Personality Cafe banner

INFPs and the Fear of Failure/Change

7152 Views 11 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  OrangeAppled
A post from a member, Nickia, got me thinking about the Fear of Change that many of us have, and that is common among INFPs. When I think about things, I like to develop understanding and articulate the comprehension I have accumulated through the act of again, I'm writing another essay, and I hope you all don't mind! As I considered this fear and its nature, I realized there are many different reasons for the fear of change, and I split them into categories. These categories are:

Fear or Success
Fear of Failure
Unresolved Past
Fear of Losing Identity
Dependency on the Familiar/Safe

I have written some thoughts about how each category/cause relates to the fear of change, as well as looking at how to dismantle the irrational thinking that is associated with them. At the end, there is a conclusion that summarizes how to "Succeed in Change". I invite all of your thoughts and responses, and if you have experience with this fear or how to overcome it, please share!

Fear of Success:

Fear of success is a common reason for why people fear change in their lives. One person may fear success because they are afraid of the expectations that come with setting a new precendent for themselves. Such a person should look at why they fear expectations from others and from themselves. By shining a light upon the fears and putting them under the magnifying glass, their composition becomes exposed.

Is there a lack of belief in their abilities? If so, why? Would new expectations require letting go of a pet world-view, such as victimhood?

Let's look at the example of victimhood, because it is common, especially among INFPs. When a person who has held on to a victim mentality begins proving themselves as mature and capable, it may require them to abandon their victim identity and its behaviors such as avoidance, blaming others, blaming one's self, and other behaviors that are associated with excusing one's self from growth. Shedding the victim identity and changing also may mean not being able to rely on employing other's sympathy for the misfortunes in one's life; sympathy that once gave security and helped validate their victimhood. When changes are made to the life, the excuses that have been relied upon to avoid people, places, activities, responsibilities...those excuses start to become no longer useable. Thus, a fear of accountability drives the individual to avoid losing this safe-feeling cycle.

Fear of Failure:

In truth, fear of failure and fear of success are usually intrinsically related, because those who reside in a state of accepted failure tend to fear success, because it threatens the familiarity they have developed in their territory of failure. They've adapted their beliefs and their behaviors according to that world-view.

It's much like a person who owns a house that is very small, old, and dingy, and they have furnished the house over the years to make it work as best as they can. Then, later on when they have the ability to move to a new place (grow and mature), they realize that their furniture and decor (behaviors and views) do not match the new house, and so rather than acquiring new furniture and decor that is unfamiliar and possibly undesirable (fear of failure), they choose to stay in their little, unsuitable dwelling, perhaps even still complaining about how unsuitable it is.

The cause for fearing failure or success may involve incidents in the past with abuse, or those who were hurtful and critical, or a lack of support and love. For example, if someone has self-hate, and does not believe they deserve happiness, they may avoid opportunities to grow because they don't really believe they may bring them happiness, or love, and though their heart hungers for it, something inside tells them it feels wrong. This person may have a great ability to paint, and would love to be an artist, but whenever he paints a picture and someone else compliments it, he feels both happy and wrong at the same time, but when he feels wrong he quickly points out what is wrong with the picture. Before he showed it to the person, he felt good about it, but after the compliment, he started seeing how many things were wrong with the picture. This is because the self-hate in him is telling him that people's approval and the development of his talent is wrong...he does not deserve to be a lauded artist. After fault-finding his painting, he avoids painting for several more months. He's afraid that if he tries, his inner self-hate will be right, and he'll fail and be disappointed...fear of failure. But he's also afraid that he'll do well, receive approval, and establish himself as an artist, because how will he be able to change himself to be that kind of person; to accept himself that way?

Unresolved past:

Sometimes people fear change, because they are glued to their past by unresolved issues and circumstances. For someone who felt they were unaccepted by one or both of their parents (or also from a divorce, missing parent), they may shun development and opportunity that represents adulthood to them, because they are still holding on to childlike behaviors and attitudes that hold them to their childhood, still seeking a resolution for that missing approval. College, or a job, or business clothes, friends with a mature or serious attitude, or anything else that doesn't blend well with their childlike mentality that they foster inside, is avoided. Generally, avoidance behaviors become common.

Attention-seeking behaviors continue in different actions and forms to help win the feeling of acceptance that was missing. Yes, such acceptance could be found in a grown-up environment, or a grown-up job, but what is desired is not just acceptance, but acceptance of the child inside, not the adult. Relationships for such a person may, unbeknownst to them, be a vehicle to experience that acceptance. For the female, the male in the relationship subconsciously represents the father figure, and she may desire to be held for long periods of time, to be told repeatedly how much he loves her, and she may shower him with acts of kindness to help ensure his desire and approval remain strong. Unfortunately, as wonderful as some of these experiences may feel to her and her partner, she actually begins strengthening her insecurity and her insecure behaviors, because she is continually in a state of seeking to be convinced she is loved, and desiring actions and words that can convince her. It is only when she recognizes this cycle, discovers the reasons, and begins to resolve the past, that she can move forward, accept love well, give love well, and mature inside.

