Imagine yourself achieving everything you ever dreamed about. Visualize yourself working as the manager, the CEO, running for office, launching the new business. Imagine yourself winning!
Did you do it? Did you imagine it?
Did you visualize yourself in your dream career, in your dream car, living your dream life, in your dream home?
How does it feel? Is it exciting or scary? Do you believe dreaming is just for kids?
If you find it really hard to visualize yourself achieving your best life despite evidence that you are capable, if you back down or self-sabotage every time you get really close to achieving success, you may not be afraid of failure, you may actually be experiencing a fear of success.
Have you ever wondered why some people make the same amount of money year after year for their entire lives? They make $50K a year and never get much further than maybe $60K for 5 years, 10 years, or even 20 years? Why is that? Well, most times they don’t pursue any more than $60,000 a year.
“If you do not experience consistent growth in your income and you always seem to plateau and stay at the same level, you may have a fear of success!”
How does fear of success look in your daily life?
You abandon your dreams, you keep starting, but never finish. You feel nervous when things are going right, uncomfortable getting accolades and attention for your achievements. You miss the application deadline, you show up late to the meeting even though you had time. You start the business and don’t actually launch it or promote it. You don’t follow-up or return calls to people that expressed interest in being your customers.
It shows up when you’re invited somewhere you can network or promote yourself and choose to decline. Maybe, you pass up a good opportunity, because you feel like you’re not ready, not qualified or not good enough.
You keep placing limits on yourself, even when no one else is limiting you. For example, two people can sell the same product, the same quality at different prices, one charges $40 and the other charges $15. The person that charges $15 has placed a limit on how much they can earn for the same product. Have you ever heard someone in business say, “I don’t need to be rich, I just need to make enough money to pay my bills. Or just enough to get out of debt.”? That is fear of success, not fear of failure.
Now, let’s consider the fact, that you carry the weight of being a successful black man. You have little to no room for error. Your friends and family are all depending on YOU! And then there are the “haters” who hate to see you climb, but can’t wait to see you fall.
“Some people are stuck in a comfort zone because they fear the attention, the expectation and the responsibility that comes with success.”
It feels scary to climb really high and fall. You may also feel guilt leaving your friends and family behind as you become more successful. Think of celebrities and pro-athletes that acquire millions and move out the old neighborhood, start hanging out in new circles and doing things their old circles can’t.
Causes of Fear of Success
“Upper Limit Problem,” that virtually all of us face: Parts of us are programmed to stay safe – not shine or stand out from the crowd.” — Gay Hendricks
Upper Limit Problem
In the book titled “The Big Leap” by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, they address the “upper limit problem,” which is described as a glass ceiling or limit we place on ourselves for how happy we can be, how successful we can be, how much money we can make. The thought of being required to do more and be more can be overwhelming if you don’t feel capable.
Imposter Phenomenon (Imposter Syndrome)
If you ever felt like your success is only attributed to good luck or chance. If you fear people are going to discover that you’re really not that good, not qualified or don’t know what you’re talking about, these are all signs you may have imposter syndrome. As a result, you may not speak up, promote yourself, apply for a promotion and pursue better opportunities. The imposter phenomenon was coined in 1978 by Dr. Pauline Clance. In 1985, she created the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale which measured the characteristics of this phenomenon. There are numerous celebrities who have shared their experience with imposter syndrome, even with proven success and notable achievements. Michelle Obama and the late Maya Angelou have mentioned that they experienced imposter syndrome.
When we grow up, we are taught or trained to believe and behave in certain ways based on our caretakers and environment. We may learn that affluence and abundance are things to be feared or things that “black men” cannot achieve because it’s outside of their locus of control in a racial society.
Treatment for Fear of Success
Daily Affirmations & Positive Practices
Sometimes making a habit of making affirmative statements about yourself can boost your self-worth; making you feel worthy of success. You deserve to be successful! Reading books and listening to positive motivational speakers can inspire and motivate you.
A therapist can help you to identify significant emotional blocks to your pursuit of success, such as past shame, guilt, abuse or trauma.
Mentorship & Coaching
A mentor is a guide, who has expertise in your field of interest. A coach is an accountability partner for hire, who sees your blind spots, helps you to access your full potential, set achievable goals, gain confidence, clarity and consistent growth to keep you on track in your pursuit of success.