Fear of Success? How to Curb the Habit of Self-Sabotage Once and For All
Today we're obsessed with secrets. The secrets to weight loss, good parenting, and how to be happy and free. Sure, success tips are helpful and an interest in learning more is an asset, but from what I’ve drawn from my experience is that these “secrets” lie within yourself, not a magazine article, blog, or the newest self-help book.
Working in the health and wellness field, I see a lot of people during stressful times in their lives. The process of healing (mentally and physically) has always intrigued me, and let’s face it, success is just a product of being able to heal yourself really well on a regular basis. From what I’ve heard from patients and clients, it seems as if a lot of us have been conditioned to believe that success (whatever that means to you- making six figures or simply not losing your patience with your kid for one day) requires risk and sacrifice. Risk and sacrifice are often associated with uncomfortable feelings, which I believe is at the center of why we get stuck in mediocre.
Awareness is a powerful thing. Being aware means giving something attention without judgement or denial. Awareness can also be a scary place. However, the fear is necessary in order to be successful, as long as you act on it in a productive way. I've sat with people when they've had those “aha moments” and what I usually see is some satisfaction coupled with a good dose of fear. That’s because once you get to this point, you know you're at a fork in the road. You can stay with what’s comfortable (and obviously not working for you), or you can take the other route. The other route is harder and riskier. It's also more exciting, liberating, and is the way to joy, freedom, and complete fulfillment.
Successful people have many things in common, and they have nothing to do with race, age, or socioeconomic status. I’ve heard many times that becoming successful has to do with luck or how privileged you were growing up. For those who honestly earn their joyful lives, it's not because of random acts or luck. It's in how they react to feedback, their perceptions, and their ability to productively deal with failure, because failure is inevitable. The good news is you don’t have to let it control your outcome; you just have to embrace it and use it for what it’s good for-growth.
To understand why we react the way we do to success and failure, we must first understand our physiological response to these events and how we're taught to respond to them. According to Susan Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T., a Somatic Psychology expert, the way we react to success is extremely complex and based on many physiological and psychological factors. She notes that the excitement of success can feel very similar to the anxiety of experiencing failure or even post-traumatic events. Our heart rate goes up, breath rate goes up, we get sweaty, and there is a surge of adrenaline. This is exactly the point where some of us bail and some of us push on. I'm truly grateful to be there with clients when they decide to push on. I see the fear, but also the excitement of finally facing those fears. Sometimes all it takes is an extended hand and someone to say “walk with me and you'll be okay.”
There are three things I believe to be crucial first steps towards being able to direct yourself towards true success. They are all based upon the ability to identify signals from your body and mind and use them as a guide. We tend to get stuck in our minds and paralyzed by the anxiety of “what might happen,” but the saying “listen to your gut” has some validity to it.
Try getting started with these easy and simple ways towards creating a flawless navigation system for the fast track to that effortless joy we all want.
1. Practice identifying the signals from your body- this happens in many forms such as meditation or quiet time, listening to music, yoga, exercise, or any other spiritual ritual that allows you to check out from external distraction. Take notes in a journal about what you're experiencing. What does it feel like in your physical body? When is it most challenging to manage these feelings? What are your thoughts associated with these feelings?
2. Set boundaries and say “no”- overwhelm is a biggie for pulling away from potential success. If we think we can be super-mom or super-dad and do it all, overwhelm will eventually sink in. This will be challenging if you're a people-pleaser and get uncomfortable when you're not tending to others. Start small by making a list of daily activities or chores you can ditch without totally freaking out. I can let the laundry go for a few days, but if the dishes sit, I freak out. By dropping some of the load, you'll decrease the anxiety of overwhelm and make room for growth and joy.
3. Become an expert at putting yourself out there and letting go- This will be harder for all you planners and analytical folks. I found this step to be the hardest because I grew up with an anxious family. When someone got upset, something bad happened. I always felt the need to develop control over the outcome so I wouldn’t have to worry about “what might happen.” In reality, the “what if's” usually don't happen, but the pathways to fear get created nonetheless. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there because you risk criticism. Criticsm is bound to happen, so they key is to coach yourself on how to accept that it regardless of how good of a job you do. Try to look at it as feedback or information. It says more about the person giving it than it does about you, so don’t take it too personally. Ask yourself what you could do better next time and give yourself a pat on the back for taking the risk in the first place!
I love to see people thrive by changing nutrition and lifestyle habits. Like the research points out, how we react to success and failure is very complex. It may be helpful to seek professional guidance as you work through things and that’s okay. The best decision you can make is to take that first step and dive right in. Once you experience the feeling of optimal health, you won’t ever want to go back!
When you're ready to dive in and end the cycle of self-sabotage so you can become truly successful and content, consider meeting with me for a FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULTATION. I'd love to hear about your dreams and create a concrete action plan for how we can make them reality. You can schedule a consultation with me HERE.
Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is also a Certified Yoga Instructor at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition and fitness, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.