Inspirational Articles

Different Sides of the Same Coin - Part 2 - Fear of Success

Different Sides of the Same Coin Part 2 - Fear of Success

By Gord Riddell & Kathy Ryndak

In last months column we explored in Part 1 the concept of Fear of Failure. In this column we will be exploring the same idea but instead of Failure we are looking at the Fear of Success. While most people would say they are afraid to fail at something, very few people would identify that fear of succeeding may play a larger role than failing. It is not something that even gets much attention as it is a hidden fear buried within us. It is assumed in our society that everyone wants to succeed and as the saying goes if at first we don't then we keep trying to succeed.

Success can draw attention to our self and in turn to our family. Many people grew up with family messages about not centering out the family. While this was mostly about not bringing shame to the family name, and is present in most every culture, our child mind expands this message to include everything, good or bad, and becomes a message of don't stand out. This is really a double edged sword as the one message we receive from our parents is to do well and make us proud and the other message is don't stand out. Sounds confusing? It can be until we tap into how we may be avoiding being successful in our life.

Attitudes about Success

Success carries with it a lot of responsibility and while we may want to be successful we may also not want the responsibility. Once we have succeeded in something, there are expectations from others, and in turn our self, that we will not only continue to be successful but that we will also keep getting better and better. Resting on our laurels and our past accomplishments is not allowed in our society. There are all kinds of messages about that was then, but this is now. Once we have succeeded in the eyes of others, there is a sense that we must keep improving and exceeding our previous level of success. That can be a lot to live up to.

In spite of an overall message to succeed, there is a multi-billion dollar industry whose job it seems is to knock down the people who are making it happen in their life. You only need to stand in a grocery line to see headlines screaming out at you as to the latest embarrassing thing that a celebrity, politician or member of the royal family has done. With a morbid curiosity, we read about, not their success but, their human frailties and at some level we feel better knowing that they too have errors in judgment. It is not an industry that supports the idea of striving to succeed when it appears if you do, you will be set up to get knocked down. We can be equally as guilty of this in our own circle of friends, acquaintances and co-workers.

Things to look for

There are a number of things we can look for in our self which may be indicators that we have a fear of success. If a number of the following list feel like they are applicable to you, fear may be what is holding back your progress.

  1. When things are going well you are always waiting for something to go wrong or bad things to happen
  2. You start lots of things but never finish. You have lots of unfinished projects.
  3. You get bored easily in jobs, relationships, and friends and quit and move on to something or someone else quickly.
  4. Just as you are getting somewhere, something unforeseen happens and you get sidelined.
  5. When you are complimented, you have difficulty accepting it.
  6. When you are complimented on you work, you then turn around and make mistakes.
  7. You over multitask and overcommit to too many things so that nothing really gets your full attention and energy.
  8. You are terrified of standing out and being seen and heard.
  9. You don't really believe you deserve to do well deep down inside.

We all experience some of the above at various times in our life but if a few of this list runs through your life then the fear of success is worth taking a look at. It is easy to keep changing course, to say it was too boring, it was not for me, it is not creative enough and people give us understanding. We all do it. What is important is are these common in our experience? By walking away from things we do not have to change, we can maintain the status quo in our life. Keep things safe as we discussed in the Fear of Failure.

To be successful is much more daunting to our inner sense of safety and status quo as we do have to change. We cannot be successful and stay the same. To be successful we must examine our belief systems, our inner messages, our values, how we work and approach life. As the project or relationship you are involved with is evolving you must evolve with it. Otherwise you will become side tracked. You cannot have one area of energy in motion and have an energy block or no motion somewhere else.

In his inaugural address, President Nelson Mandela, of South Africa said the following; "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, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" The eloquence of these statements underscores the fear of success. Many are terrified of who we may become. What would be like? Would others still want to be with us? The fear of our own potential is sad at best and keeps us in our own darkness. This article is an invitation to step into your own light and your own fabulousness. To not fear change happening but to embrace its possibilities. To step into your own dreams of success and follow through.