My Atychiphobia

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I’ve been riddled with a phobia that’s actually stunted me my whole life – the fear of failure, or as is technically called: Atychiphobia.

Of course when you think about it, failure is either subjective or objective. Some people only have issues with subjective failure – as in it really only matters to themselves whether they fail or succeed, without much care put into what others think of them.

And on the other hand, there are those who have issues with objective failure. Peeps in this category want to be seen as a success in other people’s eyes because they feel better about themselves if they think other people think they’re awesome.

Most of us fall into this category actually – heck that’s why facebook exists. Everyone just wants everyone else to think they’re awesome – whether it’s through the [perfect] photos they post of themselves or the comments they write [hoping a ton of people will respond or like them] – at the end of the day, we feel worthy based on the reactions of others.

And then there are those of us who have issues with both subjective and objective failure. That’s me I’m afraid.

Don Packett talked at this year’s NetProphet about iGeneration – the concept that there are so many of us out there that only post stuff on our social platforms like facebook or twitter that make us look awesome, rather than posting stuff that benefits others.

I thought about myself during that talk – I was, and in many ways, still am part of that iGeneration. But why? Well, it’s simple – it’s because I spend so much time worrying about what others think of me, and am completely and utterly terrified of not producing amazing work.

I am lucky enough to have a myriad of creative talents, and yet there are people out there with far less enjoying far greater success than me.

After pondering this for a while, and watching this rather interesting TED talk from the author of the hugely popular “Eat. Pray. Love.” novel, I realised I have some serious issues about failure.

In 2007 I wrote a song that went to #1 on KFm & Highveld’s Homebrew chart in it’s first week and stayed at that position for another three. It also made it to #22 on the TAKE40 SA charts which was pretty huge for me – somehow knowing that my song was doing better than 50% of the international songs was an amazing feeling. But that was the problem.

Sure, you might be thinking, “that’s not really a big deal dude, it’s only South African radio stations”, but after that, it felt like anything I produced had to be better than that, or else it was going to be a failure.

It plagued me so much so that it affected all areas of my creative work. It’s the reason I haven’t released a new album, the reason I stopped acting, the reason I’ve just put so many things off. Little did I know that it’s something that’s actually been plaguing me my whole life.

I am ridiculously hard on myself, and I am ridiculously concerned about being a success in other people’s eyes. And it’s time it stops.

That’s why I’ve decided to start this twitter hastag thing called #CarSessions – not for you or anyone else, but for me. Of course you’re welcome to watch the videos I post under that tag, but I really couldn’t give a shit whether you think they’re crap, or whether you think they’re awesome – they’re simply there to help me get rid of this fear of failure.

What are the #CarSessions? They’re videos of me in the backseat of my car, with my nylon string guitar, singing cover songs, recorded on my iPhone.

There are no fancy lights, no fancy cameras, no fancy microphones, no fancy instruments – it’s just me, singing at my most exposed. I figure if I, and others, see me as raw as it gets, then somehow I have nothing to fear. Because yes, my voice isn’t warmed up, I don’t know the songs well, I sometimes hit the wrong notes, and I look stupid singing with my eyes closed – but you know what, that’s me, and I’m having fun.

And maybe this whole #CarSessions thing will turn in #GarageSessions where I get fancy equipment and put on a rad performance – but for now, the great thing is that I’ve started from zero again, and I’ve only got up to go.

So if you feel like watching, please do. And if you think it sucks, well, I quote William Henley in saying, “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”.

Lovely Tonight: Dedicated to Mark & Xen Forrester, and of course their new addition to the family, baby Maximus!

  • What a great post and an honour to feature in it.

    We’ve been BEGGING Andy to record this song for ages! He specially learnt it and sang it at our wedding and we can testify how hard and nerve wracking it must have been for him, knowing what a perfectionist he is (in the best sense of the word).

    Respect for taking this big step! Onwards and upwards!

    • Andy

      Thanks bud :) Definitely turning over a new leaf here – feels like a weight lifted!

  • Pingback: Lovely tonight | Mark Forrester()

  • Erik


    I just came across this post. I can relate to your fear of failure, it is something that plagues me as well. But you have nothing to fear, you are extremely talented. I know my saying this won’t make a difference, as it is something that you have to realise yourself, but none the less I thought I had to say so. I commend you on the step you’re taking in battling your fears.

    Good luck!


    • Andy

      Thanks bud, it’s much appreciated :)

  • Laura

    I didn’t know until tonight that I had atychiphobia. I didn’t know it had a name other than “perfectionism,” which is what I have. But I also have this, like you, and I have both subjective and objective atychiphobia. I think they go hand in hand.

    I’m afraid of failing. I’ve always been afraid of failing. I guess at some point I put together failure = no love and being alone, and for so long I aimed to be the best in what I could and felt good when I accomplished that. When I couldn’t be the best or even be the best according to my own insane standards, I just gave up. It hit me hard during my university years. My grade point average dropped as I failed class after class. I just didn’t have the motivation to be the best or even to try. I was so afraid of failing that I stopped trying altogether so I wouldn’t get hurt.

    I still deal with it. I get anxious when I think about failing or disappointing someone. Afraid my existence won’t be validated unless I have my life together like other girls seem to have their lives together. I do what I’m supposed to do, and sometimes I try and am proud of my work. Other times, I just feel like my life is worthless unless I succeed and then I can feel like I’m an actual human being.

    It’s tough to deal with this, as you know. But what you’re doing is wonderful. The song is absolutely beautiful and touched me. Thanks for being honest and letting a girl, half a world away, know that she’s not alone.

    • Andy

      Laura, wow, thanks for being so honest :) It’s great to hear other people’s stories and I’m glad that you shared.

      At the end of the day, we have to realise that while pleasing others by the actions we do might make us feel good, it’s always only going to be temporary. We have to learn to be happy with who we are and our talents first. Only then will the fear dissipate. And we can still get joy out of entertaining others with our talents – it just won’t be crucial to us in creating that feeling of “I’m accepted and loved”.

      As you say, it goes much deeper. Fear of failure means that we hold the response of others on a pedestal. If it’s good, we feel loved and important. If it’s bad, we feel shunned and dejected. And even if it’s not bad, but doesn’t get the response we’re looking for, we deem it a failure.

      This stems from a lack of confidence. If you’re confident in self, then praise and approval from others doesn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things – in other words, it wouldn’t effect us emotionally.

      Letting go of that fear means a renewed happiness in that you don’t need the happiness of others relating to your performance (be it an actual performance, or simply something you said etc etc) to make you happy.

      In the end, be happy with yourself and who you are. Don’t let the reactions of others determine how you perceive yourself in your social sphere.

      You ARE awesome. Regardless of what anyone tells you, or the impressions you get from them. So go out there and rock on, because you, Laura, already rock! :)

  • Lisa Apostadero Gallosa

    Ur the best:-)