Perhaps everyone is familiar with the fear of failure: a paralyzing sensation of a probable setback preventing a person from accomplishments, broadening one’s zone of comfort, trying out something new, self-expression, and so on. Indeed, the fear of failure can greatly affect a person’s life, so even a gifted and skilled man or woman who could have reached success due to their talents prefers to stay passive to avoid potential failures. However, this is not the only obstacle one can face; there is also another fear, which for many people might seem paradoxical, but which, nevertheless, is an effective and sometimes unbearable barricade on one’s way to accomplishments: the fear of success.
At first glance, it might seem absurd; the fear of success is something a person in the modern success-oriented society can hardly confess to other people. Still, it remains a great problem for thousands of people all over the world. A talented writer having written several brilliant novels, hesitating to send them to a publishing house; an office worker who could greatly improve the productivity of his/her department, afraid to step up and submit his/her propositions on reorganization; a scientist bearing a revolutionary theory contradicting deep-seated conceptions, but does not expose them; a person having found a dream job, but afraid to send his/her CV. These are just some examples of the fear of success.
But what causes this fear? Why would someone be so afraid of reaching their dreams so badly that it would prevent them from even trying to do it? Psychologists suggest several possible reasons for this.
Susanne Babbel, a psychologist specializing in trauma and the post traumatic stress disorder, believes that the fear of success might have something in common with the fear of excitement and arousal, including sexual sensations. People who suffered from traumatic experiences in the past, or are struggling with PTSD currently, might confuse the excitement of success with the excitement or arousal experienced during traumatic events (since excitement is not necessarily a “positive” feeling—it can occur not only while anticipating for something pleasant to happen, but also in situations of danger). For example, if excitement or arousal was experienced in relation to sexual trauma, the excitement of being close to achieving success might, in certain cases, be confused with the sensations connected to the trauma, and thus become undesired and feared; although, this is not always the case. In other words, people who have undergone traumatic events can associate the feeling of success with the feeling of trauma, and in order to avoid exposing themselves to danger, they prefer to abstain themselves from accomplishing their goals, or achieving success otherwise (Psychology Today).
Success has a more complicated nature than failure, and is connected to great uncertainty. Failure is more “familiar,” so to say; success, on the other hand, may involve enormous potential changes in one’s lifestyle, behavior, connections, and so on. Therefore, for some people, it feels safer to stay within known territory—in the situations they have got used to; success implies becoming exposed to criticism, evaluation, envy, new demands, social pressure, expectations, public scrutiny, and so on. A person subconsciously anticipating all this may not feel prepared for this kind of challenge, so in order to feel safer, such a person prefers to not strive for success, but rather to stay where they are (99U).
Another reason underlying the fear of success might seem insignificant at first glance, but it is still a serious problem for many people, especially in religious communities. This is the fear of appearing nonspiritual, materialistic, and egoistic. Many people, not necessarily religious, live with the conviction that there is something wrong about wanting to be successful and rich; “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This Biblical quote, as well as its numerous variations (such as “rich people are dishonest/greedy/bad”), often being misinterpreted, serves as one of the main stop signs for many people. Success is often linked with money, and money in public consciousness is something that directly opposes spirituality, inner peace, self-development. Such expressions as “to sell-out,” “to be shallow,” “to be selfish,” “to be overly ambitious” and many others point to an opposition between being a spiritual person and being rich—as if one excludes another. Oppressed by public opinion along with one’s own convictions, a person might sometimes even consciously avoid situations where they could prove themselves, stand out somehow, just in order to appear more spiritual, more altruistic, than if they would in case of achieving success (Lifehack).
It is also important to remember about the fear of disappointment—the fear of success often goes hand-by-hand with it. Many people live under the impression that striving for success assumes having high expectations and hopes; in case if success cannot be achieved for some reason, the fear of having one’s hopes and dreams crumble may be a strong obstacle, so success becomes connected to potential disappointment; avoiding the latter, a person also avoids the former. Besides, people tend to feel they are simply not good enough for success, due to abusive feedback from their environment received in childhood (for instance, children calling each other “losers” in schools, or parents envying someone else’s success and justifying their own misfortunes with the constructions such as “honest people cannot have it”). Success, in this case, becomes something a person feels he/she does not deserve, or should not have (Psychology Today).
