Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough – Og Mandino
“My goodness! What would it be like if I had the life I always wanted! How would I cope if everything I desired to achieve actually came true! Wouldn’t that be terrible?” This kind of self-talk is an example of someone who possesses a “fear of success.” Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it? While “fear of failure” is an all-too-familiar term in modern-day ethos, we don’t often hear about the “fear of success.” At first glance, these phrases look different, but, in fact, they have similar interpretation. It is not unusual for people to be afraid of success because of the connotations attached to the word. The idea of success can elicit an equal, if not greater “fear” response as failure. Furthermore, many people cannot “cope” with success and, as a result, they unconsciously sabotage it. How does this happen? It is important to understand the ramifications of such thinking, as well as the rationale (or should I say the “irrational”) behind it.
Allowing your inner critic to surface on occasion in human. However, if it becomes a way of life and you continue to move in a downward spiral, your journey to success will become even more daunting. By interpreting setbacks as a sign of the universe conspiring against you, the potential risk of sabotaging your own success increases as negative thoughts intensify. Many of us maintain a personal belief system that keeps working against us, without understanding its origins.
The fear of success is based on three factors:
1. Regard we have for ourselves (self-concept)
A individual’s belief system cultivates either a positive or negative self-concept. Based on the internal lens we use to view ourselves, we attribute meaning to the terms “success” and “failure.” Self-concept goes beyond being placed under the “self-esteem” umbrella. Psychologist Albert Bandura says: “Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, if you believe in your capabilities to manage and overcome whatever life throws at you, you will find success in your life . . . however you choose to define “success”.
2. Lack of clarification in relation to success values
Just as the word “money” is laden with values attachments, the same can be said about the word “success.” It is essential to achieve clarity around your personal, uniquely individual definition of success in order to actually live it. There are widely held assumptions in our society that success and wealth are synonymous, almost interchangeable terms. It is at the core of many a values struggle! However, not everyone measures “success” and “wealth” in financial terms. Once we achieve clarity regarding what success actually means on a deeply personal level, the experience is invigorating.
3. The Impact of Conditioning
We are conditioned to think of ourselves, our values, and other people in terms of either/or. By polarizing our thoughts into society’s concept of good or bad, right or wrong, etc., it becomes difficult to discern our own unique value proposition regarding work, career, family, money, success, politics, institutions, etc. A powerful set of influencers have shaped our ideas throughout our lives, either subtly or otherwise. Examples of these influencers include our family of origin, culture, education system, religious credo, media, etc. When we are able to identify those influencers and in turn, recognize their impact, we can see our own version of the truth through a fresh set of eyes.
Now is as good a time as any to examine what you think about yourself, to look through that internal lens and focus on how you manage your life in the world. Change any self-perceptions that are fueling a fear of success. Equipped with a healthy self-concept and clarity regarding your values, you will find success in your career, your business, and your life.
About the Author: Michelle Ray is the CEO & Founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute