Fear of Success

Day 90

How do you define success?

For some people success is concrete -- money, job titles, assets, awards, or popularity. In fact, I remember a time when I measured my success on whether my boss afforded me the right to have a business card or not. Happily, a dear friend introduced me to Kinkos and the notion that I can define my success anytime I choose by making my own business cards based on whatever I gosh darn wanted to be.

Is this what you do too? Do you wait for other people to define your success instead of taking responsibility for it?

Fear of success is a concept that I have been actively engaged with for the last five years. Here are some key beliefs that I have learned about my ideas of success during this process:

1. I believe that if I am truly successful, I will lose love.
2. I believe it is easier to receive love, if I am rallying support from others when I am not successful.
3. I believe that to be a success I might need to be different, which could physically and emotionally isolate me from the people I love.

Funny how my top beliefs around success are fixated on approval from others and insuring that I will have a continual source of warmth, love, and support. I can't speak for men, but I've got a sinking feeling that I'm not alone, and a lot of women shy away from being successful because it somehow threatens their notion of being loved.

I've had a lot time over the last five years to come up with my own vision of success, and it doesn't have a dollar amount or title attached to it. It's based on the feelings surrounding this imagined woman who is completely at ease with herself, centered, whole, and self-assured. A woman who doesn't plan the next moment but lets it arrive, trusting that she will greet it just like this daisy -- wide open and present.

success = being grounded in my true nature

Here's the mind bender that put my whole life in perspective and started me down the path to examining my inner beliefs about success. If success means I am being true to my own nature, then...

1. I believe that if I am truly myself, I will lose love.
2. I believe it is easier to receive love, if I am rallying support from others around an act that is not true to my own nature.
3. I believe that to be my true self I might need to be different, which could physically and emotionally isolate me from people I love.

Crazy, no? You may be resisting what I've just said because it seems impossible that a person could sacrifice their true nature so easily for the offerings of love and acceptance from others, but these beliefs are probably working in your life more often then you think. I'm guessing that many of us question if other people really want us to be our best selves, and yet we freely hand the guidelines and measuring stick over to others who may not truly support our path. Our lifelong cheerleaders may not have our best interests in mind, not because they don't love us, but because their hearts may be focused on another outcome. We ask others to validate that we are doing our best when the responsibility for love and acceptance lies within one person -- your own Self.

Uncovering your hidden belief system is the beginning of pinpointing your place on the universal map, seeing where you've gotten side tracked or waylaid on your soul's journey. Re-imagining and rewriting your beliefs is what will move you forward along the path to your chosen destination. In a future post, I'm going to reinvent my beliefs about success so as to illustrate how one can go about remapping their lives. Think of it as recalibrating your spiritual GPS system!

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place
where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou

Today I have reached Day 90 on my 120 Day Challenge to improve my health and well-being. I'm three quarters of the way to my destination. I want to jump up and down and tell you about all the great stuff that I'm learning and what things have been changing, but it feels almost like a delicious movie you don't want to spoil for a potential viewer. All I can say is that it is big, minute, amazing, simple, powerful, and subtle all at the same time.

Perhaps life wouldn't have as much meaning if I didn't struggle to learn how to take responsibility for my success and being true to my own nature. Fear of success is the metaphysical string tied to my finger reminding me that I am always actively co-creating with the universe. By engaging with my fear of success, I have come to understand that I am responsible for showing up to the life I have created. I wanted it this way for a reason, and though I may have forgotten my original intent, I am solely responsible for being actively engaged in it no matter what it looks like.

This fear is nothing to run away from, but rather it's asking you to stake a claim in your own life, a necessary pain that shoves us forward into our futures so we can be people who are continually growing up and showing up for our chosen destination -- the best home of all the one found in being truly ourselves.

P.S. Many thanks to Mary Jane for sharing Maya Angelou's quote with me and making this post richer xoxo


  1. Your first statement I would not worry about.. Because if that other person feels threatened by your success it is NOT u that caused that feeling in them... It is them... To me success is when u have that feeling of accomplishment and also not worrying about what others may think of it- whether they are jealous of it or of you...Success to me is knowing that u are please w/how u accomplished it...

  2. a GREAT post, beth, i find that people often want to define success for me...as i age, i find that i feel much stronger, positively, okay about who i am and what i define as success...so grateful to be able to even ponder it..you are inspiring me to begin a 120 of my own...thanks

  3. this is powerful stuff - and i need to print it out and reread it a few times... then i can respond... xo

  4. Chrissy, I definitely feel that fears of jealousy motivate people to pull back, but underlying this statement "I believe that if I am truly myself, I will lose love," is also another subtle way that we hold ourselves back. For instance, sometimes we don't choose to move in a particular direction because the people we love don't want to move in the same way. Such as when I was young and I went to a different college then all my friends did, and I chose to move into a new circle of friendships. Sometimes it's not the other people that are taking love away out of jealousy or feeling threatened, but our own fear of parting ways from the people we are attached to in order to move in our own direction.

    Jean, how cool that you are feeling that groundedness in defining your own success as part of the natural aging process! I wish you the best on finding your 120 challenge :)

    Mary Jane, so glad you are connecting with my ideas and I look forward to hearing what you are feeling about this.

  5. Amazing perspective Beth! Your posts seem to move right through to my soul. Thank you for always sharing such enlightenment. You deliver words of wisdom and healing that others feel, but aren't always able to express. xo

  6. I can totally identify with this! Esp. the idea that the people I love might not be willing to follow me if I have to go in a different direction to realize some fulfillment. I always feel I have to choose between my significant relationships and other goals. It's a balancing act. For me, a large part of my definition of "success" includes those relationships. The people in my life are vital to my mental health, and my idea of a life well-lived centers around loving and being loved, and having people I love near me. So other aspects of my "success" have to be balanced against that. It's a give and take--there are simply things that are not options if I want those relationships to continue. For example, I can't pick up and move to a place my BF doesn't want to live, and I can't spend all my time away from home socializing with other artists. It would cost me too much, and my mate plays a much larger role in my happiness than my artistic pursuits. And taking chances on new ventures always affects other people too, esp. your mate. Becoming a starving artist may simply not be an option because of their presence in your life. Relationships always require sacrifices on both sides, you just have to recognize when you're sacrificing too much for too little in return.

  7. Barbe, thanks so much for reading this post and sharing your energy here with me! So glad you found some meaning in this one :)

    Keirsten, how cool that you could relate to these ideas! Especially this sense of balancing personal goals with relationship. Maybe there is a place of non-choosing...hope somebody points me in that direction! Glad to be on this road with you :)


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