Is Fear of Success or Fear of Failure Holding you Back this Year?



The end of January is the time of the year when a lot of us can give up on our New Year's resolutions.

I’ve been thinking about this and wondered: what role does fear have to play in this? 

The end of an old year and the beginning of a new year are a great opportunity to start again.  

Like a game of scrabble where all the pieces go back into the box, a fresh new game can start.  

Unfortunately, many of us - myself included, start a new 12-month game and then give up one month down the road.


Why, fear?

For many of us, fear of failing and looking stupid is our biggest fear.  

However, succeeding, and then being seen as different, is also a fear. One we might not be aware of at first. Our minds imagine others accusing us of excessive pride, or arrogance, or undeserved luck.

Here in Australia we have a warning called the "tall poppy syndrome".  

It goes something like ‘Don’t stand out up or stand out, or you'll be cut down.’  

Historically we are all unconsciously hardwired to want to be part of a tribe and we fear losing our sense of inclusion - and being cut down if we excel. 

Both fears - failure and success -  can cause us to procrastinate and not follow through, or even start on our best of New Year's resolutions. 

However, fear is a natural part of being human and in a sense, it's one of the emotions where we know we are alive.  If we didn’t feel fear, we may not be fully experiencing all that life has to offer.  

It's amusing that my daughters will actively search and pay for the latest horror movies, just to be feared! It is an emotion that has tremendous value in the right setting.


Can fear be transformed, enlisted as an ally or even be befriended?

Well, here I'm going to draw on some wisdom from others.

Marianne Williamson refers to the fear of success when she says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”


Have you asked yourself that question? 

I did. It scared the crap out of me—until I read the rest of the quote:

“Who are you not to be?  You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

In Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit, she writes a chapter entitled "An A in Failure."

"It's not that failure is a good thing in and of itself. We hate to fail. And why not. It is that learning is a good thing, and you can't learn unless you have a degree of experience."  

She goes on to say " If Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven and Mozart failed on occasions, what makes you think that you will be the exception?”

Failure Is merely feedback - Kimon Nicolaides, author of The Natural Way To Draw, told his students that, "the sooner you make your first 5,000 mistakes, the sooner you'll learn to draw”.  

So, can fear failure and fear of success be harnessed and used as stepping stones in creating a life that matters to us? It certainly appears so and is a topic I will be exploring and writing about more in the future.


Listen to the 'Don't Retire, Refire' Podcast on iTunes by clicking here.