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Fear of Failure

When writing research on the fear of failure, several different aspects can be focused on regarding this phenomenon. You can focus on the causes of the fear of failure, the affects of the fear of failure, and what can be done to mitigate the fear of failure for individuals. Specifically, a research paper on the fear of failure can be outlined in the following way:

  • Introduce the phenomena of the Fear of Failure
  • The biological aspects of fear
  • How the biological aspects play on the concept of failure
  • The causes behind the fear of failure
  • The affects of the fear of failure
  • Solutions for individuals that fear failureFear of Failure

Biologically speaking, the concept of fear begins in the amygdala. The last decade has proven to be a watershed of significant findings in the study of the amygdala’s role in the human emotional fear response. Although there are some discrepancies and points of divergence in the findings that have been reviewed, an emerging consensus seems to be that the amygdala is minimally involved in many aspects of emotional response, with the most significant involvement seen in complex, socially-related, negative emotional responses, or in instances when an individual is attempting to deliberately modulate or control his or her fear. While these findings represent substantial progress for the field of neurobiology, there are some aspects of recent research that are troubling, including, most significantly, the problem of subjectivity and variability in research addressing the human emotion of fear. Not only is it difficult to assess and compare human emotional responses, it is also exceedingly problematic to attempt to distinguish neurobiological emotional responses from socially constructed or learned emotional responses. In future research, more sophisticated means of distinguishing between these two sources of emotional response will be necessary in order to more precisely define the amygdala’s role in the fear of failure.

The causes of the fear of failure are many. However, the two main reasons that individuals fear failure is because of self-esteem or self-handicapping. You may think that it is low self-esteem that makes people afraid to fail but this is actually not true. Individuals with high self-esteem are the most likely people to have a fear of failure. This also leads to the fact that men fear failure more than women. Because men typically have high self-esteem due to cultural and social factors, they are the gender that fears failure most. Furthermore, when people have a fear of failure, often times they will do what is known as self-handicapping. Self-handicapping is when you fear failure so much so that you will not engage in an activity or even try to accomplish what it is that you fear. Self-handicapping is defeating oneself even before trying.

The affects of the fear of failure are depression, anxiety and many other secondary emotional problems. These problems often lead to difficulties in managing life, such as procrastination and self-handicapping. The fear of failure is a vicious cycle that can be debilitating for some individuals. In Procrastination and Task Avoidance - Theory, Research, and Treatment, Ferrari, Johnson and McCown state that the research does reveal procrastination as a significant problem for most of the adult population, particularly for young adults and the elderly. Procrastination has been found to be significantly related to psychiatric syndromes (20). Although much research has been completed on both academic and "everyday" procrastination, more research is needed to fully understand this complex issue.

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