The Fear of Failure Among Adolescents – Why You Should Intervene Early

The fear of failure among adolescents--why you should intervene early

To fail at a task or goal is one thing. Fearing or anticipating failure without even trying is another ball game altogether.

The fear of failure can be crippling, and it can prevent a person from reaching their full potential. The reason adolescents develop a fear of failure often stems from unrealistic pressure to win and succeed.

Now, this pressure could be from parents, teachers, peers, or friends. Or it could be self-directed, especially if they associate success as crucial for acceptance by parents/family/teachers or within their immediate social groups.

Some adolescents can channel failure into improvement, while others take failures to heart and develop crippling fears. In extreme cases, they may even develop a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety.

As parents, you can do a lot to help your child develop a healthy attitude towards failure and help them overcome the anxiety and apprehensions that comes from a fear of failure.

Associate Success with Effort Instead of the End Results

Every parent wants their child to succeed. However, it is important for teens to know and understand that the effort they put in is as much a part of the success formula as is the end result.

Don’t just praise your child for getting a high score on a test or for hitting a home run; make it a point to praise their study habits and their commitment to batting practice, too.

The next time your child scores an “A” on that math test, instead of saying “I am so proud you got an A,” you could try saying something like “I know how hard you worked for that test. All that hard work really paid off!”

It is crucial for your child to know that your appreciation and love is not linked to how well they perform at school or at a sport.

4 Steps to Help Your Teen Overcome Fear of Failing

  • Talk to your teenage child about failure and discuss how they feel; encourage them to openly talk about the emotions associated with failures such as anger or embarrassment. It is important for them to talk about how they feel instead of bottling their emotions.
  • Cite personal stories of famous personalities who fought through their failures and succeeded in their lives instead of giving up.
  • If you have a personal story about overcoming failure in your own life, share that with your child so they understand how failure can be a good teacher or present them with opportunities to succeed.
  • If your child is struggling with school or club activities, encourage them to ask for help and work with them to find a solution to the problem instead of avoiding or ignoring it.

Seeking Professional Help

The fear of failure is something that even adults experience. The brain of an adolescent is still developing which means they are unable to process a lot of emotions associated with failure which include embarrassment, anxiety, or anger and logically work through their difficulties.

This is when your support and understanding can enable your child to not only correctly process the fear of failure and its associated emotions, but to overcome their fears.

However, if you find it difficult to communicate with your child, consulting with a professional counselor might help. It becomes absolutely necessary to consult with a professional counselor if mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety are triggering the fear of failure in your teenager.

In addition, the fear of failure could lead to depression or other mental conditions and even drive your adolescent towards addictions and substance abuse or destructive behavior. 

Professional counseling can help identify the triggers for your child’s fear of failure. Once the cause is known, professional counselors can then work out a plan for addressing these factors and help your adolescent overcome their fears.

Professional Counseling with Doorways

If your teen or someone you know is struggling with a fear of failure and you feel they need professional help, we are here. Please feel free to connect with us at Doorways or give us a call at 602-997-2880.