Lesson 2.6 - Dealing with fear of success
Hey you! Welcome to the final lesson in module 2 about another very common fear: the fear of success.
This is what you might be thinking. Wait. What? Isn’t that an oxymoron? How can fear and success exist in the same phrase? Success is what I strive for, dream of, and look towards when I daydream about the future. Why on earth would I be fearing that?
Let’s chat, my friend.
What on earth is the fear of success?
We all know it takes courage and self-belief to step outside of our comfort zone and work towards a big dream.
The thought of that dream becoming a reality can bring about anxiety. Anxiety about the unfamiliar, the unknown, what might happen, and about how this new situation will feel.
If I achieve success - whatever that means to me - how will that feel? Who will I become? Will I still be me or will I change somehow? What will the people around me think? Will I open myself up to criticism or ridicule? Will I lose something or someone? Will I crash and burn and feel humiliated? Will I have to change up my routine and do things differently?
These are real fears, and pretty deep ones at that. They’re constantly rumbling in the background and so they’re a powerful force for holding you back.
What fear of success looks like is keeping yourself safe, small, and comfortable. It means avoiding putting yourself out there and showing your authentic self. It’s a murky, deep water between yourself and the things you’d like to achieve.
If you’re affected by fear of success, then you may be showing these behaviors:
You don’t complete your projects.
You talk about what you’re going to do more than what you actually do.
You work furiously on several projects at once, not really focusing deeply on any one of them.
You still have exactly the same things on your vision board that were there five years ago.
You second-guess yourself often.
Distraction is your middle name.
And the big giveaway…you’re on the verge of ‘success’ and things start going really wrong.
Do you recognize any of these ‘symptoms’ and behaviors in your own life? How does fear of success show up for you? Maybe you can think of other ways than the ones I mentioned just now. Write them down on the worksheet.
What to do about fear of success
Okay, so how to deal with fear of success?
Take stock of your strengths
Success is more complex than failure. On some level, it’s more comfortable to stay in a familiar situation, even if it doesn’t feel great on the surface. But achieving success means you’re entering uncharted territory. You’re putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and criticized, and exposing yourself to new pressures and demands. It’s only human to wonder whether you’ll be up to the challenge. A small anxious part of you would rather not take the risk.
Although the idea of success can be scary, the reality of it is generally easier to cope with. If you’ve been resourceful enough to keep yourself going during the tough times, you’ll probably be able to do the same with the good times. Yes, you’ll have to make changes and learn new things, but you’re creative and adaptive enough to do that. If you experience doubts, remind yourself of all the extra resources success will bring you: a boost to your confidence, a healthier bank balance, a growing reputation that opens new doors.
Stop worrying about change
Because we habitually put successful people on pedestals, the idea of becoming ‘one of them’ can feel daunting. You start to worry that you’ll turn into someone else, a person your friends and family won’t recognize… and won’t like. This fear is founded on a false premise: that change is about leaving your old self behind and replacing it with a completely new one. Change is more complex than that. YOU are definitely more complex than that.
Instead of thinking about change in terms of subtraction (losing your old self) think of it in terms of addition. You’re about to discover and develop new facets to your personality, adding to who you are and what you bring to the world. Getting used to your new role will feel tingly and exciting. And you can still be the person you’ve always been to family and friends. Spending time with them will feel like slipping on your old comfy jeans after spending time in your trendy new clothes.
Ask yourself the tough questions
This is an important step in dealing with the fear of success, so I’m sure you know by now what’s coming… it’s worksheet time!
First, ask yourself: why am I standing in my own way? Our pasts have a way of creeping in and being a part of our future. So, what do you need to let go of? What words have others said that still fill your mind?
Next up, what does success look like to me? Success can be an ethereal thing unless we define it. Getting clear on your goals is key to knowing what success looks like. And it can't be a moving target. Will you hit a certain monetary goal? Will you help a certain number of people? Are there smaller successes along the way you can set to get to your big success?
And finally, what happens when I am successful? It can be a huge release to finally hit success, but what will happen when you finally get there? Will you set another goal? Will you celebrate? Will you find a new direction? Will you quit?
Remember, there are no wrong answers here. The fact that you’re digging deep to find some answers will help you so much in finding clarity in how to move forward. Keep working at it and keep staying true to who you are and what YOU consider to be successful. You got this, my friend!
Alright, we’re done with module 2. Next up, module 3 about getting to the other side of perfectionism and I can’t wait to start working with you on that. See you on the other side.