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Fear of Failure

  1. Jun 1, 2013 #1
    Has this occurred to you folks during your undergrad days? How did you overcome it?

    It seems at this point, my fear of failure is stronger than my passion and my abilities combined which is a very dangerous mindset to have. As they say, misery loves company and I was just wondering if anyone is going through this now or have gone through it?:smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2013 #2


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    Well I'm in undergrad right now and I constantly have the exact same feelings. My fears range from failing exams all the way to failing to get a PhD and ending up not doing what I love (i.e. physics in an academic setting). That last fear is particularly strong because the amount of physics PhDs who actually end up in academia doing physics is abysmally low. I constantly get the feeling that I'm just wasting my life taking the huge risk of spending countless years studying physics to possibly not get a PhD at all or get a PhD but most likely not get a job in academia. I'm sure many other physics undergrad have the same thoughts so you're certainly in a large company :).

    I honestly don't have a long term "permanent" method of coping with it. The only things I have going for me are the slivers of stubbornness and dogma that now and then dominate my mindset, fueled by the idea that given even a vanishingly small chance of permanently working in academia doing physics, the risk is unequivocally worth the chance to engage professionally in such a beautiful subject. It is not a realistic mindset by any means but it does help ease the fears, even if only for a temporary period of time.
  4. Jun 1, 2013 #3
    I always used to take pride in failure :smile: . But then I've always been a bit of a shameless person.
  5. Jun 1, 2013 #4
    You think about the alternatives and re-double your efforts, that's how you overcome it :redface:
  6. Jun 4, 2013 #5
    We all have fears...if there were no chance of failure would there be any challenge?

    One thing you have to think about is; how do you define failure? So what if you fail a class, or a test, or an exam - you can try again. You can take the class over, study harder, seek tutoring, figure out why you failed and choose a different method of preparing, etc. The only person who fails absolutely is the person who gives up. Delay is not failure; it is only disappointment. We all disappoint ourselves from time to time, that is how we learn and grow.

    If your definition of failure is becoming a Physics Engineering major instead of an Applied Physics major, then maybe you should reassess your definition. What are the little things that make you happy? What are you actually DOING when you are happiest? Those are your internal drivers. In other words, you may view becoming a theoretical physicist with "success," but becoming an experimental physicist with "failure." Physics is a big world. I spent years working in the area of device physics, but now I am back in school to learn other areas of physics. For me nothing is more fun than mucking about in the lab; for others that would be their idea of hell. Find out what YOU actually enjoy doing, and do that! The label "failure" is a label you apply to yourself based on external criteria that may or may not have anything to do with what you are truly all about.
  7. Jun 7, 2013 #6
    Good insights! At this point, my fear is quite irrational because I have never taken any of the classes yet. This fall semester will be my first time ever taking calculus and general chemistry and so forth. However, I do not fear the coming semeter at all, and I know it's barely touching the surface in comparison with what's in store in third or even fourth year Chem E curriculum.

    I am one of those people that love to get everything right, or in this sense pass classes the first time. So needless to say, I am expecting to pass every single class from the first semester until graduation, though not ace them all, but pass them.

    A part me of says you can do it, and then I read around the net and speak to people who've gone through the major, and they often narrate horrific stories, I start doubting myself.

    Thanks all for the input.
  8. Jun 7, 2013 #7
    That's my motivation for now. Either get through this, or live the alternative which is 100 times more scarier, to be honest.
  9. Jun 7, 2013 #8
    I always have the feelings that I am either not smart enough or i'm not gonna make it. I overcome it by proving myself wrong every time I get an A, and if I do not get an A in a class I assume I did not work hard enough at that subject.

    Also, to point out, some classes seem impossible to get an A in so I do the best I can in those classes.
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