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Do you have a fear of success?


Not everyone understands the concept of 'fear of success', but many people still know exactly what it means to fear success.

by Louise Pope3 minute read

Some only recognise fear of success once the symptoms are described to them. It's something that affects an equal number of men and women, boys and girls.
Most theories suggest that this fear starts in childhood. Parents and siblings, teachers and friends, and other family members can all play a role in the development of this fear.

Even as adults, we get this from family, friends, work, and society at large. Some of us buy into this, subconsciously but thoroughly. Fear of success manifests itself in many ways. We deny our competence by saying it was luck, a miracle, the help of others. We become preoccupied with being evaluated by others. We feel intense anxiety at the thought of being in competition or conflict with powerful or important people.

We may have chronic feelings of inadequacy, and if we get too close to our success, we feel like a fraud or phony, and we fear being found out. We lack self-confidence although we may put on a show of bravado. We're afraid of asserting our rights or desires for fear of inconveniencing, hurting, or depriving someone else. We may feel suspicious, inhibited, or guilty. We may be over-controlling or over-compliant (at least on the surface.) We self-sabotage when we find ourselves uncomfortably close to achieving our desires.

Robert Kennedy once said, “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” The most successful people see adversity not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone to greatness. Indeed early failure is often the fuel for the very ideas that eventually transform industries and reinvent careers. My favorite story is Walt Disney being fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough, and the Beatles being turned away by a record executive who told them “guitar groups are on the way out”. Psychologists actually recommend that we fail early and often. We can only deal with failure once we have actually experienced failure.

So the question is how high can we jump?

A good example to demonstrate this point comes from an experiment done with jumping frogs. Several frogs were each placed in separate glass jars, and covered with a lid to prevent them escaping. Food, air, and water were provide for them. At first the frogs kept jumping trying to escape, but each time they would hit their head on the lid. After 30 days the lids were removed.

Although the lids were not there anymore, the frogs never jumped out of the jars, even though they could have easily done so.
During the 30 days the frogs were kept in the jars, they learnt that they could not escape from the jar. In essence, they formed a belief that the top of the jar was as high as they could go. Even when the lid was removed, this limiting belief system kept them where they were.

This simple experiment shows us the power of our belief systems. We all formed certain beliefs as a result of failure, many of us still hold onto those beliefs even though they are no longer true, and are limiting our true potential.

To realise your true potential you must therefore realise that there is no lid on the jar, and that you can jump out ...

Good luck.

Do you have a fear of success?
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Louise Pope

Louise Pope


Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.

In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today, and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry, and is known for telling it like it is.

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