Balls of Steel: Are You Afraid of Success?

After posting Balls of Steel: 10 Tips to Prepare for Opportunities When They Knock last week, my email and Facebook messages were flooded with responses from my network.

“I hear Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush, say his old drum teacher tell him that between gigs, you should prepare since you don’t know when the next one will come. As a drummer, I did this. As a photographer, I’ve done this. So when an opportunity came up to be the photographer for a play, I jumped at it. Then just as quickly, backed out. Certain I looked like a total flake to these people. I sabotaged myself because I was afraid. Both of failure and of success. I conjured up all sorts of scenarios as to why I will fail. Why do we do that? Why are we/I afraid of success? Failure is a given, but success, that’s another mistress altogether.”

My inner therapist was on fire at the thought of exploring people’s fear of success.

somethingI know all about that paralyzing fear from personal experience. I almost flunked out of Cornell because I was not only afraid to succeed, I was also afraid to even try. As long as I didn’t try, I could blame my lack of motivation as the reason I was failing. But what if I tried and then failed? Then I would actually be that “loser” my insecure self believed I was. As long as I didn’t try, I could allow myself to sit in that seat of failure safely, pretending that if only I had bothered to try, I would have succeeded.  Man, I am exhausted just writing that paragraph of confusing insecurity blabber.

See why my therapy file is so big?

As writers, it’s easy to say the producer passed on our scripts because only 2% of scripts ever get a recommend. It’s not our fault; it’s the industry’s fault. We tell ourselves we are set up for failure.

With the difficulties this industry already poses, do you really think it’s in your best interest to be your own worst enemy? Think about it — it’s hard enough to get past the gatekeepers, but if you are the one creating the first locked door, you’re destined for failure.

I think it all comes down to accepting excuses for our failures. Failure is familiar. We understand failure and disappointment. We all live it on some level. We’re comfortable there. Perhaps it’s simply because success is the unknown.

We all know what failure and rejection feels like. But what does SUCCESS feel like?

Think about it as a writer. After all, you are your own protagonist in your life story. Try very hard to remove any self-loathing and judgment from this exercise. Just look at it like you are a fictional character paying lip service to wanting success but doing all these self-destructive things to block that very goal you claim to want.

What would you do to evolve this character everyone is rooting for to succeed?

If you follow The Hero’s Two Journeys roadmap, you’d pile conflict upon conflict on top of the character, hoping to finally force them to face their inner wounds. Because without facing the wounds a character experiences as a child, s/he cannot ever achieve the outer journey goal.

One never happens without the other.

So guess what that means? In order for you to not self-sabotage, you need to really be open to anything internal that may be blocking you.

You may not be afraid of success at all. Maybe you’re afraid at really looking inside of yourself with honesty.

Ding, ding, ding! Light bulb moment.

But in that honest observation, you also need to realize you might not be ready to see it yet. Just like it takes time to become a great writer, it also takes time to explore what makes you tick – the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t beat yourself up. Just sit with it. Digest it. Dip your toe in then pull it out and push it to the side. But don’t stuff your fear in a box and shove it in a drawer. Eventually the poison will fester in your inner wounds, and before you know it, gangrene sets in.

Change is hard for most people. We repeat patterns over and over and over again. The known. Even though we can easily see what we need to do to evolve our fictional characters or our friends, we can’t often see how to do it for ourselves.

“I really am scared of success. I’m afraid when they get done peeling away all the happy smiles and lovely pictures, they’ll find out I’m just a scared little boy who is merely a fraud, a poseur!”

When I became a black belt in Chung Do Kwan after eight years of training, I remember not feeling like I was skilled enough for what people’s perception of a “black belt” was. I was good, but I was no Bruce Lee – the image most people have a marital artist. My master said, “Now, your journey really begins. Now you start to really learn.” Perhaps we should think about it that way instead of fearing once success hits, the bar has been set too high for us to repeat that success. Shift our thought process.

We are all scared of being exposed and scared of being vulnerable. The first step is believing you are worthy of success. When you do, everyone else will follow.

You deserve to evolve. You deserve success. You deserve to have people congratulate you and praise your hard work. But if the path you’ve been taking is not leading you to success, then you need to take a different path. Make a change.

Put your ego aside. Stretch outside of your comfort zone. Let go of your inhibitions. Pretend to be someone else if you have to. Start with a fresh outlook, letting go of everything you thought you knew… and reinvent yourself as someone who is destined to succeed.

Fake it until you make it. Eventually it will become part of who you are inside. A winner. No, not a Charlie Sheen winner; a real winner.

Write down a list of things you want and then break them down into baby steps. Push yourself each day or each week to accomplish something on that list. I guarantee by the time you get 10 steps in, you’ll have become 100 times more confident.

Decide you want it more than you are afraid of it. It really is that simple.

The other day I stumbled upon this on Pinterest:

“It’s impossible.” said Pride.
“It’s risky.” said Experience.
“It’s pointless.” said Reason.
“Give it a try.” whispered the Heart.

You deserve to follow your heart. You’ll be surprised how well success feels in it.

But hey, I’m no therapist. How do you get past your fears of success? What tricks have you used to help push you past your comfort zone. Yep, it’s group therapy time in the comment section. Have at it!

Watch ScriptMag Editor Share Her Advice on Facing Your Writing Fears

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares her personal story of facing her fears in order to propel her writing and her career. Click on the image below to watch Jeanne’s advice. In just eight minutes, you might have a whole new perspective.

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5 thoughts on “Balls of Steel: Are You Afraid of Success?

  1. Brian Shell

    When I first started writing my first screenplay in 1995, there was a ferocious kick-boxer dude who worked out at my gym. He preached the following often: “F.E.A.R. is False Evidence Appearing Real.”

  2. Michelle

    I never really thought if it that way. I assume that what I fear most are all the barriers to success, and success itself comes after you’ve knocked down all those obstacles. But thinking about it, with success comes the expectation of being able to REALLY deliver… it’s when the real work starts. Uh oh…….!

  3. Sidney Peck

    Nicely said, Jeanne. I suspect that this will resonate with more people than will feel comfortable commenting here.

    As for me, what’s always worked when my inner goblins come out to play is to accept that everyone, even people with Oscars and Emmys sitting on their shelves, have self doubts. Once I remind myself of that, it takes away fear’s power and I just keep going. It also helps me to remember why I write. What brought me to the craft and why it’s important for me to fight the good fight.

    When all of the above fails, I pray. Hard.

  4. Patrick Mahon

    For me, to put it in writing terms, the moment when I realized the GOAL of ‘making it’ was actually masking the NEED of ‘making me’. And that honest and lasting ‘success’ is to be found in following and accepting the path of your heart, come what may, as opposed to chasing the acceptance and validation of powerful strangers. It’s a work in progress, to be honest…

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