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Is Fear of Success Holding You Back?

Fear of Success

The single biggest fear that people have is not the fear of failure but the fear of success.  – Karthik Siva on BFM 89.9

Well, this is the message that I seem to be getting from the universe at the moment. The thought first came across my mind during an incident at work. After a meeting with a potential client which could mean a huge job for our company, I was ecstatic. Of course I excitedly shared the news imagining that everyone would be a jubilant as I was. Imagine my surprise when the reaction from my colleagues was apprehension and worry instead. “How are we going to train that many people?!” “OMG, imagine the logistical nightmare”. “Eh?” I thought. “But this is what our success looks like”. Hmmmm. No wonder it feels like we’re running in place sometimes. No one wants the success.

My attention was brought back to this topic again when I was listening to Karthik Siva talk about personal mastery on BFM. He said “The single biggest fear that people have is not the fear of failure but the fear of success.“ Aha! That was the problem. Because, much as success has it rewards, it also exacts a price, a price that we fear is too high to pay. This fear causes us to subconsciously self-sabotage, and keep us from achieving our dreams.

I obviously wasn’t experiencing a fear of success in this work situation (maybe because I’m not conducting the training or dealing with the logistics ;p), but I do see this happening in my life. I realised that success may have looked different to me at different times in life, but I had always feared it.

In my first job, in an investment bank, I feared success because I believed that to be successful meant sacrificing work-life balance. I watched my superiors time and time again disregard their family and even their own health to be at work. Leaving the office at 7pm was considered half-day. No one seemed very happy. I was pretty clear that that wasn’t what I wanted. I left to a different industry, looking for greener pastures.

In my job as an analyst, I realised that to be successful meant taking risks – sticking your neck out, taking responsibility and bearing the consequences. Scary stuff! Unfortunately this was not something I could escape just by walking away from the job. This fear had to be handled. Like it or not, one of the the key ingredients of success is the ability to take risk, ownership and responsibility.

Now, as I am exploring being a writer, I fear that if I’m successful I won’t be able to stay that way because I won’t be creative enough to keep on cranking out new work. I fear the rejection that will inevitably come – afterall not everyone will like my work. I fear the lifestyle change that I would have to make if I wrote full time. And the list goes on.

I think we will always fear success, because it means that we’re growing and with growth comes discomfort. It also means that we will always face this fear, because once we overcome one fear another will come along. For me, it is enough that I am starting to become aware that I actually fear success and what this fear looks like. Awareness, to me, is a start towards overcoming these fears and achieving my dreams.


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