Daily #22: Atychiphobia

The above word is another way of describing a fear of failure. It is something that I believe everyone struggles with to extent. It’s one of the most debilitating fears out there, and only avoids being catastrophic because one simply can’t avoid facing it.

If someone has a phobia of spiders, for example, they can fairly easily avoid spiders. Of course, they’ll come across them occasionally, but even if they do, they can quickly make themselves scarce. If you live in a country such as the UK, where there aren’t that many spiders around, chances are your arachnophobia isn’t going to prevent you from going through your day-to-day tasks.

However, failure is such a broad term that it’s almost impossible to avoid it. And for some people, even the most miniscule thing can count as a failure in their head – hence the existence of social anxiety. For instance, missing a deadline at work is a form of failure. It’s pretty straightforward – one failed to reach a goal they had. But there are also things like smiling at someone on the street in a weird way – for some people this feels like they ‘failed’ at this social interaction.

Thus, failure is unavoidable even if you’re just trying to get through the day. Paradoxically, if one decides to do nothing all day, thereby avoiding any situations where one could fail, the entire day equates to a failure as nothing was achieved.

So, someone who has a fear of failure will be constantly facing their fear, and that can wear on the mind – as if, say, spiders blocked someone’s front door as they left for work, and their car, and covered their computer keyboard. It’s no wonder that some people are just nervous all the time.

And the fear can manifest in different ways – someone may not be worried about missing a work deadline, but may be worried about embarrassing themselves in public. So rather than just ignore and avoid this fear, it’s one that you just have to learn to deal with.

Of course, some people don’t, which leads to conditions like agoraphobia, and more severe generalised anxiety. Dealing with a fear of failure can be difficult, as it doesn’t give one much time to relax. It’s like constant exposure therapy.

The amount of impact atychiphobia can have on one’s life also depends on how they react to actual failure. Many people dread failing, but once it actually happens, they are remarkably effective at dealing with it. They can then either realise that what they’re worried about doesn’t impact them as much as they thought, or fall back into the same cycle of worry. It’s similar to worrying about getting a jab as a child, only to find out it’s not so bad after having it done.

However, much of this fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The dread that’s built up leading up to a failure is then realised, with the sufferer blowing it out of proportion. The fear then multiplies as they believe it’s just as bad as they were worried it would be.

I’ve suffered from it, and I think that in the right context, everyone fears failure. One can’t avoid it, so how one deals with it determines how much it affects their life. However, I think we’re all glad that we come across fewer spiders than failures.