There is a particular problem I've had since as long as I can remember , but I always managed to shove it to the back of my head and ignore, albeit acknowledging its existence.

I'll provide a bit of relevant background regarding the particular areas in which this issue has profoundly affected me. I'm quite fond of different areas of mathematics and I dare say I'm proficient in at least one of those.

But I've always encountered this shortcoming. Any time I'm supposed to attack a new problem or teach myself a new concept, I feel like a wall rises right in front of me. If I don't see the solution right away I get terrified, especially when I'm in public. Even when I'm by myself at home I find it incredibly hard to just lay some thoughts on the paper if I'm not completely sure of the next logical step in the process of finding a solution.

I get a terrible mixed feeling, one one side itching to solve the problem, on the other side this damned blockage that prevents from going all in.

This made me ask myself ? How is it that I got good with calculus ? And now I realize...what I've been doing all along was looking for solutions of my problems online before trying to even attempt solving a problem and . I haven't told anyone about this because I feel so, so awfully ashamed by it.. But now I'm desperate for help.

By some mysterious process, this made me one of the best mathematics students in my university (CS undergrad). Even though I've absorbed and emulated others' way of thinking I manage to see simple and elegant solutions to a larger number of problems than my peers who've worked so much harder.

At this point, I feel like this irrational fear or mental obstruction suffocates me and stands in my way of truly becoming as good as I hope to become.

This all boils down to :

Why am I so afraid of simply trying ?

What can I do?

It would mean the world to me if you could help, I didn't know where else to go. If you need any clarifications, please feel free to ask. Also, if you can't formulate any advise, I would also appreciate suggestions to materials/papers that might encapsulate my issue.

Thank you!

  • $\begingroup$ What does the "damned blockage" feel like? $\endgroup$ – Reed Rawlings Feb 29 '16 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ To describe it in a physical manner, I would say that it feels like the helplessness and desperation I imagine I would feel if my hands were chained. $\endgroup$ – user43389 Feb 29 '16 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ What do you think is this thing in the back of your head trying to protect you against? What is the worst thing that could happen if you would try? $\endgroup$ – erdal.karaca Mar 1 '16 at 9:38

Fear of failure (Atychiphobia) is a form of specific phobia that may to some degree explains your situation.

However, please DO NOT instantly think/feel that you're experiencing a mental disorder or something similar. I cannot stress this enough, sharing some characteristics or experiencing some signs/symptoms of a disorder does not immediately means that you have that disorder.

I stated "to some degree" because features of "fear of failure" matched what you described, but only partly so. Note that in the linked explanation, on most cases, this fear will make a person avoid distinguishing him/herself and instead strive for mediocrity. However you have had achievements that clearly distinguishes yourself.

Instead, I would argue that you have such expectations of yourself, and the thought of failing to fulfill them are so great that you rather not try unless you're sure you will succeed. And when you did succeed, you tend to undermine/ brush-aside your own capabilities; since having such capabilities would mean that you're expected to achieve even more things in the future.

There are many articles discussing about this, and many offers ways/strategy to overcome this particular fear. For example this article. However I'm sorry that I couldn't find related books, papers, or scientific publications. All in all, I would personally advise you to stop thinking about results, and try to just "jump" the problem.

Hope this answer helps in any way!


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