Sunday, December 09, 2007

Confronting Your Fear of Success

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I’ve been doing a lot of self-contemplation and self-discovery lately, because I’ve been in a bad spot in my writing career. After a much needed pep talk from family and friends, I have determined that I must confront my fears.

The fear of success.

What, exactly, is the fear of success?

If you Google “Fear of Success”, you’ll come up with a long list of websites that mention the problem. I found the following information on

• Fear that you will accomplish all that you set out to, but that you still won't be happy, content, or satisfied once you reach your goal.
• Belief that you are undeserving of all the good things and recognition that come your way as a result of your accomplishments and successes.
• Opposite of fear of failure, in that fear of failure is the fear of making mistakes and losing approval. Fear of success is the fear of accomplishment and being recognized and honored.
• Lack of belief in your own ability to sustain your progress, and the accomplishments you have achieved in your life.
• Fear that your accomplishments can self-destruct at anytime.
• Belief that no matter how much you are able to achieve or accomplish, it will never be enough to sustain success.
• Belief that there are others out there who are better than you, who will replace or displace you if you do not maintain your performance record.
• Belief that success is an end in itself; yet that end is not enough to sustain your interest and/or commitment.
• Fear that once you have achieved the goals you have worked diligently for, the motivation to continue will fade.
• Fear that you will find no happiness in your accomplishments; that you will be perpetually dissatisfied with life.

Again, the website I mentioned has a list of other things, as well, and I see a lot of myself in those points.

Fear of success can truly harm your writing career if you let it, or whatever area of life that fear is working on. You feel you have to work harder, that people won’t accept you, that things will change, your status in life will change, or that people will start to expect too much from you. Or maybe you feel that if you succeed at one thing (say a book), then you have to really work at making the next one even better.

Let’s say you want to lose weight. Some people will be proud of us, but others (come on, you know who they are) will antagonize you for your efforts.

As cited on the above mentioned website, you lead yourself to believe you’re going to have to work hard, hard, hard for the rest of your life to keep that success going, and wonder if the effort is worth it. You convince yourself nobody likes a winner and is out to shoot the head man. Everyone supports the underdog but finds fault with the successful.

I used to believe I feared failure. No one wants to fail, after all. But fear of success is just as potent, because with the fear of success comes the fear that you might fail once you succeed.

So how do you confront those fears? How do you get past them? How do you stop letting fears get in the way of your dreams?
suggests the following:

• Learn to reinforce yourself for the hard work, effort, and sacrifices you've made to achieve success
• Honestly appraise your level of achievement, success, and accomplishment
• Accept yourself as being healthy, "together,'' happy, successful, prosperous, and accomplished
• Don’t give yourself any excuses for being unsuccessful
• Give others in your life permission to give you honest, open, candid feedback when they see you self-destructing or backsliding
• Monitor your level of commitment and motivation to reach your goals
• Visualize your life when you are successful
• Give others credit, recognition, and support for their personal achievements, successes, and accomplishments
• Honest, open, realistic self-talk encourages you to work your hardest to achieve the goals you have set for yourself
• Accept the compliments and recognition of others with an open heart and mind

If you’re interested in reading more, the website I mentioned has steps to face to overcome your fears, and if you Google “Fear of Success” you get lots of helpful information.

As with all aspects of life, success has positive and negative side-effects. I think facing those potential problems can help you deal with facing your fears. The articles I’ve read tell you to ask yourself “What will happen if I succeed?” and embrace the positive and negative aspects. Then, ask yourself “What will happen if I don’t succeed?” Well, more than likely, you’ll life will still change. That’s life, isn’t it?

Another fear of mine is that I wonder if that’s really what I’m supposed to do with my life. Do we really have a set destiny or future that we are supposed to follow? If I sit around and wait and wonder what that future will be, will I ever succeed? No, because I’m sitting here wondering and waiting for a sign, when in fact the sign could be right in front of me.

Another fear of mine is in my job. The one other than writing. The one that pays my bills and allows me time to write. I fear how others will see me at even trying to accomplish something, and how others will see me once they see me as successful. It’s silly, isn’t it? When I really think about it, it is silly. I know there are some (and I know who they are) who will snub me and my goals, but that’s okay. That’s their problem, not mine!

Whether it’s the fact you need to lose weight, or a new job, or finishing your book, or quit smoking…whatever it is, do you let the fear of success weigh down your accomplishments? Do you let any type of fear inhibit what you set out to do?

I do! And it’s time I confront those fears.!


Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Excellent post, Emma! I've confronted the fear of success - which kept me from submitting my work for a long time, though it was disguised as a fear of failure. I'm still battling the idea that I don't really deserve to pursue my dreams and have a job I love.

The only way I know to deal with it is just ignore the guilt and keep plugging away. My motto is 'Why shouldn't I?"

Lee Morrison said...

I agree Emma, in fact, I did a post on this very subject on Sept 29 that I titled Are You Afraid Of Success, based on some topics we covered in my Personality Psychology class this term, if you're interested in taking a peek.

I think giving this matter the deeper thought it deserves is important in the path to meeting our goals.



Shelley Munro said...

This is a great post, Emma. I'm usually pretty determined once I decide to do something and focus until I achieve whatever it is I've set my mind on. I think being positive about your achievements and honest with yourself (what you can and can't do without help) goes a long way.

The Blonde Duck said...

Good job researching! I think you really hit the nail on the head on what's causing your writer's block. Hopefully it made you feel better!