Fear of Losing Identity:

For some, changes, whether small or large, may become a fearful thing because they feel they have reached a level of acceptance from others or from themselves based on their appearance, their talents, their life-style, etc.

Perhaps someone who has gauged their ears a few years ago, and fashioned their style according to a particular sub-culture where gauging ears is common or to some degree accepted, may find themselves apprehensive to abandon their gauges or their style later on, even when their age, their job, or other circumstances would suggest it would be more beneficial to do so. They have become used to representing a particular culture and identity, and to give it up would possibly risk losing the admiration or even respect of some people, and would leave them with an ambiguous identity. So the person may choose to live and select opportunities, friends, and jobs that are compatible with their image rather than adopting their own image and selecting that which matches their heart's desires and their abilities most fully.

As a note, I am not saying that anyone who gauges their ears matches this pattern. The example is meant to exemplify the fear of losing identity. For one person, they have earned acceptance as "The Clown," or "The Quirky Mystical Girl," or "The Jock," or "The Guy Who's in a Band." If an individual recognizes they have gained acceptance and are regarded for these particular identities, over time they often conform their choices and actions to fit that role of acceptance. The conformation solidifies over time, and when new stages of life appear, change is rejected unless it is compatible with their role. This does not mean that because a guy plays in a band that he is depending upon that role for his identity. If he has chosen that path, or career path, because of a call that comes from inside of him, and not a reaction to the promised acceptance of others, then he is not risking this cycle. He will be able to make changes according to what he deems expedient and compatible to his inner calliing when it comes, because he is not dependent upon his role for his identity.

Dependency on the Familiar/Safe:

There are many reasons why one may become dependent on safe and familiar things. It often relates to one of the previous reasons.

For those who find security or a sense of peace when everything is famliar and predictible, they are actually in a cage. Their threshold of tolerance for what is new and unpredictible plummets so that whenever something unpredictible presents itself to them, they lose their ability to stay calm and secure. The schedule of their day, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the places they go all begin to create deep ruts, and life becomes somewhat lifeless, but to them, at least it is predictible. Less can catch them off-guard. But when things in life become so lifeless, a craving for something stimulating develops inside, and such people often develop bad habits and addictions. The ability to socialize with people other than close friends becomes more and more difficult, and so it is simply avoided as best as possible.

If one recognizes that there is a dependency on what is familiar and safe, the best thing is to find out why. Is there a desire to avoid pain? What kind of pain, and why? Is there a desire to protect the identity, victimhood, or from failure? Enough probing will uncover the cause of this. But familiarity, though it seems safe, leads to discontentment.

Succeeding in Change:

Discovering the reasons for why one has a fear of change, even if the fears or the changes seem small, is the biggest step to eradicating the fear and moving on. When an irrational fear is exposed in the light for what it is, it may lash out at you like a cornered snake, in an attempt to make you run, but it is a snake without venom and with rubber teeth. If you find facing this fear too threatening and you take the light off of it, it will only gain more power over you, because you reduce the belief that you can overcome it. But when you face the fear, look closely at it , and recognize its powerlessness, you will see that it can be handled and overcome.

When you discover the illusions that have been controlling your life, you can develop a new perspective. Sometimes the uncovered reasons for the fears can be difficult to deal with, and counselling is sometimes helpful. In cases of others' wrong-doing, forgiveness frees not only them, but you, so that you can cut the strings of past hurts and take ownership of your own accountability.

A common thread in the fear of change and its sub-types is a lack of confidence and security. To be able to wash away the irrational fears, behaviors, and those views and beliefs that were held onto for security, there must be something to replace those things, to find security in. Those of you who have read my posts probably realize that I believe in a personal God who assists us in our growth, and so I include this in what I view as the most important way to succeed in change and growth. When one recognizes that one is weak, and that everything in this world is not secure, I believe very much in putting one's trust in God as the source of power to change and accomplish to instill confidence. And to recognize God as the greatest source of approval and creator of personal identity will help bring the security one needs inside. When all of our instincts inside of us tell us to self-preserve, and to escape pain, where does the will power come from to defy our instincts. I believe that God is the enabler of that will power, and that is why I encourage one to seek for that will power from God when it is lacking.

