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With spooky season in full swing, fear is an emotion that is at the forefront of our minds. Fear often has the effect of causing us to avoid the object of the fear. As we get older, we stop fearing the monsters under our bed and begin fearing seemingly more innocuous things. An important phone call can get the heart racing just as much as the latest horror movie, so we avoid making that phone call. In this way, fear can lead to both long term and short term procrastination. 

Fear is an emotion that lets us know that something is wrong or that we’re in danger. It’s biologically designed to cause avoidance of the object of the fear. In this way, it can help to keep us out of harm’s way. However, sometimes we fear things that are not actually dangerous (such as starting a new project at work or having a hard conversation with a friend). Even though we aren’t in any real danger, the fear can still lead to avoidance. Recently, we blogged about various causes of procrastination and suggested strategies for reducing this common habit. In the spirit of Halloween, we’ll be expanding on the strong link between fear and avoidance, while exploring some of the most common fears that lead to procrastination.

Fear of Failure 

Fear of failure is one of the most common fears experienced by most people throughout life. This fear is often linked to perfectionism or black and white thinking. Instead of acknowledging the huge grey area between success and failure, this cognitive distortion causes us to believe that if something isn’t done perfectly, then it’s a complete failure. A persistent fear of failure may be linked to low self-esteem. If you don’t believe that you have the capability or knowledge to achieve something, it’s easy to constantly feel as though you won’t achieve your goals. This fear is typically characterized by an avoidance of the activity that is inciting the fear in the first place. In this way, procrastination and a fear of failure often go hand in hand. Many people fear the possibility of failure so much that they will put off beginning a task or procrastinate when it comes to the pursuit of goals.

Fear of Success

You may be surprised to know that the fear of success can be just as debilitating as a fear of failure. We all want to succeed, so how is it possible to fear success? The truth is that success can be scary. Success can mean more publicity or notoriety and this can be intimidating for those who prefer to stay out of the spotlight. Success brings great pressure to continue to perform and often comes with additional responsibilities and challenges. It’s also common to fear possible reactions to your success. Will your success alienate you from your peers or family members? Will people think that you’re bragging or snobby because of your newfound success?

In the same way that a fear of failure can cause procrastination, the fear of success can make it difficult to start and complete projects. Because you fear the aftermath of the success, you subconsciously delay starting the task altogether. 

Procrastination and Fear of Rejection

Everyone has feared rejection at some point in their life. This fear can develop in early childhood and shows up in various settings throughout life – socially, professionally and in our romantic lives. We may first experience it when we are afraid of getting turned down by a parent, so we avoid asking for permission to do something. The fear has many underlying causes and, if left unchecked, can place significant limitations on a person’s life. A fear of rejection can affect your ability to meet new friends, form romantic relationships and advance in the workplace. We often need to “put ourselves out there” in order to succeed and the fear of rejection makes this very difficult. 

For example, you may procrastinate on applications for jobs, scholarships or other opportunities due to the fear of rejection. You may also put off sending important emails because of the fear of rejection. 

Fear of Judgment and Procrastination

The fear of judgment is experienced by people from all walks of life because we all want to feel accepted and understood by those around us. The fear of being judged can hold you back in many ways. You may be afraid of being judged while exercising, which causes you to avoid getting a gym membership or going outside for a run. You may want to start a blog, but you’re afraid of people reading and judging the things you write. Fearing the negative opinions and reactions of others often leads to procrastinating on doing the things that we really want to do. 

A fear of judgment can also have a negative impact on interpersonal relationships. Are you hiding parts of yourself from the people close to you? A fear of judgment can often lead to a lack of vulnerability in relationships, which limits the quality of your connections. This fear of judgment can cause you to procrastinate on having difficult (but necessary) conversations with the people in your life. 

Fear of Missing Out

The fear of missing out (often shortened to FOMO) stems from the perception that everyone else is more successful or happier than you are. FOMO can cause feelings of anxiety, as you are led to believe that your peers are progressing and leaving you behind. It’s often triggered by observing others and making comparisons. 

FOMO is linked to smartphone addiction. To avoid feeling left out, we’re tempted to constantly keep up with social media posts, the latest headlines and the newest trending topics. Smartphone use in turn triggers feelings of FOMO, as we are often watching the highlight reels of others

Can you identify with any of these fears and are you able to see how they may be holding you back? Last Halloween, we explored the ways that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you to face and overcome your fears. By working with a therapist, you’ll be able to uncover how these fears may be manifesting in your life or preventing you from achieving your goals. Through CBT and other forms of talk therapy, you can develop the skills needed to “feel the fear and do it anyway!” Contact us to schedule your first session.

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