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.
Some say that triggers aren’t a real thing. I tend to disagree. Most of us can recall a song from the past that was dedicated to a relationship and was “our song.” It could be twenty years down the road and when that song comes on and you’re singing along with it, the thoughts and memories that are attached to this song seem so vivid. You can remember what you were feeling at that moment, the smell of your surroundings and possibly even what you had on that very day. My father was a musician and I can still see and hear him singing and playing the last song he did for me. Despite my father and I not being close, anytime I hear Soon as I Get Home by Baby face, my eyes tend to sweat (as I like to say) and fill with tears.
When we typically think of triggers, the first thing that may pop into our head is trauma and things that have a negative vibe. But triggers can also be related to happiness and memories of past things that brought you joy. Triggers to childhood memories can bring about a sense of playfulness, times when you were more carefree, adventurous and free of bills LOL. We also undergo triggers that are attached to the not-so-great experiences or times in our lives. People who have experienced physical, sexual, emotional or other forms of abuse are oftentimes reminded of those things when it is reenacted on television, seeing someone who has the same body type, smell or look as their abuser or even certain times of the day, seasons or actual locations.
If a person has a substance use problem, triggers may occur by being around people who are drinking alcohol, engaging in drug use or seeing needles, pens, spoons or any other tools they’ve used to indulge in their substance use. Being triggered doesn’t mean that a person will go and use or relapse, but knowing how to maneuver the triggers is key. The craving or urge that can come from a trigger will generally only last about 30 seconds. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but it does turn into a longer time when we obsess over the very thing that has entered our mind. This could be the same for someone who is dealing with other addictions and disorder as well.
Knowing what triggers are, how they work and what to do when you encounter one will be beneficial. Here are some tips on how to do just that:
Identifying your triggers. It’s always nice to know how things have [alt1] affected you in the past and how they’re influencing you now. This knowledge will help you recognize what stimulates your responses before you’re triggered, while you’re being triggered and afterward. Sometimes we don’t realize that we’ve been triggered until after the fact. Being aware of the things that sets you off you will make it possible to come up with a plan of action for future occasions. Take note (mentally or physically) of those activities, thoughts, people, places or things.
Allow yourself to feel. Being triggered will yield certain feelings and emotions. Recognize the feeling, determine where it’s coming from and use healthy coping skills (deep breathing, journaling, exercising or seeing a mental health professional, etc.) to overcome any negative responses.. Having a variety of emotions is a natural response to life events. You don’t have to feel guilt or shame about having those feelings. How we react to these emotions and feelings will either yield a healthy or unhealthy situation.
Create New Norms: Now that you know what is triggering you, how it’s manifesting from an emotional or feelings standpoint, the next step is to create new norms and healthy distractions. New norms can be replacing the behaviors that you would normally engage in when triggered (i.e. getting angry and drunk versus getting angry and working out). Make sure that your behavior replacements are things that are realistic and that you will actually have the desire to do or follow through with them. This definitely makes for a new norm and an all-around healthier you. Healthy distractions are things that will take your mind off of past experiences or present stressors. One example of a healthy distraction may be going out with a good friend to enjoy a great meal and conversation after a breakup, a stressful week, etc. A few other examples of a healthy distraction may be soaking in a warm bath, going for a massage or indulging in a good book.
Grieving is okay. Grief is a process that has no time frame or expiration date. When you find yourself being triggered by or after the loss of a loved one, pet, relationship or job, it’s healthy to reframe that thought. Try to focus on the great memories, happy times or good characteristics and experiences with that person. How would they want to be remembered and what they would want for you is also a way some find comforting when it comes to being triggered by grief.
[alt1]Note: Impact is a noun (a meteor’s impact).
So, as you go through your day-to-day routine, be mindful of the things that are occurring and how they are showing up as feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Having the power to recognize this is half the struggle. As we say in my world: “Change your thoughts. Change your life,” and “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” We don’t have the power to change all the situations and events that have occurred in our lives but being able to change how we think about them and how they control us is the true testament of reclaiming our power.
The ramifications of a breakup can impact all of those around you. This could be your family, friends, kids, co-workers and more if they’ve built a bond with your former partner. Little things, like where will you go for the holidays, how the yard is going to get cut and who will make sure the children get to and from their extracurricular activities, can now be something that bogs you down — especially in the early stages.
