt in the past in these situations. The person will not put himself in any situation that he is not sure of succeeding, and therefore limits himself in many of his activities. The person will think that, although they try, they fail because they are particularly unlucky.
One thing leading to another, the person will perceive only failures. They will devalue themselves a lot, and will leave defeatist. They do not feel capable of carrying out tasks and enter a vicious circle of devaluation, and thus a behavior that will push the person to failure.
2. Why am I afraid of failure?
There are many different reasons why a person fears failure. The factors can be genetic, traumatic, educational, personal characteristics or due to other disorders.
If one of your parents suffered from this same anxiety, it is possible that it could come from there. According to the theory of vicarious learning, we tend to imitate behaviours that seem to make us feel safe, protective or appropriate. So, if you see your mother or father dealing with failure very poorly, or avoiding situations that might set him/her up for failure, you will tend to copy that same behavior.
Remember that presentation you gave when you were younger, and all your classmates laughed at you, and the teacher gave you a bad grade even though you felt you had done your best. What violence!
It is possible that an event, harmless or not, conscious or not, caused you to feel anxious in these situations. The failure may have been perceived as a real trauma, and the violence of the event that you may have felt comes back each time. It is therefore normal to avoid these situations which reopen a wound that has not yet healed.
A child’s education can determine many things about him or her. It can explain certain fears, certain character traits…
A parent who is very demanding of his child expects a lot from him. It may be that when you bring home a 9/10, your parents ask you what your mistake was or how much Paul, the best in the class, got. It may be that when you did something that wasn’t perfect in their eyes, you felt like you were reading the disappointment in their eyes. You felt like you weren’t living up to their expectations. You felt like you should have done better. You were not satisfied with yourself, and became very demanding yourself. But by being demanding, you only see the failures.
On the other hand, some parents can be devaluing. When you did something, your parents tended to tell you that it was not good enough, that you had to do better, that you were not good enough or good enough. They could make you feel like you were just a disappointment. They punished you a lot, they didn’t value you to others. This can have a big impact on your anxiety. If you never do well enough, then you would rather not do anything at all.
Perfectionist personalities tend to suffer more from this phobia of failure. Indeed, when one is a perfectionist, one tries to always do better. To know if it is perfect, the negative elements are much more retained than the positive elements. But it is difficult to value ourselves when we only put forward the negative elements.
- Comparing ourselves to others
Within your family, your friends or your entourage, you often compare yourself to other people. You always feel that you are doing less well than them, and your goal is to always be the best. You may notice that you are jealous of others, and that it is harder for you to achieve your goals.
Managing your emotions seems complicated: joy is in the extreme, so is your sadness. When an event occurs, your emotions are exacerbated. Hypersensitivity is not a pathology, but it can be limiting or disabling because your emotions are the filter for your interpretation of your life.
This difficulty in accepting failure may be due to the fact that you have other disorders such as generalized anxiety, mood disorders, sleep disorders, social anxiety etc. All of these difficulties are factors that will make it difficult for you to manage your emotions, and those that you may feel in the face of failure in particular. To your anxieties, you add the one of wanting to be perfect, the one of always succeeding, or the one of not leaving room for the unexpected. But failure is part of the learning process, and therefore part of the success process.
3. What are the symptoms of a failure phobia?
Each phobia is perceived and experienced differently by each person. What you feel is unique to you. However, there are common symptoms that are often found in a majority of people, whether they are physical or psychological.
When you find yourself in a situation of failure, or when you are at risk of finding yourself in such a situation, your body can send you certain warning signals. These signals may include an increased heart rate, breathing difficulties (increased speed or feeling of suffocation or tightness), hot flashes and sweating, abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness, tremors, etc.
A person who suffers from anxiety related to failure will tend to devalue himself a lot, and thus have a strong feeling of inferiority. Sometimes this feeling is so strong that you feel powerless in different situations. As time goes by, you anticipate this fear, and you are in constant fear, going so far as to be able to generate a generalized anxiety in you.
You also find that you lose all notion of control and that you lack mastery in these situations. It is particularly distressing for you to realize that you are not in control of all situations. Your main thought is therefore to flee. You look for any way to get out of this environment that makes you feel so small and powerless. You feel like you are going to pass out, and you feel like a spectator to this life and situation. Sometimes it takes time to recover from this situation.
4. What are the impacts of failure phobia in life?
This phobia of failure is particularly limiting in everyday life. It drastically reduces one’s ability to act, to dare, and to engage in new activities or new encounters.
It is not uncommon then that, consciously or unconsciously, you self-sabotage. Indeed, you prefer not to start something, rather than taking the risk of failing later. You thus enter a vicious circle where you are convinced that failure is part of you. You lose confidence in yourself. You have low self-esteem. You do not feel worthy of your abilities and of others. You are in constant fear of disappointing others, you are in fear of their judgment, which will be harsh, and you fear losing them if you persist in being someone who goes from failure to failure.
You find that others are so much better than you, and are so afraid of losing them, that you start avoiding all social relationships. You gradually become isolated, and suffer from this isolation.
Moreover, it is particularly difficult for you to place yourself as a leader of a group. You also have a tendency to procrastinate on tasks, especially those that might set you back.
5. Who are the people most affected by atychiphobia?
Everyone can be affected by this anxiety related to failure: children, teenagers and adults. As early as childhood, the youngest may have a great fear of failing at school. As we said above, it is possible that people who are pushed by an overly demanding environment (parents, teachers, siblings…) are particularly sensitive to this difficulty related to failure. It is therefore very common for the person to become very demanding of him or herself.
6. What therapies can I use to treat my fear of failure?
It is important not to let yourself be overwhelmed by this fear of failure. Talk to a health professional so that he or she can give you the best possible guidance. A psychologist can help you manage your emotions and guide you towards serenity in these situations. You must dare to take your chances, to learn to do things step by step and to move forward step by step.
For this, cognitive-behavioral therapies are particularly effective in the treatment of failure phobia. The Virtual Reality Exposure Therapies are part of this dynamic and will allow you to expose yourself to different anxiety-provoking environments in a progressive manner, to apprehend your fear in the face of anxiety, to work on the tools of acceptance of failure and management of anxiety (the ACARA system for example), while analyzing the limiting thoughts and reprogramming them. Through these therapies, you will pay particular attention to understanding what worries you about the risk of failure.
Little by little, you will become aware that failure does not define you, it is not a value, but a step that allows us to move forward. It is therefore important to learn to live with failure because there is no success without failure.
To distance yourself from this fear of failure, you can write a small “positive notebook“. Our brain focuses mainly on the negative elements and therefore on failures. Unfortunately, we are naturally pessimistic. Take the time to write down and highlight all your successes and all your daily pride. Thanks to this, you will train your brain to retain more positive elements. A success is not necessarily being the winner of a marathon. A success is what you consider to be good. You may have succeeded in making a recipe, in catching the cake you missed, in putting your child to sleep easily, in going to a place with full consciousness etc.
Finally, it is important to do daily exercises as well. Do relaxation exercises to work on letting go. Do mindfulness meditation to accept all sensations and live in the moment more easily. It is also important to do breathing exercises as well, such as cardiac coherence. To have more control over yourself, your body and your thoughts, you can also do sports or yoga.