Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fear ... of Success?

OK, I'm starting to understand that there are two ways of looking at the world: through the eyes of fear or through the eyes of love. If it's not one, it's the other. Of course, without that awareness, I wouldn't know that I had a choice about how I see the world. And without the choice, I really would be at the mercy of my circumstance, whatever that might be.

So, given the opportunity to choose, I choose love. Got that.

If it is that simple, why isn't it easy? Or does my saying that make it so?

I think I speak for many out there who understand that fear still has a hold on us at some level. As we read Think and Grow Rich, we understand the ghosts of fear that have kept many people stuck: 1) Poverty; 2) Criticism; 3) Ill Health; 4) Loss of Love of Someone; 5) Old Age; 6) Death.

Now I may be wrong, but I believe that as we've evolved somewhat in our thinking and awareness, not so many of us are as affected as we once may have been by some of these fears; however, I also believe that there are others that have taken their place.

The one I'm most curious about - and I don't believe I'm the only one - is the fear of success. What's that about?

I did a talk a while back called "Getting Beyond the Fear Factor," where the participants were invited to come up with their own definition of fear, including the factors that keep them in that state. When I asked people in this particular workshop to share their fears, I got some of the typical responses: my kids' well-being, that I'll be able to retire without worry, snakes (!), failure (which always comes up) and one woman I remember said "success." That's not a new one, so we broke it down.

She was in sales and was working for a company where her quotas were set for her. She didn't want to "succeed" because she knew it would mean higher quotas and more work for her to achieve the goals someone else set for her. So I asked whether that definition of success: achieving goals and then having to do more, be more, was the way everyone defined success. One woman was very clear that her definition of success involved elements like a happy family, freedom, flexibility to do whatever she wanted, and peace.

What's scary about that?

So really, for many of us, the fear of success probably lies somewhere in our definition. I'll bet for every person who claims fear of success as one of their limiting beliefs, there is something in his/her early programming that involved some sort of external element - measuring up to a standard, having to do more as a result of a goal reached, or maybe even an overshadowing of someone else's accomplishments (a younger sibling, a classmate, a friend).

Our upbringing and our early conditioning is based on elements we can understand as children whose reasoning and logical thinking skills just aren't physically developed yet. We learn concepts like sharing through our physical senses and we just can't understand why we would want to give half our candy bar to our brother because it means we're left with only half. We learn that sharing means losing and we translate that to the sharing of information as we grow up. Keeping our ideas close to the vest means that we won't have to lose our intellectual property. We see that we can be right about seeing the world the way we've always seen it, and wonder why not everyone sees things the exact way we do.

And that's just one area. Our own worthiness as well as our learned relationship with money are two other areas that might keep us stuck. "If I make lots of money, then I'll have to worry about how to not lose it." "If I get that big house, then I'll have to clean it." "If my business is successful, then I'll have to put in more hours." We fall back into those old patterns, and more often than not being right - even if what we're right about is no longer true - becomes more important than living in a new paradigm.

This is actually a phenomenon called "Impostor syndrome," which, according to Wikipedia, is the belief by some people that regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, they remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Although much evidence points to their true success, they dismiss it as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

The really interesting thing about concepts like this Impostor Syndrome is that it's real to the people who suffer from it and those who don't can't even fathom it. Fear of success? How crazy is that? You don't want to make money? You're nuts! You actually sabotage your own victories so others won't feel bad around you (those are the phony phonies - people who don't actually identify with the Impostor Syndrome, but feel they should!).

So, is it enough to just know ABOUT this syndrome and to identify with it in some way? Or are we really ready to get beyond it? Perhaps instead of looking for the answer, which in some ways comes from outside yourself and is someone else's way of solving an uncomfortable situation, we might do better to come up with a really compelling WHY for actually getting past this limiting belief.

I know that when the WHY is big enough, the HOW somehow materializes and we discover solutions we didn't even know we knew.

I'd love to use this idea as a topic for a Master Mind dialogue - or perhaps a community dialogue in our Wednesday evening gatherings here in Fargo. Is this something you'd be interested in pursuing and learning from others? Let's start the dialogue here.

Let's get beyond the fear of success and take on bigger and bigger challenges. As Marianne Williamson reminds us, "we've got a world to save."

Now that's a success I'm willing to stand for!


At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Patrice said...

I love reading your post about the fear of success.I learned a lot from it. Keep posting

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Jodee Bock said...

Thanks, Patrice. I work through a lot of my own stuff as I write. I'm just grateful that there are some readers out there, too! :)

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Paul-Hendrik Zietsman said...

Thank you, great post. I think that I definitely have a fear of success at the highest level. What is the first step in overcoming this (in your opinion)? Which book
should I be reading?

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Jodee Bock said...


I've found Think and Grow Rich to be amazingly applicable to life today, even though it was first published in 1937. The epilogue really touches on the fears we had then, and I think, still have now. I think it's really important to get together with other like-minded and like-hearted people to share insights. Tune in here, too - I'll try to share more resources.


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