why am i so afraid of success

Wasted Away: Why Am I So Afraid Of Success? [4 Things You Must Do To Overcome Success Anxiety Before It Ruins Your Life]

Estimated Read Time: 14 min

Isn’t it strange that (almost) all of us say we want to be successful, yet when we stand in front of the open door, welcoming us to that success, we freeze up – terrified, paralyzed, unable to walk through? why? Why is “success” so scary? – “Why are we so afraid of success?”

“There is no key to happiness and success. The door is always open”

I’ve had more conversations and experiences in my head than in reality.

I’ve done more work and achieved more in my head than in reality.

My life feels like a lite version of what it could be

If you’re reading this, and feel the same, I would like you to indicate by touching your chest

Maybe if we (who are afraid of being successful) gathered together we could demand more from each other

Maybe seeing the untapped potential in the other could be so unbearable that we would begin to whack each other – pushing each other through that door of success.

Maybe we can motivate each other

Maybe we can encourage one another 

Because the problem is not that life is short, or that there are limited opportunities or resources or whatever… but that we keep holding ourselves back…we never reach for it…we never really try 

And the chain is lightest yet strongest when it is of our own making – when it is comforting

It is comforting not to be out there in front of the crowd

It is comforting hiding in the shadows with no one expecting anything from you

It is comforting not having to have a group of people hoping that your ideas work so they can earn wages from the project you recruited them into

It is comforting to sit in your room touching yourself rather than risk facing rejection upon rejection from the people you’re attracted to

It is comforting to be mediocre

Heck! It is comforting to be nothing – absolutely nothing 

Do you really want to have your schedules filled?

Do you really want to have no time for Netflix?

Do you really want to have no time to lay in bed doing nothing?

Do you really want to live?

Do you really want to use your life?

Do you really want to unlock your full potentials?

Doesn’t it scare you?

Doesn’t it frighten you?

Doesn’t it feel undesirable?

Doesn’t it disgust you?!

Look. Let’s stop it. Let’s stop lying

Let’s stop lying to ourselves 

Success is freaking scary 

It is like flying 

We all want to fly …until we are a few feet up in the air with nothing to step on

There is nothing to step on yet the winds keeps getting stronger with each added altitude 

The ground is removed – no more safety net

There is no more drunkenness, sex sprees, binge-watching, and all-day-in-beds…there is no more begging. There is no more hiding.

Everyone now takes you seriously 

Everyone expects more from you

Everyone demands more from you

Damn!

It feels like too much work – and it is much work…

And your lazy monkey brain would rather smoke another cannabis. It would rather drink another cold beer. It would rather have another round of sex. It would rather lay there in bed reading another novel …watching the Kardashians…viewing your favorite tube. Gambling. Gossiping. Hating. Fighting. Killing. Mocking. Judging. Destroying. It is up to no good.

It would rather waste the opportunity 

It would rather watch life slip by

It would rather have it wasted

Wasted away

It would rather be another animal of no significance 

But would you let it?

Would all this time be wasted away?

All this time already claimed…would you let more go to waste?

Would you let it slip away

Wasted again?

Wasted away?

Would you?

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4 Reasons Your Afraid Of Success

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small” – Richard Branson

The Fear of success is a virus that has infected billions of minds across the globe – in fact, every human has a symptom of this – and that is why it is not only enough to realize that you have this fear, you need to be forensic about it – you need to understand it thoroughly – so you can yank it out of your head for good.

