The Fear of Success and Failure: Procrastination

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In this essay, I’m going to talk about some of the fears that are around and fueling procrastination. These fears are present in people of all shapes and sizes from teens to adults, while undoubtedly interrupting and interfering with the flow of their lives. Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something for later, which for me usually ends up being the last possible moment. When peering into society, it is almost guaranteed most people have procrastinated, knowingly or not, at some point in their lives. There is a multitude of reasons one might procrastinate however in this essay I’m going to be focusing on two, the fear of success and the fear of failure. Although the fear of failure is discussed more than the fear of success, both of these fears are fairly common throughout our society with both seeming to be just as harmful as the other. Throughout this essay, we’ll be looking deeper at both the fear of success and the fear of failure.

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I’ll be starting things off with the fear of failure, as it’s likely to be the easier one to relate to. First off there is no doubt that most if not all of us are afraid of failing, at least some of the time. But being afraid to fail and letting that fear of failure stop you from doing the things that could propel you forward is what makes all the difference. The fear of failure, also known as atychiphobia, can be expressed through many different avenues. From things like excessive anxiety, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and procrastination. The fear of failure can even trigger a sense of perfectionism where the person in question would only be willing to try out things that they knew they would be perfectly successful in. This causes the person in fear of failing to block out different things getting in the way of their perfect success and some cases even go as far as to block out everything nonessential to their goal.

Next, the lesser-known but still very real fear of success. While almost no one fears success some people fear what comes with it and as a result, they avoid success altogether. This causes people to procrastinate on what they are supposed to do even if the task is a simple one to avoid the possibility of extra work. What is even more shocking is that many of the people afraid of success do not even realize it until they find themselves working slower than usual or looking for any excuse to skip work. It’s at that point where you have to ask yourself how you could be afraid to succeed. What people often fall back to is the notion that when you fail, you then go back to what you knew, and opposite to that, when you succeed you are then heading off into uncharted territory. It seems that some people are just more comfortable staying with what they know and that the uncharted territory is what that the people are really afraid of.

My experience with procrastination has been an interesting one. It is been something that I’ve struggled to shake since as far back as I can remember even despite knowing all the stress and unpredictable problems that could come with it. The interesting part is that when I reflect and try to reason as to why I always find myself procrastinating I am not really able to settle on a sound conclusion. It seems at least in my case that depending on the situation the fear of success and the fear of failure both play a role. I often find myself sizing up a task, figuring out how long it will take, and then putting it off until I realize that that’s all the time left anyways. It’s then a frantic race to complete something that could and should have been done days sometimes weeks beforehand.

Throughout the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dr. Frankenstein struggles with his own versions of procrastination throughout the book. His procrastinations were fueled first by the fear of failure than later on in the story by his fear of success. The first instances happened while Dr. Frankenstein was still working on building his monster, he is even quoted as saying, “I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection until the greater object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed.” (page 64) I found this quote very interesting because gives us a window into the doctor’s mindset, his fear of failure led him to work tirelessly on his objective to the point where he was neglecting his social and personal responsibilities. In this case, his fear of failure seemed to propel him to procrastinate on all of his social responsibilities while focusing solely on completing the goal he was obsessing over. Later on in the novel, after his completion of the monster, Dr. Frankenstein runs off to the Orkneys to be able to work in solitude. It’s at this point in the story where he procrastinates once again but this time for a very different reason. This time his fear of success was what fueled his procrastination. As he was in the process of building his second monster, he was halted by the fear that on his success, he’d be making a monster just as destructive as the first one.

In conclusion, both the fear of failure and the fear of success can play big parts in a person’s reason for procrastinating. While the fear of failing might be the better-known fear, the fear of success is still very prevalent throughout society. The fear of success and the fear of failure have some fairly similar but also some very different traits. The fear of failure along with the fear of success are both known to cause a person to avoid certain responsibilities, the fear of failing however can also cause a person to focus solely on tasks that they feel that they can do with perfection. By doing this that person can ensure him or herself that what they are afraid of failing at can be done perfectly and without incident. However, this path often leads them to neglect or procrastinate over all of their other responsibilities, personal or otherwise, until their goal is completed. Both of these fears can also be found throughout the novel Frankenstein By Mary Shelley where the doctor deals with his fear of failing at the beginning of the novel only to struggle with his fear of success later on towards the end of the novel. 

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