I just woke myself up from a noodle soup stupor to drink some water and make a cup of coffee, because, after sitting myself down to write this blog, I fell asleep to avoid doing what I know I have to do.
I have been procrastinating writing my blog again because I knew I had to write about my fear of success.
SOMETIMES, TAKING A VOW OF AUTHENTICITY REALLY SUCKS
As a business person — especially one who writes about letting go of our crap, aren’t I supposed to present an air of “don’t-worry-I-have-it-all-together-ness”? I mean, wouldn’t it be bad for business to admit I struggle with the fear of success? Shouldn’t I have moved through this before I tell you about it?
My fear of success is big. It’s monumental. It’s not just the monkey, it’s the gorilla on my back, and my friends, it’s really getting f’ing heavy carrying this Silverback around. Not just a little self-doubt every now and then, but full-on procrastination, self-sabotage, and all-around lack of self-worth crappity-crap talk? It permeates everything I do and runs through my head in an endless loop.
So, I have to tell you about it. I need to bare my soul to you. Because, maybe in the telling, I can finally let it go.
WHERE DOES FEAR OF SUCCESS COME FROM?
I come from simple stock. My mother was raised on a farm in a family of 17 children and my father’s father was an immigrant with a chip on his shoulder who raised a son with little confidence, but a massive dose of responsibility. Both my parents were raised during The Great Depression, which taught them both a whole bunch of ways to reduce their expectations. Neither of them went beyond the eighth grade.
Things I remember hearing (or feeling) included:
There are starving children in China
You have more money than brains
Stop being a show-off
Don’t get too big for your britches
When I was your age, we had to…
You’re lucky to have a job
Kids today don’t know the meaning of hard work
People don't like braggarts
Don’t expect too much, you’ll only be disappointed
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I felt a pervasive sense that I shouldn’t shine too brightly (certainly no brighter than my siblings), that I should be grateful for what I was lucky enough to have, that it was a sin to take more than my share, and that I shouldn’t ask for more because I would very quickly become very disappointed.
That’s a lot of ‘shoulding’ on myself.
We lived a comfortable middle-class life, never lacked for new clothes to begin the school year, for Christmas, or Easter, and there was ALWAYS way too much food on the table. My father was an entrepreneur, a baker, who was rewarded with his choice of trades when he was discharged from the Army at the end of WWII (I guess that’s where I got that gene). I was a good student, but struggled in math. I was well-liked, but never the most popular. I was pretty, but chubby.
I thought my life’s purpose was to get married and have babies because that was the example I learned from my older sisters and the girls in my neighborhood. But that didn’t happen.
I took the road never travelled. I’m not the black, sheep, I’m the rainbow sheep who has done it all. I went on a crazy soul-searching journey and ended up living all over Canada. I never had children and only got married at 42. I started my own business. I broke the family mold. I’ve assumed the burden of trying to navigate a very different life from what I knew, with few mentors — while still trying to fly under the radar — because that’s what I was taught to do.
On the one hand, I am proud of my uniqueness in my family, but I also feel I stand apart because I don’t fit in.
BEING SUCCESSFUL MEANS EXPLORING UNCHARTED TERRITORY
I’ve struggled mightily with being front and centre. A helper I’m comfortable with, but I’m only just now embracing my ability to lead, teach — and heal.
Wanting to be a successful video writing teacher who is good at what she does is unexplored territory for me. I’m putting myself out there to be scrutinized and criticized and exposing myself to new pressures and demands. I constantly wonder whether I’m up to the challenge. So, I set deadlines, create to-do lists, take list building courses, write like crazy, and try to make what I do worthy of your trust in me.
And then I somehow allow fear to grip me and I freeze because I don’t believe I deserve to be successful in doing something this awesome (something I want so much).
Nothing else is in the way of getting me to where I want to go, except self-sabotage — the flimsy excuses when I don’t get something done, telling myself I’m not good enough to shine or believing that huge goal I set is just too big.
RIGHT NOW I HAVE NO ANSWERS, ONLY UNCERTAINTY
Every time I think I’ve uncovered the last of the nesting dolls, there is another one underneath her. Just last week I watched a friend of mine, a former teacher who helps people to find their blogging voice, give such a natural live talk that I felt bad (really bad) about myself after watching it for just 10 minutes. So bad I had to turn it off.
But then a few days ago I completed migrating my very first video course onto my new writing school. As I was checking the first minute of each video to make sure everything was in order, I realized again just how good Using Writing Prompts to Tell Your Stories really is (well, apart from the unfortunate title). It’s me sharing with you how I let go of so much crap through writing so that hopefully you can too. And it jolted me with the thrilling of knowing I’m about to create my next videos.
I somehow feel better having written this, having let you in on my secrete. I feel that in finally admitting my fears, putting them in writing for all of you to see, they may just turn to dust in the wind and I’ll be free to do what I am here to do.
At the very least, I hope shedding light on my pain may help you know that you are not alone. I’d love to hear from you if I’m not alone...
OUR DEEPEST FEAR
I know I’m the only one that can truly measure my success. So for now, I’m going to focus on living large, rather than playing small. I’m going to make like The Little Engine That Could and turn my “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” into “I got this.”
You may be interested in taking this quiz What’s Holding You Back? from Oprah.com to help you discover your biggest fear about creating a successful career.
Because this is still a blog about writing (and not a true confessions blog), if you struggle with success, try asking yourself the same questions I’ve been asking myself:
Why am I standing in my own way?
Our pasts have a way of holding us hostage into the future. Those Silverback Gorillas (or whatever it is you are carrying) can be such a heavy weight to take off our shoulders.
What do you need to let go of? What words and phrases from your past still fill my head in an endless loop?
What does success look like to me?
Success can be a struggle unless we define it. Getting clear on our goals is key to knowing what success looks like for us. The goals need to be spelled out, concrete, and not a moving target.
Will you hit a certain monetary goal? Will you help a certain number of people? How will you feel when you’ve met your goals?
How will I feel when I’m successful?
Spend whatever time you need to to write yourself through your perfect day, from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, to the moment you close them as you fall asleep.
How does it feel to know that you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing? What will be next for you?
kathy mercure is a promotional storyteller and storytelling workshop teacher. She helps businesses and people to tell their stories. Writing From the Heart is a journey to unlocking, unblocking and healing your stories so that you can let go of the old, write new stories, and live the life you were meant to live.