Below are the top reasons you’re afraid of success

  1. Criticism: You may be overly invested in what others think and say about you; this is not good. Charles Cooley was famous for saying, “Today, I’m not what I think I am; I’m not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am.”. The thing that happens to most of us is that we imagine/assume what others think about us, and then act in a way that we imagine would change what they think about us. It is that boy that is afraid to dance Ballet, the girl afraid to play football, or the Engineer afraid to take on art as a career. We are constantly afraid of (hence bound to) what others might think about us. Yet, these people are all caught up in their own fears. Seldom is someone obsessing about what they want you to be – because they are already obsessed with trying to fit into the narrative of society. Don’t be like that. Decide what you want, and do all that is within your power to be successful at it – people would come to adjust to the new narrative you’ve created for yourself – you could be the next Bukowski, Leonardo, or Ronaldo in your field, only if you’d stop fearing what people think.
  2. Rejection, Envy, And Spite: Some successes come with real consequences. There is something interesting crabs and humans have in common – and it is that we don’t feel comfortable when someone is trying to leave the cluster. If you keep a number of crabs in a bucket, you’d observe that the crabs that are inside the bucket (doing nothing to escape) would vehemently try to pull down the crab attempting to leave the bucket – this is known as the “crab-bucket effect”. It doesn’t matter what societal bucket you find yourself in, people within that social network would seldom let you go. A group of drunkards, gluttons, stunners, or what have you would seldom watch a pal leave the herb without at least attempting to cajole, tempt, or (at least) insinuate that they shouldn’t leave. Being raised poor, you would find people who would keep telling you to be careful, to play it safe, to “not be greedy”, to “stop acting like you’re smarter, wiser, or better than everyone else”. They would make it feel as though your attempt at success is a disrespect to them, a slap to their faces – as though it were hindering, oppressing, or mocking them. And sometimes they would punish you by kicking you out of the cycle, talking bad about you, and even attempting to sabotage you (and this can be heartbreaking). But Don’t let this fear of rejection, envy, and spite hold you back. Just do it.
  3. A New You, And Life: Humans are creatures of emotions and habits. We don’t like things changing too soon and too quickly. We like things being the way they are. Despite our insatiable need for stimulation – entertainment, coffee, sex, or drugs – we don’t like the ground moving under our feet – we don’t like being in uncharted territories – we don’t like uncertainty…it makes us sweaty and nervous. Success, however, requires that we do things that we are used to. It requires new routines, skills, people, and places. It requires a new life. You might have to endure a lot of ups and downs in the early stages of your journey – you may have to experience pain, frustration, disappointment, and all the negative feedback from people that comes with it – the “I told you so”, abandonments, and boos. It is uncomfortable and sometimes perilous. But once you break through to the other side, there would be another life waiting; a life beyond your wildest dreams. 
  4. The Spotlight: Glossophobia (i.e. the fear of public speaking) has been ranked equal to, and sometimes even higher than the fear of dying in several surveys. And it is a fear so deep-rooted in the human psyche that its effect can be felt on the physiological level – in sweating, increased heart rate, and sometimes difficulty breathing. We are naturally afraid of being inadequate, becoming a target, failing, or embarrassing ourselves. It triggers our “flight or fight” response and is something that is not easily subdued. This fear is responsible for stopping a lot of people even before they begin their journey to success. If you are afraid of becoming the cynosure, then you must realize that the fear is irrational, stifling, and dangerous. 

There are so many other nuanced reasons are the culprits – the reason most people watch their life waste away.

Symptoms Of Fear Of Success [How To Tell You Are Afraid Of Success]

The fear of success can be your worse enemy. To better explain what the symptoms of the fear of success are and how they can affect you negatively, I’d invite Brian Tracy in this short video below

Below are some simple principles (I’ve identified in course of my personal growth) you can employ in overcoming this limitation.

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How To OVercome Fear of Success?

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live”

– Anne Sweeney

Become comfortable with the discomfort, and optimize your life for success. It is the only way you can overcome the fear of winning and being successful. 

