The clinical name is atychiphobia. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve got it—the fear of failing.
Psychologists tell us we develop atychiphobia due to a major embarrassment that occurs as the result of a minor failure. I can name a few. How about you?
People who develop a fear of failure become paralyzed. They may even sabotage their own success by coming up with excuses as to why they can’t do what’s expected of them. It’s not uncommon for people to fake an illness, to quit a job, to end a relationship just so they won’t have to face failure.
I see it quite often in my kiddos at school. Some of them are at the top of their class; some of them just struggle to get by.
The ones at the top take every honors class and work themselves into a frenzy to get an A. Yet they rarely take a risk. Isn’t that what honors classes are designed to do—provide opportunities for the brightest of the bright to explore new horizons and to think new thoughts? Who said every step had to be perfect? Whatever happened to trial and error?
The ones at the bottom, on the other hand, don’t try at all. It’s easier to save face just by saying, “I didn’t try.” It’s much harder to say, “I couldn’t do it.”
Oh, how I can relate.
I don’t remember the year, but I do remember the song. I was in music class, singing “Bingo” at the top of my lungs, loving every minute of me. My teacher reprimanded me in front of the whole class. To this day I won’t sing in front of anyone, not really.
Silly isn’t it? And scary too to think that we can affect other peoples’ lives with a few careless words. My teacher didn’t mean anything by it. I’m sure I was being too loud. She just didn’t realize the fragile being behind those loud notes.
I still remember my first grade teacher sending a note home on my report card because I cried if I missed anything—anything! How embarrassing.
My second grade teacher stopped my family in the local department store and replayed the time I became very upset because I misspelled clothes as close on a spelling test. Mind you this event occurred, what, 20 or 30 years ago. And she remembered it! Was I that bad?
I guess I was just destined to be a forever basket case.
But as with all of God’s plans, He can take a negative and turn it into a positive. Because I continue to struggle with the fear of failure, I try to be more sensitive to my students who have this fear. I emphasize the word try because I know no matter how hard I try, sometimes my words come out wrong too. I hurt others even when I don’t mean to.
Simply put, I fail. And then I feel just terrible.
The last month or so God has been sending me through some rough waters. I’m reading for calm, but he’s making me fight to stay afloat. Nothing has been easy—teaching, parenting, managing a household, playing guitar.
Even writing this blog has been tough. The more I learn about writing, the more I realize that every word counts. So I measure every word. I aim for perfection. What if it’s not good enough?
Help! What are your ways of coping with the fear of failure?
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve got a goal for 2011, but you are afraid of the obstacles you’ll have to overcome to meet it. What are your fears?
It’s never easy, never easy. There will always be trials.
That’s life, a daily obstacle course. But I guess that’s how God grows us. Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. And perfect people don’t need God.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.