Why I Fear Success

Can fear of success really inhibit us from moving forward? It can, and here are a few reasons why.

by Pete Ferguson

Some people remember the exact moment in time when man first stepped foot on the moon, or news reached them that US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

There are a few moments in life for me that serve as an anchor such as these – and one of them was the first time I heard that the reason I cannot find success is because I am afraid to be successful.

It was 2006, I was getting off the exit to work, and I was listening to Ultimate Power by Anthony Robbins. The thought of it was earth shattering. I was mentally paralyzed the rest of the day.

Still today as I realize that many of the roadblocks in my life are not due to external factors – but to my own self-limiting beliefs of how successful I “should” be – I am instantly uncomfortable.

This “Divine Discontent” is a low-grade anxiety that sits in the back of my mind. When I’m writing down goals for 2013, I hear a voice tell me not too aim to high so that I will not be too disappointed “when” I do not reach my goal.

What a load of horse dung – right?

There is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” – which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy. ~ Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T. in Somatic Psychology. Article: Fear of Success, January 3, 2011

A great mentor wrote in a blog posting this week entitled “I Am” about this very topic. She inserted the following quote by Marianne Williamson (also attributed to Desmond Tutu):

“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? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”

I grew up in a neighborhood where most of the people I knew spent more time pulling everyone else down rather than building them up. If you were successful it was because you didn’t spend enough time with your family, you were selfish, or you were stuck up, or … or … or …

One family hitched onto the success of Word Perfect (serious competitor to Microsoft Word at the time) and made millions. The envy and vile remarks made against them was evil at its worst.

I was lucky and moved away at age 13 and eventually ended up in a very affluent part of northern New Jersey where I went to High School with many children of extremely wealthy parents. I saw that money does not make a person, rich people are just as human as the rest of us and money does not magically exclude them from life’s trials.

Unfortunately, the scripts I’d been given as a child continued. I rationalized their success as not being family oriented as many of my friends were raised by their nanny rather than their mom. And I wanted to be family oriented.

All silly, but paralyzing psychologically none-the-less.

I had been aiming a bit conservative in some of my resolution areas for 2013. Then today I saw a very bold list of 2012 bucket list items on one of my favorite blogs, The Better Man Project. Check it out, but I warn you it is not for the timid in heart. I am curious how many of them he hit, I recognized several that he has successfully reported on in his blog.

In the story of Hamlet we are reminded “to thine own self be true.” Part of this truth is recognizing that we have divine potential to achieve well beyond what we currently think is possible.

The only thing between a dream and a reality is fear.

~ Zac Whyte

The trick in life is to unlock that fear, constantly pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, and see where it can take it.

I have tried on my own for a very long time to accomplish this. To date I have not been as successful as the inner Divine Discontent suggests.

In 2013 I will be hiring a personal life coach who is relentless. I’ve survived psychological and physical coaching that took me to new limits and pushed through layers of fear, so I have faith that I will survive and benefit greatly.

What lies lie within your fear of success?


One thought on “Why I Fear Success

  1. “The trick in life is to unlock that fear, constantly pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, and see where it can take it.” Pete, I appreciate how you share not only powerful insights but also personal experiences. Your words are written from the heart. I agree that fear of success causes many of us to stumble, often unbeknownst to us. Raising our awareness of this fear and, as you wrote, unlocking it and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone is critical to reaching God-given potential. Much gratitude…and many blessings in this New Year!

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