“Procrastination is the fear of success.”
What are you prepared to lose?
For you, success means fulfillment, contentment, happiness and pride. But for your unconscious mind, success means that one area it’s charged with avoiding at all times and at all costs: change!
So, how does The Fear of Success work? Well, in order for you to self sabotage your own success, your inner saboteur will scare the “bejesus” out of you, it will run a series of movies inside your mind showing you many examples of how you will fail to retain your success once you have achieved it.
It’s a little like playing “king of the hill.” According to the Saboteur Within, the minute you get to the top, someone – maybe even yourself – or something will find a way to knock you back down the hill again. Hence it will flood your mind with images of how you will fail to handle the extra responsibility or additional attention that accompanies your success.
Just as your success motivated you to reach the top, the fear of staying there will become a preoccupation; thanks to the unconscious mind. In order that you may remain “safe” in your carefully constructed world, your Saboteur may convince you so strongly of your inability to handle success that you don’t even try to attain your goal in the first place. Whether it’s a new relationship, a job, losing weight, deciding to study and get a better education, or whatever your definition of success might be, thanks to the Fear of Success you might be too afraid to reach for your own dreams.
Self Sabotage Your Own Success
The inevitable result is that, sadly, the Fear of Success can force you to let these wonderful chances slip through your fingers. If you succumb to the Fear of Success, you will lead an unfulfilled existence, as your Saboteur convinces you that under-achieving is the safe, comfortable and stress free way to be, why put yourself to all of that trouble and worry when you are unlikely to succeed, you won’t be able to handle it, or people will think you have got above yourself. These are the type of messages and internal arguments your Saboteur will use against your conscious mind to keep you within the safe and predictable confines of your comfort zone.
You never notice Self Sabotage until it’s to late
When Susan came to my office that day in January, she was desperate to resolve her “sabotaging ways,” as she put it. Susan’s presenting problem was that she had had several careers during her working life, none of which had made her wealthy, stating that she “always had enough, but never more than enough” and all of her careers had systematically ended when she was offered promotions and much greater financial rewards. In other words, whenever she was given the opportunity to be successful, she would screw it up!
Now, here she was at age fifty-five, divorced, and determined that she could make good. Susan’s urgency for the session was because she had been offered a “get rich quick” scam – I mean, scheme (honest!) – she had found it on the internet and the promise that was being made by their sales pitch was that this scheme would deliver abundance and ultimately, “More than enough.” The problem was, as she saw it, “her Saboteur was talking her out of this plan she had to become successful.”
This seemed the most opportune time for her, as her company was offering her another promotion with all the usual trappings. Susan had been there many times before and she wasn’t about to screw up yet another promotion. This time she wanted to break loose of the vicious circle she believed that she was trapped inside, take a risk and reap the rewards promised by the scheme/scam. There was no way that Susan was going to prevent herself from having financial abundance and happiness this time!
“Now to fund the scheme,” Susan explained. “Rather than accept the promotion that is on offer, I can take voluntary redundancy from my job, and that will give me the cash lump sum I need to buy into the scheme. I don’t mind leaving as I am being pressured into taking this promotion and I’m really reluctant to do that, because I will be required to study for an additional qualification, which will mean putting my life on hold for six months while I take the exams that are necessary, and I want everything now!”
I pieced together Susan’s life beginning with her family. She was the youngest of six children; she had passed her “11-plus,” which allowed her free entry to private education, where in her final year she flunked out of school. I will get deeper into the unconscious patterns another time, but for now let’s simply say that Susan was afraid of being successful because she thought that she would be an outside, to the rest of her family, the odd one out with the spotlight clearly shining on her, and highlighting the fact that she was ‘different’.
You see, when Susan flunked out of school, it was because being one of six kids, and suddenly propelled out of her home environment, she never felt that her family was behind her. Yes, when she first got her scholarship it was exciting and everybody talked about it when it was news, but now, four years on, Susan was fast becoming a “cuckoo” in not only her school, but also her family’s nest. It seemed that she didn’t feel at home in either place.
Her Saboteur mounted a double-pronged attack. In order that Susan could remain within the status quo of her family, where nobody had excelled academically in the past, her personal Saboteur Within filled her mind full of thoughts, like, “Who do you think you are?”, “Nobody likes a clever clogs!”, “You talk too posh”, “You’re not one of us anymore!” and on and on, making Susan feel out of place in her own home. Whilst at school the posh, fee-paying students made fun of her less than posh accent and made cruel remarks about the part of town that she lived in. Eventually, Susan cracked under the pressure of feeling like a cuckoo in her family’s nest and she quit the school, as success meant that she would remain an outcast.
“So Susan here we are,” I finally said to her. “Forty years on, only six months, and one exam to allow you to be successful and have financial freedom.” Susan nodded uncertainly before I added, “Or, we work on what you’ve asked me and I encourage you to throw it all away and gamble your hard earned savings and your redundancy payment on a scheme that, if it fails, leaves you jobless and broke! It sounds to me like your Saboteur has brought you here to continue an old pattern.” Susan’s face was crestfallen; she’d never heard it put in such blunt terms before! “Let’s examine the two scenarios in front of you,” I said calmly. “In the first one you gain financial freedom and status, which will allow you extra cash to put into schemes, yes?” Susan nodded. “And the second will have your whole family talking about you and worrying as they have done many times before, hmmm! It sounds like there is a Saboteur at work somewhere,” I smiled.
Susan took a deep breath and admitted, “The truth is, I’ve taken that exam three times and failed every time! I don’t know what it is! I can do the job standing on my head. All of the other exams to get me to this level I got straight A’s but this one… I just go blank when I sit down to take it.”
After her confession, Susan sighed heavily. I told Susan about Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, how even as a seagull he had ambition and how his flock was very uncomfortable with his dreams and aspirations. In order to achieve his goals and fulfill his true potential, he had to overcome the worries and concerns that his friends and family raised, not only in an effort to keep him safe from, but also trying to ensure he didn’t show them up to be lacking in courage and imagination. Jonathon Livingston Seagull is a terrific book by Richard Bach. It is packed full of wisdom and will only take you a couple of hours to read.
An Explanation of Self Sabotage
Then, in laymen’s terms, I explained that the Saboteur was preventing Susan from getting what she wanted because it would mean that she was successful. The status that went with it would change this duckling into a swan and her Saboteur had filled her mind full of thoughts that boiled down to, “You’re not worthy!”
Tears welled in Susan’s eyes as she stared off into space, running through all of her past examples, where the finishing line was within her grasp and she failed to take the final steps.
Susan was a smart woman and she sat there open mouthed as the realisation of how her Saboteur had been playing her, her whole life long, but not this day. Her lips came together with a resolute pout and a solid determination concretised her as she said, “Today is the day that I turn my life around!”
As we worked through the coming months, with her fear of success long gone, Susan effortlessly passed her exam and was very comfortable with her new company director status.