“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are meant to shine, as children do....and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
- Marianne Williamson from ‘A Return to Love’

To be successful: to attain a desired objective

Strange as it may seem, many people do in fact fear being successful and this fear prevents them from striking out and fulfilling their dreams. Fear of success can be just as immobilising as the fear of failure. Success scares us because very often with success comes additional responsibility or a change in lifestyle, and when you are genuinely creating this change, you are heading into an unknown and maybe an uncertain future. Success can be hard to handle and the added responsibilities can feel threatening or overwhelming. For this reason many people prefer to continue with things just as they are rather than experience even the slightest change and the possible discomfort that might result. Change may hurl you into new adventures and endeavours and, more often than not, this means having to move outside your comfort zone and into a situation where you are challenged by new situations and people. For this reason, many people who claim to crave success shy away from it and use multiple strategies to avoid being successful. They create a variety of excuses for not doing their best and falling short of their stated objectives. Success creates expectations. People come to expect more of you and the more successful you are, the more difficult it is to keep up any kind of pretence which might suggest that you are unable to take charge of your life. Dealing with fear of success is all about laying claim to the power that you have within you.

People who fear success often resort to one or maybe more of the following:

They sabotage their chances of success by behaving inappropriately prior to an important event (an interview, a meeting, a presentation). They might drink too much or go to bed late.
They lose the motivation to commit themselves to anyone or anything.
They are reluctant to take on new responsibilities.
They get upset if they feel that they are being criticised in some way.
They feel anxious, even when there is no obvious cause for anxiety.
They tend to be pessimistic.
They put off projects or neglect duties, preferring to deal with non-essentials or trivia.
They talk a lot but take little or no action.

By succumbing to the fear of success, people avoid responsibility and fail to discover what they truly have to offer to those around them or to society as a whole. Self-doubt robs them of being able to take pride in their efforts and achievements. It is good to remember that success has nothing to do with your worth and much more to do with the effort you make. A person who is able to respect himself, his abilities and the efforts he has made should feel rightly proud of his achievements and rewards. A life which does not contain self-respect can feel empty and solitary.

The Job Interview

Alice is a thirty-nine-year old mother of three, who is searching for work. As a single mum, she had always worked outside the home until she was unexpectedly made redundant several months ago. Being made redundant was a huge blow for Alice. It was a great knock to her self esteem. She has been for many job interviews since but with each rejection, she has withdrawn more and more into herself.

Now a curious thing has begun to happen. She has begun to reduce her chances of getting the job she is being interviewed for. She arrives late, is carelessly dressed, her body language shows that she has little interest. What has changed? Previously, she had everything under control and she gave a very confident account of herself in response to the interviewer’s questions. Now she is a wreck. She is terrified of being unable to understand the questions because she is up tight and equally terrified that if she does understand she will be unable to answer. During an interview her mind goes blank, her heart races and she is afraid that she is going to vomit.

Could all this be because really she is afraid that if she is successful, she will have to return to work? It has been rather comfortable being at home, answerable only to herself, seeing the children off to school and being at home when they return. Who knows? One thing is for sure, Alice is not the lady she was before and if she allows this state of affairs to continue, things can only get worse. She needs to work for financial reasons and her situation is becoming critical. Her mum has taken up the fight, suggesting to Alice that she is making great efforts to maintain the status quo in her life, that she is purposely sabotaging job prospects in order to stay inside her comfort zone. This naturally makes Alice angry because deep down she knows that it is true. Alice is using a very clever strategy to avoid revealing her fear of speaking up, allowing change to happen and taking on new responsibilities.

Alice is in a dangerous loop now as this fear of speaking in front of others at interview is encroaching upon other areas of her life, and she knows it.

Identifying fear of success
Identify the areas in your life where you may be afraid of success. Write them down and then for each situation ask these questions:
What do I think will happen if I achieve success here?
In what ways do I feel I don’t deserve success here?
What are my greatest concerns if I should succeed in this area?
How motivated am I to struggle for success in this area?
In what ways do I sabotage success?

There might be profit in being less than successful and failing to make changes. Think about the following in your own case:
What do you manage to avoid by not being successful?
What emotion are you unwilling to release when you block success?

Take some action and reward yourself
What are you going to do in your life to start moving towards a scenario where you are enjoying being successful? What steps could you take in the coming week? Remember without action nothing changes, so your action steps are obligatory if you want to make change happen. If you have worked through this lesson and carried out some small action steps, you deserve a reward. Think of some way that you can reward yourself for a job well done.

“Come to the edge,” he said. They said: “We are afraid.” “Come to the edge,” he said. They came. He pushed them .... and they flew. - Guillaume Apollinaire

Author's Bio: 

Vivien McKnight is a creativity development specialist living on the Mediterranean coast of Spain and dividing her time between UK and Spain. When once asked “What would you most like to know about yourself?” she replied “I would like to know what I am capable of doing, what I can really achieve.” She uses that same question to get others to search inside themselves for answers. Vivien works with groups and individuals in UK and in Spain. You can contact her at vivienmcknight@gmail.com or visit her website www.vivienmcknight.com