The fear of success is a complicated phenomena, involving a number of smaller fears, misconceptions, and wrong convictions. A fear of success might be connected to some traumatic events that occurred to a person in the past; it can be also caused by the fear of great changes in one’s life accompanied by success. A person might think that “good people cannot be successful,” that they do not deserve success, or that being successful somehow turns them into selfish, shallow beings. All these convictions can be got rid of, so a person fearing success should not be ashamed of their feelings, and should probably visit his or her local psychotherapist for consultations, as it is an effective way of dealing with harmful and/or dysfunctional beliefs.
- Babbel, Susanne. “Fear of Success.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.
- “Are You (Subconsciously) Afraid of Success?” 99U. N.p., 09 Mar. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.
- “What to Do if You Have a Fear of Success.” Lifehack. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.
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Writing an Expository Essay
On the fourth of July, a group of young boys thought that climbing to the top of dead-mans cliff would be a thrill they would never forget. The climb was full of narrow paths and dagger-like rocks. They had precluded that the trek up to the cliff would be their only difficulty. The eldest and most courage’s boy of the group reached the summit first. As the boy peeked over the edge into the water his heart sank. “ Is this the same cliff we had looked at from the water,” he thought to himself. Fear came over him as the other boys ran up behind him. “Jump, jump!” They shouted. He tried to speak but nothing came out. Not wanting them to think of him as a coward, he stepped toward the edge. He had jumped from a small cliff in the past and new all to well what the consequences were if he landed wrong in the water. Heart throbbing, legs shaking, skin sweating, and lungs gasping, he prepared to take the plunge.
What the boy is experiencing is called fear. Fear is an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. In the boy’s case, the danger of not landing in the water perfectly strait could cause him bodily harm. The words dread, fright, alarm, panic, and terror, are essentially all terms that express different levels of fear. Fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and loss of courage. Everyone on the face of the earth has experienced this emotion. Different elements bring fear to peoples mind. The fear of heights played a large roll in the boy’s uncertainty in jumping. Some of the many fears people experience include: heights, death, abandonment, eternity, and ghosts.
The causes of fear that one may experience can be traced back to his earliest childhood memories. A painful experience on a bicycle may generate a fear of riding a bike for many years. A near drowning experience while learning to swim could make one fear the water for the rest of his life. When I was nine years old I saw a horror movie about clown dolls. At night the dolls would come to life and torture people. For five years after I saw that movie I would have nightmares. And still to this day I cannot sleep in a room that has a clown in it. Fear causes anticipation in ones mind and an awareness of danger. Associating a physical or mental pain with an activity or object makes one have a fear of the dangers associated with it.
There are three different types of fear: superstitious, intelligent, and uncertainty. Superstitious fear is a fear of imaginary and make-believe things. The “monsters” in the closet are a fear that young children have that is totally superficial. The television shows that a kid sees or the stories that are told to him by other siblings can cause his imagination to make up a creature that want to “get” him in his sleep. Intelligent fear is one that comes as one gets older and gains more knowledge of the world around him. A girl that carries mace with her as she walks home through a bad part of town is scared of getting raped or robbed. She is only fearful of getting raped or robbed because she has either read the newspaper or saw on the news, people who have been attach in that part of the town. The fear of uncertainty is, not knowing the outcome of ones action. The boy that was about to jump off the cliff was uncertain to whether or not he would land safely in the water. Also being uncertain of whether of not the water is deep enough plays a role in his uncertainty of the task. Fear is a natural emotion but having knowledge about ones surroundings can give enough courage to face those fears with some confidence. And that little bit of confidence is what one needs to safely overcome the challenge.
Fear is not a good feeling; there is no freedom, happiness, or admiralty in it. One can spend a lifetime trying to conquer all his fears and never triumph. However that does not mean that one should not try. I read an inspiring quote a long time ago that read “There can be no courage without fear and no success without courage. Overcoming a fear will develop courage to take on more of life’s obstacles. The boy that was debating jumping off that cliff had two options. One being that he could try warming up on a smaller jump and progressively jumping higher. Or two, He could just jump and risk personal injury. The first is the best way in overcoming ones fears. By knowing the skills on the intermediate level first, one can safely move up to the more difficult advanced trials.
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