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Overcoming the fear of success

A writer’s block can be a sophisticated way of making sure we don’t become successful.

In a brilliant book about fear, Life Unlocked by Srinivansan Pillay, MD, he writes that there are several fears that make up a fear of success.

1. Fear of loneliness. Most people aren’t terribly successful and it is easier to keep all your friends if you live like them. But successful people focus on how their success will attract people, including new friends. If you have parents and siblings that are rivals and envy a successful child, may create a feeling that one will be lonely, or worse, alone, is successful.

2. The disorientation of success– naturally things will change radically if we are very successful writers. We will deal with lawyers, publishers, publicists, reporters and more strangers will collateral skills. We may suddenly have to travel and eat in new places. We may see less of our friends and family. Our relationships with all of those people will be different. Even having more money creates some stress. We’ll also have to redo the budget and count on paying higher taxes.

Some families go with the flow, and others resist any change. Usually there is some of both in families. But success will require us to go with the flow, make decisions with little information and it’s clear that we will make mistakes. Only if we are totally OK about making mistakes and learning from them will we be able to cross this bridge into a new life.

Fear of responsibility for others is the third big reason we fear success. We may be counted on by our families to provide more assistance to less fortunate relatives. Our employees will look for us to provide a livelihood, benefits and maybe a pension plan, or to provide emergency help if needed. This can be overwhelming. I have owned small businesses and I actually enjoy taking care of the people so I don’t resonate to this fear particularly. Trust your instincts, remain friendly and realize you are someone who can be counted on. Also remember that we all make mistakes and are taken by dishonest people– but that’s life and it’s best to shrug it off and move on.

The fourth fear is a common one– the fear of the unknown. This is very similar to the fear of disorientation. Success opens new doors for nearly all of us. We make mistakes learning about new things– that’s how we become experienced. If you can roll with the punches and cut yourself some slack about not knowing everything placed in front of you, you’ll do fine. If you think you should be able to handle absolutely everything including new stuff, you won’t be fine at all.

#5 is the fear that if we make it, we won’t be able to stay on top. For me, it is the fear that a competitor will move in and then I won’t be able to compete. This is another left-over from my childhood. Every success was taken from me and only the success of my brothers counted. But I know that realistically I can hire very astute professionals to help me draft a competitive strategy. I’ll be OK.

Some highly competitive people think that if they achieve success, the thrill will be gone. That’s the 6th reason people fear success. But there is always another mountain to climb, another rainbow to be chased. More books to read, places to visit, music to listen to and the never ending spiritual life– expanding and deepening prayer and meditation.

The next reason–fear that success will attract predators is my highest fear personally. Success when I was first middle-aged did attract criminals who bled me dry. Stolen checks, forged bank documents, unauthorized withdrawals, stolen possessions and wholesale fraud happened in a comparative short-time after I was making $250,000 year. So I am anxious about this.

But I will now prosecute anyone that steals from me to the full extent of the law. I didn’t do that when I was younger. I will make sure that all checks are written at the bank with witnesses and no one will have all my financial records except a certified public accountant and I will have another accountant audit those books.
I won’t lend money, and I do a background check on anyone I am romantically involved with. I also won’t let recovering people stay in my apartment like I did when I was younger.

I am also much less trusting and have a more realistic understanding of what money does to people, including me.

The last fear that feeds into a fear of success is the fear that we will change so much we won’t recognize ourselves. When I first had money, I couldn’t understand why others had trouble making it and I became Republican. Until I lost everything, was injured and disabled– then I realized not everyone had my education, skills, curiosity, ability to learn quickly and my energy. I became much more compassionate. I don’t think that change will happen again, but success will change me, and I am OK with that. Life itself has changed me constantly, so to this is more of the same thing.

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