The Advantage of Atychiphobia – the Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is called Atychiphobia by people who use big words to impress average people.  But anxiety isn’t always bad. The same people who made up atychiphobia made up eustress to describe good stress.

Good stress precedes growth, challenge, and new situations. What could be good about fear of failure?


Redefine anxiety as excitement.

10 symptoms of fear of failure:

  1. You worry about what people think of you.
  2. You worry about your ability to pursue the future you desire.
  3. You worry that people will lose interest in you.
  4. You worry about your abilities and intelligence.
  5. You worry about disappointing people you respect.
  6. You explain why you won’t do well to lower expectations.
  7. You struggle to imagine what you could have done differently.
  8. You find excuses to not prepare.
  9. You follow distractions that prevent you from completing preparations.
  10. You procrastinate and end up not preparing adequately.

I have most of the symptoms of fear of failure. As the years pass, I feel it less, but I still worry about disappointing leaders who trust me to speak to their organizations, for example. And that’s just a beginning!

Fear of failure is harmful when it’s an excuse for poor performance.


People who don’t care if they disappoint people are geniuses or idiots. A little fear of failure is good for average folk.

The fear of failure makes you small when reaching low is the best you can do.

Anxiety that motivates preparation is healthy, but surprisingly, habitual lack of preparation reflects fear of failure.


I asked our 9-year-old granddaughter if she was nervous about her Spring concert. She plays the flute. She said, “Not really. I’m excited.”

Research suggests that trying to calm fear increases anxiety but renaming it may help. You aren’t anxious, you’re excited.

Redefine anxiety as excitement.

How does fear of failure show up in your experience?

How might leaders respond to fear of failure in themselves? In others?