People with fear of failure do not like unfamiliarity.

One of the links between both the incidents referred to in the last blog was novelty and unfamiliarity. They were both situations that I had never experienced before, and in that connection fear of failure can be linked to social fear and toxic shame. But, there are also other lessons that can be learned from these two examples, which show that the impact of fear of failure is not always clear cut. This is because it is many layered and can be very specific rather than general in its impact. I have been successful career wise and never lacked drive. I know many people bedevilled with this fear, who are highly motivated and ambitious. Driven by fear they seek power as a mistaken way to get self-esteem and many famous and wealthy people harbour fear of failure behind successful careers. So, research showing that people with fear of failure always expect to fail is not necessarily valid and you should not allow yourself to be labelled as a failure, even if you have this fear.
The reality is that those with fear of failure can be quite driven in some areas, and shackled in others. That contradiction can be partly explained by some peculiar and irrational beliefs that go with this fear. The main one is disbelief at your success. If you are beset by such fear, you will question all your successes. When I got my Ph.D. I felt that the markers were lenient, that I did not deserve such a success. I never gave myself credit for five long years of research and grind. In the early years, whenever I wrote a book I would wonder at how I could have done it. It was surely a fluke! I always made some excuse because I never felt good enough and I was keenly aware of criticism, which would only reinforce my poor opinion of myself. It took decades to work through this core fear and banish it from my life. It is not at all egotistic to give yourself approval and recognise your achievements, accepting and appreciating the praise of others. In truth, fear of failure can be defined by the large difference in other people’s appreciation of your talents and your own poor opinion of them, hidden behind the invented self.
Extract from my recent book – Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood.

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