I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fears and how they can hold me back from accomplishing the things I want to do. I have always blamed fear of failure for stopping me from trying new things. I don’t want to look foolish. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to waste money or time or energy on something that is going to fail.
Lately, though, I have been noticing that it is not fear of failure that is stopping me from trying a couple of things. It is fear of success. This seems counter-intuitive to me. On the surface, having a fear of success does not seem to make any sense and I dismiss it as ridiculous. If I look deeply inside myself and am honest, though, I have to admit that this fear is inside me and does stop me from changing the status quo.
Success should be the thing I want. However I might define success, it is something to strive for. Why would I be afraid of it? I can think of a couple of reasons.
1) Success brings change. Keeping everything the same is comfortable and safe. I have a certain understanding of myself and my life the way it is. Even the parts of my life that I am unhappy with are familiar. If I try something and succeed, it will change some part of my world. I think this aspect of fear of success must be universal, because the world is full of sayings that support avoiding change.
“Don’t rock the boat.”
“Don’t jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
“It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
If all of these sayings are in my head and in my heart, I am going to choose safety over success every time.
2) Success brings the unknown. Part of the problem with the change that success brings is that change is unpredictable. The change may be good, but the unknown-ness of it is terrifying. There is a saying for this, as well
“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
If I could say – “success will bring this change into my life” – I could determine whether it is worth it to make the attempt. But if I can’t even conceive of what success might bring, it feels a lot safer to just stay within my comfort zone than to leap out into the unknown.
3) Success brings growth. Success would not only change my world, it has the potential to change me as a person. I will have to learn and stretch and grow into success. Mediocrity and sameness are easy. They require nothing of me. Before I am able to take the leap to attempt to succeed at a new endeavor, I have shake off inertia and begin the hard work of growth.
I think that it’s important that I recognize that fear of success is holding me back as much as fear of failure. I have to admit to myself that success, with its positive change and growth are just as scary as failure. It’s only by admitting this to myself that I can begin to learn strategies to overcome this fear. It’s scary to think of pushing myself to overcome these fears, to take this on as a challenge to the status quo, to break free from inertia and step out bravely into the unknown. The good news is that I do believe it will be worth it.