Those first days, weeks and even years of having to adjust to things “being different” can be tough. It is during this stage is that we tend to be more emotional. Depression, anger, frustration, confusion, shame, disbelief, and regret are oftentimes the initial responses to a breakup. Happiness, relief, freedom and a newfound sense of self could also come out of it. Many times, we stay in relationships for too long. The public’s perception of “another failed relationship” can lead to shame. We know that the relationship isn’t healthy; the person isn’t meeting our needs, but we continue to stay. I was at an event a few days ago, and this was the exact discussion. The thought was that people stay in relationships for various reasons, but the top three are finances, children and good sex.
What constitutes a breakup? Depending on who you ask, they would probably say the ending of a relationship. What does that mean? Did you know that the breakup was coming? Had you already begun grieving the relationship? Most would say that the way in which the breakup occurred or the reason for the breakup makes all the difference. If you see the breakup coming, it could be something that you prepare for; if you feel blindsided, you could be facing a different story. Not to mention that “ghosting” is such a trend and people whom you’ve been building and growing with just drop off the face of the earth with no warning, rhyme or reason. This is also one of the most hurtful and traumatizing ways to break up. It leaves no room for closure and leaves the person on the other side of it very confused. Some people say they “ghost” people because they don’t want to deal with the questions, tears or discussion that might occur with a breakup. I believe that those who engage in this form of ending a relationship are cowards, and probably shouldn’t be in a relationship to begin with.
Breakups can be brutal and, oftentimes, this is all we hear. But do breakups really have to be horrible? Sometimes, the ending of a relationship can be the beginning of something beautiful and new. Something that wouldn’t have happened if the relationship hadn’t ended. If we take a moment to think about the lessons that we’ve learned from the relationship and/or past partners, we should have grown. This helps us to learn what we do not want in a relationship or partner, what we need in the next relationship and also to be more sure of what our non-negotiables are. What are those you ask? Non-negotiables are the things, morals, values and attributes that you NEED in a partner/relationship. These are the things that you shouldn’t waiver on because, without them, you know it doesn’t lead to a happy ending. What I’ve learned in doing years of couples counseling is that a lot of people go into dating, long-term committed relationships, and even marriages without thinking about the things that they truly need. This tends to lead to them catering to the needs of their partner or potential partners.
The moral of it all is that breakups, although you may not have full control over how it happens, may just be a detour on the road to something bigger and better. Embrace the ride. I would like to leave you with three things you should do after a breakup.
1. Take time for yourself
Use this time to rediscover who YOU are? What are your likes and dislikes? What do you need and want out of life for yourself and eventually with potential partners? Knowing what you truly desire and deserve is half the battle in dating after a breakup of any kind. An ideal period of time to give yourself a “me break” would be a minimum of six months. Fall in love with yourself all over again and begin dating you. You’ll be happier because of it.
2. Give yourself time to heal
No matter the length of time that your relationship was alive, it will more than likely affect you. Take the time to allow yourself to grieve this loss and use it to heal. Healing is a process and one that cannot be rushed or repressed. We oftentimes get involved in new relationships too soon and take those same problems, issues, and baggage that were in the previous relationship into the next. Hurt people tend to hurt people, so heal thyself first and make sure you’re prepared to be in a relationship before you enter into another one.
3. Be honest about what you want
Maybe you stayed in your last relationship because you didn’t want to be in the club of those who didn’t last. Were you truly happy and satisfied in that relationship or were you not only lying to your partner but also lying to yourself? Don’t say you’re just casually dating when you’re really looking for a permanent partner. Don’t imply you only want to be with one person when you know that you’re a more than one person type when it comes to relationships. Keep it 100% honest at all times and I’m sure a potential partner who is cool with what you desire will come along. You shouldn’t settle for anything less.
This has been a lot of useful information and I hope that you’ve gained some insight into dealing with breakups. Venting on social media is NOT a healthy way to handle breakups, crisis or any other major life-changing event. Talking to your girlfriends and homeboys can be helpful as well, but these options should never replace visiting or consulting with a mental health professional.