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The Negative Impact of an Extreme Fear of Failure

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Many of us struggle with being worried or anxious about the possibility of failing an exam, test, job interview, probation period, competition, etc. Being nervous about our performance is a natural human reaction as nobody would like to fail. The anxiety may motivate us to put on extra effort to do well. So, it is helpful to feel anxious about it. However, if the anxiety affects your capacity to focus on an important project, your relationship and your performance, that anxiety becomes more than an emotional reaction. If the fear is left unattended, it might point to a more serious psychological condition.

People with an extreme fear of failing may constantly feel anxious, hopeless and have little or no control of their lives. They also feel physiological symptoms like rapid heart rate, chest tightening, stomach problems or dizziness. The combination of anxiety and physiological symptoms may lead them to procrastinate, feel low self-esteem, lack the confidence to do well and be constantly anxious about being judged by others. Sometimes, the fear is so excessive they begin to believe that they won’t succeed and drop out of their course or resign prematurely to avoid any potential shame or embarrassment.

The underlying cause of the excessive fear of failure is often trauma-related. It may include previous experience of failing to live up to their expectations, receiving negative comments of their performance, being compared, or making mistakes that they feel is unforgivable, such as studying the wrong subject for an exam. People whose caregivers are highly critical or set high expectations may grow up measuring their worth against their school performance. They feel guilty when they don’t live up to their caregiver’s expectations and are constantly anxious about their performance. They become highly critical of themselves. Being extremely self-critical often leads to procrastination, and sometimes, they are so anxious that they forget all their preparations in that crucial moment.

Working with a professional counsellor or psychotherapist to process your anxiety of failing is helpful because the therapist can help you process the fears and guide you on ways to manage them.

Restoring Peace Counselling & Consultancy provides therapy for people experiencing an extreme fear of failure and related issues such as low motivation and self-esteem. For more information, reach out to us at or Whatsapp us at +65 8889 1848.

Keywords: failure, fear, anxiety, stress, guilt, expectation, criticism, judgement, counselling, therapy

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