Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fear of Success: Is It Holding You Back?

By Judith Albright 

It is a rare human being who does not want to be successful, so why is it that so many people are afraid of achieving success? Opportunities are plentiful, so what is it that keeps us from seizing and running with them? The reasons are many, but primarily it boils down to the fact that success itself is not what we fear most. What we fear is the price we might have to pay for achieving it.

Ironically, fear of failure is often the underlying cause of fear of success. Even though they are closely related, there is a difference. Fear of failure is a fear of making mistakes and becoming diminished in the eyes of others. Conversely, fear of success is more about feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough. It is also a fear that success is fragile and cannot be maintained, and that happiness will remain elusive no matter what is gained or accomplished.

While we primarily think of fear of success in relationship to career and work, it raises its unwelcome head in other areas of life as well. For example, it can prevent us from applying for a scholarship or working toward a graduate degree. It can keep us from searching for a better job, finding the right mate, maintaining a good marriage, or assuming responsibility within an organization. Fear of success is particularly problematic for women because they believe if they are more successful than their spouse or partner they could intimidate and drive that person away, or their very success will make them unapproachable and not lovable.

For both men and women there are various common sabotaging beliefs underlying fear of success. Which of the following might be a stumbling block for you?

  • My time won't be my own-I will be a slave and have to give up my life.
  • I will lose my identity and will no longer be myself.
  • I won't fit in-my friends will avoid me and I will be lonely.
  • I won't have anything left to achieve or look forward to.
  • People will scrutinize my entire life and judge me harshly.
  • I will be too visible and won't be able to hide anymore.
  • Others might find out I really don't know what I am doing.
  • Someone close to me could feel hurt or resentful.
  • I won't be able to maintain my success which could all be swept away in a heartbeat.
  • People might think me ruthless or selfish.
  • I will be besieged by people wanting money or favors.

How to Address Your Fears

The best way to address your fears is to recognize them for what they are. Much of what we believe falls apart or seems absurd once you start examining them under a microscope.

Be clear about what success means to you.  An ideal definition of success might be a meaningful life, lasting relationships, and work that provides personal fulfillment, financial prosperity, and makes a difference. What is your definition? How would you end this statement? "If I were successful I would be... Once you have a clear idea of what success looks like for you, start focusing on what matters most. With each action you take, ask yourself if it will get you closer to your goal or farther from it. Do not allow yourself to get sidetracked with superficial distractions.

Identify and analyze all the downsides of being successful. Take a close look at what it is that you actually fear. Consider the following question: if I am truly successful (according to what my definition of success is), what is the worst thing that could happen? What would I have to do or be that is different, and what would be the overall impact on my life? What would change? Can I accept and live with those changes?

Stop gauging yourself by other people's achievements. No two people or situations are ever the same and we all came into this life with our own individual gifts and talents. Stop dwelling on your shortcomings and concentrate on your assets. Determine what yours are and use them to your advantage. And regardless of how small, celebrate your own milestones and accomplishments. When you feel good about yourself and what you are doing, it is harder for others to shake your confidence.

Stop focusing on competing. While it is wonderful to appreciate and be inspired by others and to learn from them, becoming embroiled in a fierce competition with someone else is not only a waste of time, it sets you up for disappointment and failure. The only one you need to compete with is yourself-aim to be the best you can and strive to break only your own personal records.

Seek help when you need it. No one has the answers to everything and it is no disgrace to ask for help when we find ourselves in over our heads. It is not necessary to have all the answers ourselves. It is about knowing where to find them when we need them. Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company fame is a good example of this. He saw no need to know everything himself and gathered people around him he could rely on to provide the right answers.

Stop trying to be perfect. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be. Perfection is a lofty goal that is rarely met. We can make ourselves crazy trying to achieve this, or we can accept our imperfections as part of who we are. Avoid focusing on whatever you did not do, or what you should have done differently. It is only human to make mistakes, so forgive yourself and everyone else will too. You might even try poking a little fun at yourself-a little humor can take the sting out of many situations.

Learn from your mistakes. You are bound to make mistakes and when you do, learn what you can from them. Just be sure your future mistakes are new ones and you are not repeating any old ones. Mistakes are the stepping stones of progress, and if you are not failing from time to time you are probably not trying hard enough. Significant achievements are almost invariably realized at the end of a long road of failures. Something you may consider one of your greatest mistakes might actually turn out to be the link to your greatest achievement.

If your life is not going the way you want and you are ready for a change, consider my course, Taking Control: How to Overcome Limitations and Create a Limitless Life.You are also invited to claim your free instant access to my report, How to Change the Direction of Your Life (Even If You Don't Know Where You Are Going). Go to http://www.limitlessliving.org/Freestuff.html

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