Fear of failure


Fear of failure


your avatar   Mary, 33-year-old woman

For the past 3 years I have been afraid to get a job. I am 33 years old and I live with my parents. I am a quiet person and as long as I can remember I have been afraid to make mistakes. If I think I am going to fail then I won't even try.

Once I quit a job because I was stressed out and the boss got mad and yelled at me in front of everyone. I have failed at the last 2 jobs I've had. I am also not very good at handling rejection from anyone.

How do I get over my anxiety related to finding a job? How do I get over my fear of failing?


    Margaret Burr, MA, MFT


Thanks for sending in this question.

Imagine a little kid learning to walk, who - every time she tries to take a step, gets hurt badly.

Imagine, too, that - because she has such bad learning-to-walk-luck, her parents carry her wherever she needs to go.

The double-whammy of trying-to-walk-injuries and parent-rescues will probably ensure that this child will be a very late walker, indeed!

This is where you are, Mary, realizing that your efforts to grow and change and individuate from your parents may yield more of the failure you have experienced before, as you attempt, one more time, to become financially independent from them.

In other words, this is not about getting a job, Mary; this is about getting a life.

The fact that you wrote to a counselor about your situation is a great sign. You realize something is wrong "with this picture." If your development had been irrevocably arrested by the dynamic in your family (where adult children can continue to live at home for fifteen years or more past what is considered to be the legal age for adulthood), then you would not care about getting a job and becoming self-supporting.

My recommendation to you is that you get involved in a support group, like CoDA , which can help you identify and acknowledge your own goals and dreams as distinct from your parents'. Therapy might also help you, in that a therapeutic relationship will expect certain commitments and investments of you. Friends, too, can challenge your expectations of yourself. Counseling, support groups and socialization on the whole will all offer you venues for successful relating, in service to finding out what you want and need out of life.

Finding out what you want and need from life necessarily comes before figuring out how to get what you want and need.

A little kid learns to walk despite almost constant bumps and bruises because - more than anything else - she knows she wants to walk.


Margaret "Peg" Burr , MA, MFT

This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/

Like stairs, problems and goals must be approached one step at a time.
"Worry is a misuse of imagination."
Dan Zadra
Life isn't like ordering pizza; you can't always have things your way.