You must learn to get comfortable with the criticism, rejection, envy, spite, new life (routines and demands), and the spotlight as well. You must learn to say, “okay, that’s fine”. You must learn to put yourself in a position in which all you do gradually brings you closer to your ultimate goal. And this is how you do it:

  1. Empathize: You have to really let yourself feel for the person that is criticizing you. Do you really think anyone who has much going on in their lives – who knows how hard it is to be successful – would garner the time and words to trash-talk someone else. True, it is not all criticisms that are engineered to hurt your feelings (some can be constructive), however, you must learn to empathize – to see the reason why the person is saying such. You must not see what they say as a depiction of who you are but as a reflection of who they are. Whether constructive or destructive, the criticism is there to show you what the other person thinks, and not who you are – so try to understand that person, rather than ruminating about how shitty you are – you are not shitty. Even if you didn’t do the best job, your attempt is worth commending. Learn from the criticism, and improve your craft – in fact, seek out criticism to improve your craft – turn criticism into fuel. The more you are okay with criticism coming your way, the faster you’d grow to achieve success. 
  2. Disconnect: If you find yourself around toxic people who do not want you to succeed, you must learn to let go, cut ties, and even burn bridges if need be. You must realize that there are usually two ways to have the tallest building in a city – it is either you build the tallest building, or you level all others. Don’t let someone destroy what you are trying so hard to build simply because they are too lazy to grow. Your friends and network should be motivating and even inspiring – not discouraging and dousing. If you want the fear of what they might say if you succeed to go away, then let them go; change your associations (make friends with people who are interested in building a city not leveling it), and you would find that rather than fear, you would have zeal.
  3. Die: It sounds grim, but you must learn to let go of who you are to become what you might be. If I still identified myself as the shy, pimply-faced introvert from secondary school, there is no way this blog would be up. I had to die. I had to change the narrative. I had to come up with a new identity – “The Pawn”. And I had to live up to that new persona I had invented. Your success depends on you upgrading who you are – and you should do this as often as possible – killing old selves to birth new and better ones. When you do this, you would not be scared, but rather adventurous. It’s like picking a new character in a video game – you know that you are yet to explore the full capacity of that new character, so you would be willing to explore the possibilities. I’m not saying that calling myself the Pawn made me a superhero, but that by coming up with a persona that I believed could shake up the world I started striving towards that, rather than worrying that I am not enough. You have so many untapped potentials in you, and all you have to do is redefine who you are, then do what the new “person” would do. Like the famous quote goes, “what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
  4. Reconnect: Don’t let your biology fool you; you are not going to die. Being in the spotlight can be scary but it can also be exhilarating depending on how you see it. Isn’t it strange that we cry when we are sad and also when we are very happy? Isn’t it strange that the pain (from being massaged for example) can also be so relieving and pleasurable? So also it is that fear and excitement share the same biological gateways. Remember when you saw someone you liked – how your heart began to race, your palms became sweaty, and you couldn’t speak clearly – the exact same feeling you get when all eyes are on you. Here is the secret; tell your mind what it is experiencing. Tell your mind that this feeling is the feeling of excitement. Reconnect with reality, and understand that these people all taking pictures of you, talking about you, and stretching their heads just to get a glimpse of you are all hoping that you do something worthwhile – something great and impressive. They are all expecting you to succeed (in singling the song, playing the instrument, scoring the goal, closing the deal, making the millions, etc.). when that adrenaline rush courses over your entire body, from the crown of your head, tingling your spine, down to the toes of your feet, say to yourself, “this is it; let’s do this; let’s give them that show”. Reconnect with reality. Reconnect with a world waiting for something, and someone spectacular, and wildly successful. 

“To me, the best part of success is the journey”

– Latif Mercado

You must understand that success takes time and requires a lot of sacrifices. The truth is that some of your fears can actually come to pass – you may be hated, rejected, embarrass yourself, be attacked, and even fail a couple of times – but you must also realize that they are all part of the journey. 

In all these, it is crucial that the success you are chasing is something meaningful to you – something you have chosen. It is expedient that you value the journey as much as the destination – you should be able to congratulate yourself, and be happy that you did what you did no matter how it ends (no moment of it should ever feel like a waste of time). And most importantly, you should celebrate your small wins as much as your big wins.

If you can do this – if you can make the journey the reward – then success would be something you live – not merely hope for in the future, or dread. 

It is only those who cannot make this transition – of living a life optimized for success – that end up wasting away their lives.

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