BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
You might have read the title of this article and said, WHAT? I don’t fear success! What a ridiculous thing to fear!
But if you did, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.
The fear of success is incredibly real. Unfortunately, the fear of success might be holding you back more than a fear of failure. Psychologists focus on the fear of change when it comes to the fear of success. When you try something new and you fail, you go right back to what you knew – the same and your comfort zone. When you try something new and succeed, you are in a new place and a place of dealing with change. Any change can be anxiety-inducing, especially change that you’ve brought on yourself with your actions.
How do you know if you fear success? Consider this: the last time you tried something new, how did you feel? What were you most worried about?
If you had anxiety about making something new happen, keep reading, and let’s start working our way out of this:
Find the source
Where did this fear come from? Dig into your history – a lot of time this fear comes from youth. If you’re having a hard time narrowing it down, reflect. Think about the feeling and the action associated with it. What made you feel anxious about success? Don’t feel like you have to discover this in a day – be kind to yourself and reflect a few times a month (or week!).
When reflecting, I’ve found journaling to be most successful, mainly because I can write, put it down, and pick it back up. The best part of picking it back up? I see the similarities that pop up through my reflection. Similarities generally point at the source!
Face the fears
What do you do to avoid success? Once you start tapping into these behaviors, you can start to zero in on the specific fears and face them. When you see what you avoid, you can start to approach the situations instead of run from them.
Start by looking at situations where you avoid the chances of success. Are you sabotaging yourself? Walking away from possibilities? Ignoring things like emails or offers? Reflect on these opportunities and see what they have in common.
After you’ve done a bit of reflecting, look at all of the situations you avoid holistically and weigh them. Which one seems to be the easiest to try and test out? The situation that would elicit the least amount of change if success does happen might be the easiest to try first.
If you’re still worried about change, think about the possible differences and write down some of the next steps you would take if these changes happen. Knowing about the possibilities usually calms the anxiety about the unknown – and allows a bit of planning. Find peace in the knowledge!
Doing this alone is hard – but trust me, you aren’t alone. Finding someone to be on your side, whether it be another person in your life, a therapist, or a supportive family member, finding someone to be in your corner is one of the best things you can do moving forward. This person can be your sounding board – or they can just help you celebrate your success when it happens.
If you have to look to therapy, remember: it’s ok to not be ok. You deserve to be successful, to welcome success, and to get excited about your successes. The fear you might be feeling is normal, common, and something that you can work on!