So many of us may talk about the fear of failure, but we often forget its counterpart, the fear of success.
For the longest time I believed I was scared only of failure, when really, I was at ease with failure. I expected failure because it was a well-known comfort blanket to me.
To fail was a mask I wore well.
On the other hand, to succeed was my true face, but it was the face I was absolutely terrified to wear.
Growing Up Being Given Mixed Messages
As a young child I was praised for my gifts and talents, but from some I received very mixed messages. As a highly sensitive and very empathic child I picked up on the truth of those around me. I knew when my parents said one thing and meant another, or a teacher or friend was not speaking authentically. This was both a blessing and curse, but as a child it made trusting others challenging.
In my own family I grew up being told that what I did was great, but the energy and vibes of those important caregivers was the complete opposite. If I looked attractive I sensed envy; if I did well, more envy. Looking back now, I can see more clearly that the people around me wanted me not to shine; they wanted me not to succeed because to do so meant I was different from the rest of the family; it meant I would not belong.
To shine made other people feel inadequate and I sensed this early on in childhood.
I Dimmed My Light Deliberately
So, once I discovered that to shine, to make noise, to be vocal meant energetic and emotional rejection, I realised that if I wanted to belong and feel accepted and loved I had to hide my light.
The feelings I felt from those around me when I did do well were heavy and sickening to my stomach. They were too uncomfortable to feel. This also happened at school, whenever I did well I sensed the envy of those around me, so I withdrew.
As a child I felt it was my responsibility to make those around me happy; it was my job. So my job was to fail, to be invisible and to dull my shine.
I carried this story for 40 years.
Assuming I was simply a failure
For the longest time I didn’t ask why I was a failure or why I was unable to make anything work. Even though I know in my wiser years that they were not failures, simply stepping stones to now, those experiences were deeply rooted in me.
So instead I lived a joyless life, one full of anxiety and heavy depression. I lost my light and my soul to the outer world.
To fail was easy, to succeed felt a far-off impossible dream.
Self-Sabotage at Its Greatest
Many of us self-sabotage, but it’s fascinating to take a deeper look at how we do this.
For me in later life it manifested by having lots of inspired ideas for changing my life. So many ideas for business, for creative exploration, for making money that I would overwhelm myself with too many ideas, too many things to do.
I know so many people do this too and this leads to intense procrastination. When we are so overwhelmed, we shut down, completely frozen into inaction.
For me, I just crumbled under the weight of unrealistic expectations. Other people may just not show up to job interviews, create such internal stress that they become sick and unable to follow through.
Procrastination and Self-Trust
Procrastination can also be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes we naturally procrastinate to meet people, opportunities and life events at the perfect time. If we had rushed on, finished early, we may have missed what we needed to meet on our life path.
But often procrastination is a way we halt our growth and our ability to trust who we are.
You see, self-trust is born from following through, having our own back, supporting ourselves.
When we have an inspired idea for example, to write a book or start a new business, or start a new fitness regime we take steps on our inspiration, we commit to writing daily, doing market research or walking 20 minutes a day and we keep taking steps. We keep showing up, we keep following through and we don’t overwhelm ourselves with so much that we stop in our tracks through fear.
Facing A Fear of Success Takes Courage
After what felt like a decade of failure, I started to show up and follow through. What I did each day was:
- I started the day early, rising by at least 7am
- I committed to completing tasks, by giving myself four most important tasks of the day
- I quit wasting time surfing for hours on social media (Cold Turkey and other programmes can help with this).
- I stopped making excuses and started doing
Letting Go of Relationships That Don’t Support Who You Are
In 2017, I let go of 9 female friendships. Nine women who were rarely there for me, hardly ever showed up in my life unless I begged, grovelled and pursued them. I was putting a whole lot of my energy into making these friendships work and because of this I was wasting energy that could be put to better use.
Once I took the leap of faith and let them go, new opportunities and people showed up and these people and opportunities were more supportive, better communicators and great company. This helped me more on the new paths that I began to explore.
Avoiding and The Fear of Success
My inner child felt that because it was my job to make those around me happy that I must fail. So, for a very long time I avoided succeeding or being seen. I kept my head below the radar of other people and no matter what I did, for example writing books, marketing them to make my work seen, a big part of me was too scared to be seen.
I stopped myself from facing deep beliefs of unworthiness, and distracted myself with too much alcohol and food. I would eat food that exhausted me to the point that I was too tired to achieve or do anything. I surrounded myself with people who were rarely there for me and I felt so lonely and unsatisfied. I suffered from anxiety and depression as a result.
I refused to question or attend to those beliefs causing this experience that were holding me hostage until 2017.
Feeling Seen – Feeling Heard
My greatest fear was to be seen and heard, because I was supposed to be invisible, to not exist. In fact, in some families the saying ‘children must be seen and not heard’ was prevalent, mine was simply a more powerful version.
However, a louder voice was growing inside of me, wanting to be seen, wanting to be heard.
So, I started to face my fears.
First, I did my first ever public speaking event where I allowed myself to be interviewed on the radio in 2017, about my book ‘When Everyone Shines But You’. I then did a course called ‘Be Seen, Be Heard’ in my local area.
That same year things began to shift in being seen. My social following grew, to the point that in March 2018 my following on social media across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google is around 19,000 people.
And this week I did something I had been resisting and fearing for a very long time, I did my first Facebook live. I allowed myself to feel scared, to feel anxiety and to express it live. This was huge to me, shaking, blushing, but I did it.
How to Face The Fear Of Success
Facing the fear of success isn’t easy. We first need to find out what benefits we are gaining from feeling like a failure.
For example, I gained an illusionary sense of belonging and love, but lost myself in the process.
You may gain safety from an abusive parent. The gains will differ depending on your upbringing.
And next we need to look at the gains we will receive from success? What risks does success pose to our current identity and how we perceive ourselves?
Success to me brought up fears of loneliness, it’s lonely at the top!
But once I owned this I started to make changes and the right people showed up and the right opportunities for success came my way.