Hi, lovely ones. Welcome to Episode 35. What if success scares the life out of you?
The title of this episode might seem a little weird.
I get it.
Why on earth Would you be afraid of success? Isn’t that what business is all about? You don’t go and put all this effort into putting your work out into the world so that no one buys it.
You don’t go and package your knowledge up so that it helps no one. You don’t refine your skills so that no one benefits from your services.
So why on earth would you have a fear of success?
Believe it or not, it’s a very real and painful thing. And in this episode, I’m going to break down why this occurs and what you can do about it so that it doesn’t keep holding you back.
But before we dive in, I want to shout out Bronzy09 who left a review after listening to the podcast bronzy says:
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“She has also been very supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement in an authentic way that I appreciate Congrats, Dr. Rebecca Ray.”
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So, let’s talk about why success might scare the life out of you.
Firstly, I need to clarify what I’m talking about when I say fear of success because you say fear of success isn’t necessarily fear of the success itself, but rather the consequences of the success.
You might not be making more money or reaching a wider audience or helping more customers. But you may feel what that means if those things come your way.
For example, if you’re making more money, you might actually feel the complexities of managing that money and paying tax on that money.
If you reach a wider audience, you might actually feel what it means if you have to be visible to more people.
If you’re helping more customers, you might actually feel the workload and demands that come with that effort. And whether you have the systems in place to support that.
If you’re successful, you may actually be afraid of the responsibility that comes with that success, or the effort of continuing to succeed after the initial success or the fear of succeeding and then somehow failing with your next endeavour or offer or product.
We can wrap all of this up into the phrase fear of success. It’s real and it hurts, and it can debilitate your progress and feel embarrassing and overwhelming. And it’s not there by accident.
The origins of your fear of success will always be dependent on your unique life experience, your upbringing, how your grown ups rewarded and disciplined you any trauma you’ve experienced, and the messages about success that you received growing up that you’ve internalised as beliefs.
Let me break this down a little.
Sometimes fear of success comes from the experience of trauma in someone’s background, traumatic memories activate our fi system and can push us into fight or flight mode, triggering our survival response that comes with a whole host of uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms.
Excitement mimics this kind of arousal of the nervous system. For people who have been traumatised, it can be difficult to distinguish between feelings of excitement and feelings of fear.
Meaning that anything that feels close to a trauma response gets marked as not okay, before you’ve had a chance to evaluate if it’s actually excitement attached to something good.
Sometimes, fear of success is born from childhood criticism that convinces us that we’re not good enough or that we’re undeserving of success.
When you showed dad that you received B plus in maths, and he asked why it wasn’t an A, when you showed mom your drawings from art class, and she told you that you’d be better off sticking to writing essays, when your English teacher told you that you’d never make it as a writer, because you don’t have anything unique to say, all of these scenarios and the ones that you can insert in their place from your own experiences can lead to a fear of success, because you’re unconsciously convinced that really deep down, you’re never good enough.
And outward success would mean someone is very wrong about your talents. And in fact, you don’t deserve this at all.
Sometimes, fear of success is born of self protection. Rather than sit with the risk of failure, or the possibility that you’ll be disappointed or have your hope stashed.
It’s simply easier not to try. Or you are unconsciously drawing a cushion of safety around yourself, so that you don’t have to be the centre of attention, or risk not being able to follow through on what’s expected of you. Once you’re successful.
You hide from success, the way you hide from the ghosts of your past.
If you’re not successful, and you can stay safe from prying eyes,
from people who have crossed your boundaries in the past, from people who have or might judge you negatively, and anyone who might see your success as an opportunity to tear you down.
When fear of success is internalised in these ways, it will block your progress.
You stay quiet about your success as a coping strategy. And perhaps you avoid it altogether by staying small, not taking chances, sabotaging your efforts, and ultimately never proving the fear wrong.
You lean on perfectionism, in the hope that it will protect you, but wind up in a cycle of starting but not finishing, or thinking but never starting at all.
I want to stop here and ask you if you see yourself in all of this. If you do, you’re not alone.
But this field doesn’t need to continually take the wheel from you.
I want to leave you with some practical steps you can take to shift from a place of disempowerment to moving forward despite the fear.
The operative word here is despite I don’t want to set you up for failure or unrealistic expectations. Some fears don’t disappear easily. And your fear of success might be like that. But that doesn’t mean it has to rule over you.
I want you to build awareness. We can’t change anything that we’re not aware of in the first place.
So I want you to check in with yourself using the following questions. What does it mean about you if you succeed?
When you’ve approached success in the past, how has it felt?
What does your mind say?
What does your body feel like?
Does success feel safe to you? And if not, why not?
I want you to understand the origins of the fear.
Does the fear represent experiences from your past?
Is excitement being confused as a fear response?
Does the fear sound like the voice of a grown up from your childhood?
Notice your avoidance.
Instead of avoiding excitement, practice differentiating between anxiety and excitement by saying out loud when you feel each emotion and what has triggered each emotion.
Notice where avoidance is keeping you small, blocked and stuck.
Ask yourself Is this a workable use of my time and energy.
Interrupt your patterns of avoidance to rewrite the story that you have around success.
Give success a chance. Allow yourself to try so that you have opportunities to challenge the fear and rewrite your reality.
Redefine your safety when success means things that you have to experience that you’ve previously felt uncomfortable with.
For example, being visible or taking on more responsibility.
Spend time checking in on the accuracy of the fears around visibility. For example.
Is what your mind is telling you helpful for you taking your life in a direction that you want to go. And what about responsibility?
Is there a chance your mind is focusing on fear, rather than having your back with the evidence of everything you’ve already accomplished.
Try writing a letter from your future self, to your present self, about the success you’ve achieved. I want you to imagine future success.
And then describe it in as much detail as possible to your present day self, what your success looks like how it feels in your life, what it’s brought you. And I want you to remind yourself, in that letter, remind your present self.
That is why it’s worth it.
Lovely one, your fear is real, but not necessarily accurate.
I want you to use this episode as a prompt to go and take brave action in the direction of that thing that you’ve been putting off.
You know, the one I’m talking about. I’m going to hold the belief in you while you develop that belief for yourself.
And if you’d like to dive a little deeper, I have a whole stack of free resources available for you at Rebecca ray.com.au/free. I’ll catch you very soon for the next episode of Hello, Rebecca Ray.
Lovely ones. Thank you so much for listening to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you’ve got something meaningful from this episode, and the most meaningful thing you can do is jump on over to wherever you listen to your podcast episodes, and leave a review.
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