Fear of failure is not always a bad thing, I must add. Fear helps to motivate. When we are prisoners to our fears, they motivate us to self-protect and avoid, but when we have found our security, the fears motivate us to dig deep, increase our effort, and seek new ways to succeed. We have to be willing to endure some discomfort, possible criticism, and other kinds of pain in our pursuit of positive change and growth. But to answer the call of one's inner hopes and dreams, and to be unshackled from the burdensome chains of irrational fear, self-doubt, and anxiety over identity is worth the pain it takes to realize those hopes and dreams.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 5
1 - 1 of 12 Posts
This is an old thread, but an interesting one. Thanks @Matchbook

My INFP e9 friend was telling me the other day how change is scary for her. It is not for me, or at least, not in the way it is usually described (ie changes in job, where you live, etc). I honestly don't see this fear in "most" INFPs, which is why both this assertion and my friend's confession surprised me. As a Ne-aux type, I love change. I love newness. I love leaving the old behind and entering the potential of the unknown, as it often suggests movement towards an ideal....with some caveats.

I admit I suspect those who would relate heavily to dependency on the familiar/safe OP to be actual Si-som. But as for those caveats of mine... fear of losing identity is a big one. I have clung to an identity of being the shy, quiet, arty, smart chick, which is a limiting role in life. I resent situations where I cannot dress like "me" because of explicit or implicit "rules". I have feared being exposed as incompetent, and much like the "fear of failure" description, it can come from too high expectations, but I believe some of these were placed on me as a child (too much "you're gifted" labelling), and I internalized these as my own and fear not meeting them. The concept of the saying "better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" could be applied to action as well: Better to do nothing and be thought a loser than to try and remove all doubt.

The fear of success is interesting, because not only does it bring added responsibility, but it can also bring negative attention from the haters. Losing is unthreatening to others, may garner their sympathy and support even, etc. It ups the expectations too. Once you've succeeded, you often cannot just stop there. People expect you to keep going and going and going. Sometimes I think there is a "fear of contentment", which may drive unhealthy change (erratic, chaotic, impulsive, etc), as some stability and stillness IS good in life (something harder for me to accept, actually). Culturally, fear of contentment may be more widespread, and it too can feed into fear of success. I think the fear of contentment stems from worrying that if you are not always changing things, that you are NOT "succeeding". To be worried about not changing is a problem Ne types battle more than resisting it, IMO.

Which brings me back to what puzzles me about my friend... After talking to her, I realized her fear was not truly about "familiarity" of environment or situation or experiences; she is not attached to "routine". It was much more related to the social view of her competency. She loves new stuff, and like most NPs, wants to pursue potential as it emerges. But she is worried about changes in social situations (ie workmates, new city which leads to new social groups, etc) where she will not know what to do and may fail and humiliate herself. When around familiar people, she is open to change.

For INFPs, I think fear of social humiliation due to some incompetency is big (inferior Te - not "measuring up" to objective criteria). Because I am driven towards change (sometimes too recklessly), I have been forced to learn to rely on my instincts to adapt and be innovative when faced with unexpected things in unfamiliar environments. It turns out, I like it! Ne is great for finding loopholes and workarounds. But I do notice I feel "freer" to do this the less connected I am with an environment. If I sense I may not see someone again, then I don't care about being perfect. If not too much hinges on it (ie little fear of failure/success), then I can lose inhibitions, and often, adapt as needed and do a better job. The sense of being "watched" is what gets to me.

Sometimes I think Ne types use innovation/pursuit of novelty so as not to change (ie find the job that lets you dress as you like), and that is much trickier to point out. I think this shows how tertiary Si is often used as guard for the ego - which is Fi for an INFP. For Si-dom, the inner state is the Si ego, so their resistance looks quite different and they are far more characterized by fear of the unknown. For an INFP, it is not fear of the unknown, but fear of losing the self to outside demands, and so there is a dropping of the anchor when it comes to things which symbolize their identity, aka, their values.

I found this extremely insightful: "what is desired is not just acceptance, but acceptance of the child inside, not the adult".
I think in order for the ego to expand, so as to not be threatened so easily and not be so fearful, people have to experience the acceptance of the "child" inside. I very much agree with this paragraph as well:

matchbook said:
When one recognizes that one is weak, and that everything in this world is not secure, I believe very much in putting one's trust in God as the source of power to change and accomplish to instill confidence. And to recognize God as the greatest source of approval and creator of personal identity will help bring the security one needs inside. When all of our instincts inside of us tell us to self-preserve, and to escape pain, where does the will power come from to defy our instincts. I believe that God is the enabler of that will power, and that is why I encourage one to seek for that will power from God when it is lacking.

I also think the only unconditional love can come from God, and no one else should be burdened with that need. I think if you feel that unconditional love and respond to it, then you don't need to fear the failures, the rejections, etc, because you are ultimately fulfilled still. Of course, there is still risk, but it's put into perspective. If you socially embarrass yourself, etc, it does not diminish your value, because that inner child still has the ultimate acceptance and love.
See less See more
1 - 1 of 12 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.