How to overcome the fear of being not good enough
06/13/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

Do you struggle with an irrational fear, like acrophobia (fear of heights)?

Or does your phobia come from within, like the fear of being imperfect?

If you're always stressed about being perfect or if you're paralyzed by the constant need to be perfect, you could have atelophobia. Atelophobia is an extreme form of perfectionism that can severely impact quality of life and your overall well-being.

The symptoms of atelophobia

Like other irrational fears, atelophobia is categorized as an anxiety disorder and individuals with this disorder are called atelophobes. Atelophobes are afraid of not being good enough and they constantly feel that everything they do is wrong. (Related: Expert teaches the proper way of breathing to relieve stress and anxiety.)

A person with atelophobia has perceived expectations that don't match reality. Ironically, most atelophobes are often highly intelligent and capable. Even though they are usually talented, atelophobes are crippled by the fear of failure. Because of this, they may tend to quit certain tasks and avoid challenges.

Phobias refer to extreme irrational fears, but the nature of atelophobia’s stimulus makes it unique among other fears. While external objects (e.g. spiders) or situations (e.g. heights) trigger anxiety in other phobias, the trigger for atelophobia is internal. An individual's personal judgment tends to be the stimulus for atelophobia.

Most people with phobias cope through avoidance. For example, a person with acrophobia will avoid dizzying heights. But an atelophobe will have a much harder time avoiding the trigger for their phobia, which is the thought of failing because they're not good enough.


The condition is often difficult to diagnose. It is also often mistaken for perfectionism, which is a personality trait, or categorized as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Because of this, most atelophobes are unable to seek proper treatment.

The psychological symptoms of atelophobia include:

  • Avoidance behavior
  • Extreme anxiety and dread
  • Fear of losing control
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Lack of focus

Meanwhile, it's physical symptoms can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Sweating

Other signs of being prone to atelophobia may include avoiding everyday tasks, setting impossible standards for yourself, and a severe fear of flaws.

Atelophobia is similar to perfectionism, but the main difference is that atelophobes tend to strive for perfection and often fail because of the impossibly high standards that they set for themselves.

Unlike perfectionists who can be motivated by working harder, atelophobia can be paralyzing. Perfectionism is often experienced as the need to accomplish more, and being a perfectionist can help you become a better person. However, atelophobia rarely has this benefit.

It remains unknown what causes atelophobia, but it may be linked to genetics or a traumatic event. In most cases, the irrational fear is a learned response that begins during childhood or adolescence.

Demanding parents who require their children to be perfect and strict teachers who want you to get the highest grades are often core triggers for future mental disorders, such as atelophobia. Being unable to meet these unrealistically high expectations may cause apathy, depression, and a fear of failure.

Atelophobia can also be caused by human nature, like when overly sensitive people feel pressured when they fail. Negative comments and harsh criticism can demoralize them and cause a complete loss of confidence.

Others may develop atelophobia by constantly comparing themselves with their peers.

Aside from the dangerous stress-related physical health problems caused by atelophobia, this negative perfectionism can also hamper your productivity.

Overcoming atelophobia

If you are struggling with depression caused by atelophobia, these lifestyle changes can help:

  • Avoid drinking -- If you're depressed, drinking alcohol will only make you feel better temporarily. Drinking also affects the "feel good" systems of the brain.
  • Exercise regularly -- Going on walks or working out can help boost your mood.
  • Follow a healthy diet -- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. What you eat can affect your mental and physical health, and it can help reduce the symptoms of depression. Eat foods rich in amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals that can help improve a depressive mood.

If you think you have atelophobia, consult a professional. An early consultation can help since the first line of treatment for atelophobia is psychotherapy.

Focusing on relaxation and helping an individual understand that it's normal to make mistakes is key to overcoming atelophobia.

Two types of psychotherapy can help manage atelophobia:

  1. Exposure therapy -- This forces patients to face their fears and overcome their anxiety.
  2. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) -- This aims to modify negative thought patterns to alter moods and behaviors. CBT combines cognitive and behavioral therapies and it focuses on thoughts, actions, and behaviors. CBT helps identify life situations that can cause the phobia and offers constructive strategies to deal with them. To achieve results, atelophobes must undergo at least 10 to 20 sessions of CBT.

Other treatments for atelophobia include:

  • Energy psychology
  • Group therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Meditation

It's normal to be afraid when faced with the unknown, but seek professional help or make the necessary lifestyle changes if you believe that you have phobias that can severely impact your life.

You can learn more about how the brain processes fear and anxiety at

Sources include:

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