Fear of Success or Fear of Failure – X Factor becomes psychologists’ field-day – I’d like to know what you think.

Rewarding any behaviour, whether it be good or bad, tends to increase the chances of that behaviour being repeated – I doubt there is anyone who would disagree with this psychological principle.

So when we see Katie on X-Factor saved this week despite the fact she – in her capacity as a ‘professional’ (I use the term loosely) contestant – behaved badly by not singing to the end of her song properly in the sing-off, smacks of the ‘spoiled brat’ syndrome. And it condones her behaviour as being not detrimental to her career, giving a message of ‘it’s alright to be a diva, a prima donna, or whatever you want to call it’.

We are all witnessing behavioural standards in our society eroded by such exhibitions especially in the young.

That’s one issue, but not the one I’m particularly interested in.

What interests me more is this question: Is it fear of success or fear of failure that motivates or triggers the individual to behave in this way?

In the early stages of this series of X Factor, we saw both Katie and Cher flunk their auditions and, despite this, they were both put through by Cheryl Cole.

Watching the girls as they exhibited these behaviours, my take was that they were both doing that subconscious ‘fear of success’ thing. You know, feelings of inadequacy, I don’t deserve this, what if I were to win? It’s the old comfort zone thing kicking in, isn’t it? And, as we saw, people can and do actually influence their physical condition, acquiring coughs and colds, or losing their voice for example. Although success on the X Factor looks like a powerful motivator, people can easily sabotage because the subconscious knows that massive change will result if the success happens, so they give themselves a sore throat so if they screw up they have an excuse.

And then there was Mary, this week, who also flunked her performance. Here – I thought – was a much clearer case of fear of success. Success would change Mary’s life probably even more significantly given her age and background.

But what is really going on here? Are we just more tolerant of ‘bad’ behaviour in our society now or is the cultural psyche of the nation dramatically changing? What if the judges had sent Katie home instead of Trayc. That would – at least – at some level give a message of ‘bad behaviour can result in punishment’.

But then it might just be me – my perception – calling it bad behaviour, when to other people it’s just Katy being acceptably emotional!

The point is we know that entire societies change the benchmarks for what is acceptable and what isn’t over time. History shows us this in what appear to be increasingly shorter time scales. Political Correctness is perhaps the biggest example in recent times.

So where am I going with this?

Well, this is my question: Were Katy, Trayc and Mary all exhibiting fear of failure, fear of losing, which is what it might look like to the untrained eye, or was it actually fear of success?

I like to know what you think.


Posted on November 8, 2010, in Psychology & Influence, Showbiz Shockers. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Sadly Xfactor is my guilty pleasure, so I feel thoroughly qualified to comment here – I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.

    Quick sweeping statements – Mary: fear of success. Katie: Flawed mentally, requiring the ego stroking of fame – fear of failure and not being loved, I love her for it as it makes her an interesting performer and gives her a bitter sweet edge that is often present in creative people, plus she knows how to work it (clever girl isn’t she). Cher: irritating gobby teenager who is talented, but should work her way up through the true musical ranks rather than trying the fast track. She is a perfect example of the instant gratification generation.

    I really do need to get some more cerebral viewing in my televisual repertoire. Oh dear.

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