My fear of success started back in elementary school. I’d always been one of those kids that finished their work first. Even back in the 70s there was a stigma in my class and school around “being smart.” Sure, parents and teacher’s lavished accolades and praise. But from the other kids, especially those who weren’t doing so well, there was quite a bit of backlash about my studious behavior and zealous attitude towards learning and reading.
When my family moved to a different South Philadelphia neighborhood I saw my chance to start over—to be labeled as something other than the smart kid. I purposely didn’t want to win because I was afraid of what other folks would think of me and how they would respond to me. Sound familiar?
My bright (or not so bright) strategy: Never be the first one to turn in my work. The teacher would hand out worksheets and I’d usually finish first. But I developed the habit of pretending I was still working so I wouldn’t have to be the first to walk my work to the teacher’s desk. Problem solved, right? Sure. Until the teacher had to go and change things.
I had been finished for about five minutes, but refused to be seen as the first person finished. I was quite happy to sit and watch one of my friends take her paper up first, giving me the opportunity to be second. That is until the teacher announced that since she had finished first, she got to pick out a prize. My fear of being first had cost me a prize. The prize itself was something trivial—a pencil or some kind of trinket, but the lesson here is something that would have a profound impact on me as I grew up. The fear of winning (no matter what causes it) can do just as much damage than the fear of failing.
If I attempt something and fail, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried. If I let the fear of succeeding hold me back from even trying—I’m creating a box or more like a prison for myself. I believe that it’s often a fear of success not a fear of failure that keeps us from moving outside of our comfort zone. Success requires that hat we step out of what we know to go into the unknown that we give up unhealthy relationships and habits that keep us from moving forward. Success demands that we give up the excuses that we use as crutches. And success also asks that we are daring enough to be who we are regardless of how others respond to us, facing the haters who want to see us fail.
Are you afraid of your own success? Bright women settle for mediocrity, buckling under the fear of both success and failure. Regardless of what’s causing the fear you will never move forward until you stop agreeing with it and start over-ruling it. Brilliant women acknowledge the fear and keep moving forward.