7 Deadly Fears Explored: Success

This post is part of a 7-article series on the fears of writing. You can find all other articles here:

Writing this series on the 7 Deadly Fears of Writing after reading about it in Jurgen Wolff’s book, Your Writing Coach, is forcing me to take a hard look at myself. It’s a little uncomfortable at times. I wonder if I’m really as difficult to work with as I think. (No comments from you, Mr. Chartrand, thank you very much.)

I understood the first two fears of writing that I explored, rejection and inadequacy – but fear of success? This one was going to be interesting. From what I’ve read and researched so far, fear of failure is often fear of success in disguise.

Tell me if this sounds like you: You start a long-term project, and you’re all fired up about it. You make some good progress. Then you have a few starts and stops, and suddenly you lose your momentum, coming to a grinding halt. It feels like someone threw earth on your fire. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get that initial spark back.

What got in the way? Was happened? Was it something you did or didn’t do? You can’t put your finger on what went wrong at all.

If this fire and earth is a feeling you experience repeatedly, you, my friend, may very well be afraid of success.

Take a step back and ask yourself what scares you so much about succeeding. Are you afraid to lose friends and family? Are you afraid of the attention you’ll receive? Maybe you’re afraid that you won’t be able to maintain a standard of perfection each time you work on a project.

The fear of success is similar to the fear of death. When people think of dying, many think of the pain that might be involved. They’re not afraid of death itself; they’re afraid of what they might feel.

With success, we’re afraid of the side effects surrounding success, all the “what if’s” our over-active imagination conjures for us. To avoid success, we might sabotage ourselves with procrastination or drag our feet on the project – maybe it’ll go away.<

In Diana Pemberton-Sike’s blog The Sideroad, she suggests reviewing our behavioral patterns. Diana claims author Florence Littaur of “Personality Plus” lists four major personality types and how each type deals with success:

  • The Choleric knows it all.“There are two ways to do anything; my way, and the wrong way.” The Choleric is quick to act and judge but slow to accept blame for bad decisions. (On your mark, Go!)
  • The Sanguine looks for the fun.“Is it boring here, or does anyone else want to PARTY?!” Because of her infectious enthusiasm, the Sanguine can rally support for any cause. If things get dull, it’s “sayonara” Sanguine. (Get Set, Go!)
  • The Melancholy is a perfectionist.“Now let’s not rush to any conclusions until we have all the details.” If you need a clever, detailed strategy, ask a Melancholy. Just don’t expect him to act on anything until he has all the facts. (On Your Mark, Get Set, Get Set, Get Set…)
  • The Phlegmatic is easygoing and does things at her own pace.“Whatever. I’m easy.” Slow to anger and slow to judge, the Phlegmatic is also slow to get excited because basically, she hates change. If you want her to do something, you have to give her a good, sound reason. (On Your Mark…You Know, On Second Thought…)

I fit into the fourth category. I often resist change or come around to it very slowly. If you want me to do something new, I need a damned good reason to do it. I’m all about the second thought or the other hand.

My father, my brother and I all were slow to get excited about anything. It drove Mom nuts (she’s the first type on the list). I know my seeming lack of enthusiasm often confuses James (who is probably the second type on the list). Since I don’t take to quick changes, I’ll drag my feet and put off the inevitable for as long as possible.

It sucks.

But, I can change that and so can you. All it takes is modifying those nasty little behavioral patterns. It won’t be easy, but if you want to ever have any hope of succeeding at all, you’ve got to start somewhere.

  1. Give yourself credit for a job well done. Go ahead and reward yourself. You deserve it.
  2. Stop making excuses for being unsuccessful. No one is stopping you but you, so own it.
  3. Seek out genuine feedback, stay away from “yes men” and nay-sayers at all costs. The first type of people give you a false sense of security, and the second type bleed you dry with negativity.
  4. See yourself as successful and you will be successful.
  5. Remember those who helped you along the way. Always give credit where it’s due.
  6. Accept compliments. You earned them.

When you start to recognize the traits that hold you back, you start to learn how to work around them or with them. You’ll see the self-destructive behavior for what it is – and you’ll be able to stop yourself before it gets out of control.

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