Sometimes facing emotions such as fear is just as important as learning the technical details of a profession or field. After all, you need a strong mind and spirit to truly excel.
We all think it’s the fear of failure that stops us cold. But sometimes it’s actually the fear of success.
Well, sometimes we’re comfortable performing at a certain level. When we have the chance to go beyond that, we get nervous, scared, or a bit sweaty. You see, we’re afraid to stand out. Sure, it sounds weird in this age of shock talk, posting everything on Facebook, and Tweeting about the mundane in our lives. But yeah, sometimes we really don’t want to shine.
I’ve been there. When I was in the fourth grade, I remember pretending to count my multiplication tables under my breath because that’s what a couple of the cool girls in class did. I didn’t want to look like I already knew my multiplication tables or that I was smarter than they. So I acted like I had to figure it out. That way, I could be just like them.
In adulthood, we do the same thing. Sure, we talk a good game. We talk about the plans we have and the aspirations we hold dear. If anyone asks us, we’re always “Planning to do something,” or “Trying to do another.” But in reality, we’re just lying — to ourselves. We’re not really trying anything. We’re holding ourselves in a certain comfortable space because we don’t want to stand out amongst our peers, relatives, friends, co-workers, or neighbors as different. And in fearing success, we doom ourselves to failure.
Says Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
That’s what our fear of success looks like. And that’s why we must face it. Because if we do not, we doom ourselves to living unfulfilled lives. And then we wonder why we aren’t happy. Or why we’re only content, when we have the potential to be joyful and living lives of meaning and impact.
“If there is no enemy inside, the enemy outside can do us no harm,” goes an old African proverb.
What that means is that if you don’t let the negativity and fear raging inside get to you, then all the things others say can’t get to you. You can rise above the fear of others’ opinions of you.
But we all know that’s a lot easier said than done.
It’s easy to say we don’t care what others think of us.
But we do.
Why else would we squeeze into uncomfortable clothes or put our bodies through painful rituals?
So what’s the answer?
The answer is in addressing the reasons you fear success — and going ahead anyway.
Here is how:
Five reasons you fear success and what you can do about it
1. You think your friends won’t like you when you start to shine. What you can do about it: Assess your circle of friends. Decide if these people really are so shallow as to turn on you because of your success. If your assessment turns up the fact that they won’t like you when you are successful, you have to ask yourself are these the people you want on your team. Find some supportive friends.
2. You think you don’t deserve it. What you can do about it: Get inside your own mind. Say affirmations every day, words that confirm that you are worthy. If you can’t think of your own affirmation, say this one: “I am worthy of every good thing Life has for me.” Say these words to yourself in the mirror in the morning as you get dressed and in the evening before going to bed. You have to program yourself to erase the negative and bad messages you’ve gotten used to hearing or telling yourself.
3. You don’t think you can sustain it. What you can do about it: Create a plan for achieving the success and for building on it once you have it. Often fear comes when we don’t have a solid way to address a certain issue, in this case, the success. You’ll feel more confident with a plan.
4. You don’t want to stand out or be seen as different. What you can do about it: Realize that different isn’t bad. Normal — experiencing the sameness of most of humanity — isn’t all that great. Most people give up on their hopes, goals, and dreams. They don’t even try for success. Is that really the way you want to live? So choose to be different.
5. You feel success won’t make you happy. What you can do about it: Realize that living without even pursuing the potential Life has given you definitely won’t make you happy. We are placed on this earth to make a contribution. When we find a way to do that, then we find joy. If you are successful in finding your purpose and pursuing your passion in a way that lets you realize your potential, you can tap into a deep sense of joy.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the flip side and explore the fear of failure and what you can do to overcome it.
Are you ready to seriously pursue your big dream — whether it’s publishing a book, making a living writing, or doing something altogether different?