The fear of failure

I suppose that I am not unusual in having a fear of failure. It seems to be pretty inherent to the human condition. At times in my life, that fear has been so strong that it has paralyzed my actions. I wouldn’t take on certain projects or jobs because I thought that I might fail. This was unfortunate, thinking back to the opportunities I missed.

I found that a fear of failure is incredibly difficult to maintain when teaching. Every single day that I am in the classroom I am in front of students. Doing my best to engage them and develop concepts that can help them understand the world around them. If I am not brave that is a difficult environment to go into.

I know for a fact that I have a failed a number of times in the classroom this semester. I attempted a group project which despite my best efforts simply didn’t work out. I think the students were bored and didn’t learn much out of it. But by showing them and honestly acknowledging to them that I make mistakes, that I fail at things, I think it has created an environment where they feel more comfortable taking a chance in the class. Like my Grandpa used to say “You got to risk it, if you want the biscuit”

6 thoughts on “The fear of failure”

  1. You are not alone. I think it is quite common among academics to have some form of anxiety due to the fear of failure. I personally have a fear of failing, and it gets so bad that I procrastinate on the task so I can avoid such a circumstance. But as academics, we are here to learn, correct? Part of learning is failing. Then you reiterate, or try again, taking the lessons you learned from the failure to succeed.

  2. I also have fear of failure in many things, my research, my courses and many other things. I have to admit that a lot of unsuccessful things in my life was because of the fear of the failure and nothing more.

  3. Yes, I have the same feeling. but every time i feel, I feel myself stronger to stand up and success again. We have a verse in my culture says: “who has fear to climb the mountain, will live all the life between the holes of the ground.”

  4. You are not alone on having a fear of failure! And I really like what your grandma said “You got to risk it, if you want the biscuit”. In financial management, most people are risk-haters. However, I think the most worst case is not when you don’t want to take risks, but when there’s no risk but you are just not confident enough.

  5. I agree that fear is probably part of the human condition, but it is not clear to me that fear of a lion and fear of students judging me are one and the same. I get the impression that some of this is taught to us and then we take it for granted as part of the human condition 🙁

  6. I’m glad that you openly blogged about this because too many students think that they are the only ones that feel this way! Grad students in general are plagued with self-doubt, which is closely related to the idea of the imposter syndrome.

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