This essay expands upon my previous entry on fear of success.
I once had a co-worker who hated her job. Her job stress was so much, that it was hurting her body. She wore those wrist supports to nurse her injury.
Her husband made enough money, so she didn’t need to work. She had dreams of becoming a candle-maker. She told me in great details about how she can make candles that have much stronger and nicer scents than commercially sold ones.
“Why are you still here?” I asked.
“Oh no, I won’t be here for long. I’m going to quit soon.”
She said that for months, and she was still there when I left.
Fear of Success -> Fear of Hope -> Fear of Failure
Have you ever heard someone say “I don’t want to have my hopes up?”
This is a classic statement of fear of success.
When your default state is that of non-success, success becomes foreign and unbelievable to you. You just don’t trust it, because you just don’t see it in your life.
On a conscious level, you think you want it. But deep down, you mistrust such a notion, because your environment doesn’t provide any proofs.
If you’ve been bullied constantly in school, it’s hard to believe that a school without bullying exists. You may understand it in concept, but it’s hard to believe that it’s possible in your life.
You actually want such a life, but you don’t want to believe in it, for fear that you’ll be wrong. How can you justify believing, when you don’t see any evidence to do so? Believing becomes a risk. Hoping becomes a risk. You just don’t want to hope, and risk disappointment.
When you’re in a state where you’re already low in resources, you just can’t take that kind of risk. To hope, and to fail, would be too big of a blow. You’re so taxed, hurt and strained already.
So you’d rather stay put, and tolerate the familiar and mundane stress of non-success. You submit to your fear of failure. Better to deal with the devil you know, right?
Are You Sabotaging Your Success?
Such a thought pattern can last years and decades, taking deep roots inside you. When good things happen to you, you just say stuff like “oh, I was just lucky. It won’t last.” That kind of self-defeating talk feels safer.
When your default state is non-success, a success requires a change. A change is rife with discomfort and risk. I don’t know what held back my co-worker above. Maybe she didn’t want to upset her boss by quitting. Maybe she didn’t want to pursue candle-making seriously because it was her passion and she didn’t want to risk failing with it. Maybe she loathed the prospect of resumes and job applications and interviews — all potentially cumbersome, stressful and failure-rich processes. Whatever her reasons were, she feared it enough to stay put.
Your Resources Are Like a Bank Account
Consider yourself to be a bank account. When your daily, normal life draws money out of your account, you keep going negative. You compensate for it, probably by indulging — over-eating, over-shopping, TVs, caffeine, cigarettes, and so on. These loan you money temporarily so your account is not so depleted, though actually after that temporary replenishment is over, it depletes you more, necessitating you to employ even quicker and more drastic fixes to make up for it.
Now, changing is like an investment. You have to take money out of your account first, and it has potential to pay you back a lot more later. But how can you do that, when your account is already deep in negatives? How can you do that, when your life doesn’t give you any proof that such an investment will pay off? Steps toward your success simply appear to be another element that depletes your account, with the sweet promise of pay off. Except these investments’ pay off comes later and its return uncertain. You’d rather engage in quick life-me-ups, as the effect is instant and investment, none.
Replenish Your Account to Fight Fear of Failure
When you’re stuck in this downward spiral, it’s much to ask to battle fear of success. The first order of business lies in replenishing your account. I’m sure the how of doing so is obvious: reduce stress, engage in healthier activities, sleep, exercise, take a break, and so on. This is how small victories can pave ways for bigger ones. You don’t need to take your eyes off of the big problems, but start first with little ones, the low-hanging fruits. Make it a habit to celebrate one small victory everyday.
This will lead to boosts in your resources, and you’ll become more able to take bigger risks. Your habits of success will overwhelm your fear of failure. You will stop fearing your success, as it becomes a normal, regular part of your life — something very familiar.
Fear of success has its roots in fear of failure. And it is also a sign that your resources are low. When success feels like a dangerous investment, boost your resources so that you can afford that investment. Combine that, with making success a routine, normal part of your life — and you’ll have no need to sabotage your success.
Can you think of a situation in your own life, when you resisted a positive change? How did you overcome such a resistance?