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  • meerasreekumar

Fear of Failure

My psychiatrist recently told me that I am withdrawing and going into a low because there is a fear of failure. This fear of failure is rooted in a very established psychological concept called “All or Nothing”. I came across this term for the first time in a book called “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns. Those who have faced depression or mood disorders would know that this is a go-to book for mood therapy. If anyone is facing depression or mild mood swings, I would strongly recommend them to pick a copy of this book. It is a long read, and may seem dry in parts. But it imparts very valuable tips to change one’s thinking. This post won’t be addressing the mode of the therapy followed in the book etc., because that will be digressing from the topic.

All or Nothing

All or Nothing means viewing something in black and white. For instance, a high achiever in school, feels that he or she is an utter failure if their grade falls by a notch. To come very closer home, I was stressing about my next post not being received as well as my first one, and then consequently shutting down the blog!

According to Dr. Burns, all or nothing has its basis in perfectionism. It is the attitude that if a particular thing or incident is not as perfect as it has been envisaged to be, then it is doomed. This perfectionism manifests in excessive desire to perform, and fear of any small imperfection or failure. This fear of any small imperfection or failure can translate to anxiety, withdrawal from performing the task in hand. For me, when I succumb to my all or nothing thinking, I get anxious and withdraw from the task in hand, which is why my doctor would have mentioned that I have a fear of failure.

I never want the blog to get preachy at any point of time. However, I would hope that each of you who reads it introspects on this, and see if you have an All or Nothing attitude. If so, remember that there is always a grey area. Ending the post with a line from Feeling Good (the book I referred before), “If you try to force your experiences into absolute categories, you will be constantly depressed because your perceptions will not conform to reality.”

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Apr 27, 2020

Thanks for this succinct and authentic piece, Meera. I could connect to it immediately. The All or Nothing thinking has dominated my over-achiever attitude for a long time. And it took long for me to realise that blindspot and how it constricts me. Thanks for sharing this :)

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