Fear of Success? Get Over It Already

When I read Johanna Garth's blog post,  What Do Writers Want?, and realized she was talking about her fear of failure, I was struck once again by how I fear success as much as, if not more than, I fear failure. I simply don't consider failure an option for the most part as long as I know I've given the best I've got to give. I commented on Johanna's page, but my comment didn't post for some reason. Perhaps that glitch was the universe telling me to pursue the idea formulating for my own blog post, so here it is.

I blogged earlier this year about embracing my own strength, Good Little Girls, Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Strength, and the fear of success goes right along with what I said then. Actually, in a way, that article addresses my fear of success. I guess I didn't quite get the message because a reminder arrived this week. (You may recall I recently wrote about the little nudges the universe sends us...)

I'm not exactly sure where my fear of success originated. I started my life striving for success and being proud of every achievement I accomplished. Somewhere along the way, I started to downplay my successes and make them less than they were. I didn't want to be a "show off" or to outshine those I cared about. It's not that I was self-effacing necessarily. It was more a matter of not wanting to be seen as arrogant.

I've spent a lot of time the past few days trying to figure out how my fear of success developed. I remembered a lot of little comments from loved ones that may have contributed. There were definitely times in my life when I was encouraged to do less than my best, to not boast about my achievements, to not "show off" when I knew how to do something, to not speak my mind, to be weaker than I was, and to hide my intelligence or knowledge all in the name of not making someone else, often that someone else being male, feel bad. At the same time, a need to be perfect was instilled in me. Perhaps all of that contributed to my fear of success.

It happened so slowly I didn't even notice it for a long time. By the time I did, it had become a way of life.

Several months ago, as a friend and I talked, I admitted that I thought I'd been subconsciously sabotaging my own success. Apparently, she'd already noticed this because she sighed and said something to the effect of "I'm glad you see it." My mouth dropped open. Looking back, I think, subconsciously, I'd hoped she would disagree with me.

Shortly after the abovementioned conversation, I spoke with another friend about the progress I was making on my first book of poetry, Love in Silhouette: Poems. I voiced some concerns about how the book would be received. He said something to the effect of "Just publishing it is an accomplishment." I blinked back tears because I honestly wanted to argue with him. If I saw completing the book as an accomplishment, that was kind of like admitting success. He reminded me, without even knowing it, that for months I'd been finding reasons to not complete the book because I feared success as much as I feared failure. I faced that fear and released that book and another book of poetry. Whether they turn out to be financial successes or failures, well, as my friend reminded me, the very fact that I wrote and published them is a success.

And, I need to learn to celebrate my little successes instead of fearing the big success that hasn't even happened yet. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm always afraid my success will make someone think I'm acting like a "show off" or a "know it all" or some other term often used to diminish the success of others.

Whether one has a fear of success or a fear of failure, the result is the same. Work is delayed, minimized, and hidden from the public. If I put my work out there and it's successful, what happens to all those relationships where I've minimized my success to make those people feel better about themselves? Geez, that's lame, lame lame. If those people genuinely care about me, they want me to succeed. They will be happy about my success.

In a way, this line of thinking isn't even fair. I assume, somehow, someone else will see my success as minimizing theirs yet I am always happy for my friends' successes even if they have nothing to do with me and I never take it as a statement about my own work. I should assume that my friends are, and will be, as happy for my success as I am for theirs and will see that my success doesn't make a statement about their work.

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all always be as happy for another's success as we are for our own? 

Time to face that fear of success... The best way I know how to do it? Publish another book of poetry and finish writing the other projects I'm working on including my book on gratitude... The book of poetry is coming soon! And, the other projects are in the works! So stay tuned for more information.

So what about you? Do you fear success or failure more? Why?


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