Written by: Jeff Craig
We all had fears as children. I am sure if I asked you to name some, you would give me a laundry list of things that scared you.
For me, it was heights. I was never the kid to climb trees or jump off a high dive. I couldn’t even get on a roller coaster until I was about 15. The fear of plummeting to my death scared the living crap out of me.
As I got older, the fear of heights became less and less intense. Until eventually, I could hardly even feel anxiety anymore. Nowadays, I’m a thrill seeker, so it would not be uncommon to find me diving off a cliff or bungee jumping off a bridge.The reality is that my fear of heights as a child was quite rational. When I was up high looking down, there is a definite possibility of danger. Yet, over time, the anxiety I felt over that potential danger decreased significantly because I began to realize that my fear would only hold me back from fun experiences.
Now I’m an adult. I have new phobias. I have suffered from a phobia that many people have had in their lives. This fear is in no way rational, yet still has plagued me with anxiety for years. This fear I am speaking of is known as Achievemephobia.
Achievemephobia is the fear of success. You may be thinking this is some fictitious fear, but it is a real social phobia that is actually quite common.
I couldn’t tell you when my fear of success started, but I can very easily tell you where it negatively impacted my life. My fear of success prevented me from dating numerous women who I knew were interested in me. It has kept me from landing big promotions at work. It has kept me from working a career that brings me fulfillment. It has also prevented me from being more at peace with myself.
My fear of success had kept me from living my life the best way I possibly could.
I spent many years knowing the direction I wanted to go in life, but felt as if I was glued to the floor, unable to move. Some of it was expectations. Expectations that my destiny would somehow fall in my lap. Expectations that one day I would be 100% ready. The other part was downright laziness. I knew success was hard and avoiding hard work was my specialty.
Then one day, I came to my senses. I realized that the only thing holding me back from my success was ME!
There is a great quote by Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
You see, I came to realize that our limits only exist within ourselves. Fear is a mental construct that prevents you from doing what makes you feel most alive.
I was afraid of heights as a child and I missed out on some really good experiences because of it. Heights never became less dangerous as I got older, I simply started to realize that if I didn’t conquer that fear, then it would conquer me.
My Achievemephobia kept me from walking a path I have been staring at my entire life. It has robbed me of experiences and opportunities that I can never get back. Now I have chosen to walk to the end of that high dive and jump off. I have never felt more alive.
If you’re thinking that you may need to face a fear of success, here are a few exercises that helped me, my hope is that they will help you along your way:
- Look Back in Time: Think back to a time you were successful in something you did. It could be a sporting event, graduation, a job promotion, anything. Find that experience in your mind and stay with it for 5 to 10 minutes recalling the feelings you had in that moment. Then compare that feeling to a negative experience and note the contrast. When you begin to experience that fear of success recall how you felt the last time you were successful.
- Expose Yourself: In exposure therapy, an individual is presented with a mild form of their phobia without any actual danger. Try executing small successes throughout your day. Try a new exercise routine, cook something you’ve never made, talk to a stranger. Put yourself in a position to where success is an option and force yourself to do it. By exposing yourself to milder forms of success, it will help relieve anxiety for more intense experiences.
- Use Fear as Fuel: The fight or flight response has been built into every human being’s DNA. It is the thing inside of us that tells us to either run away from danger, or stand up to it. The physiological changes that occur in the body creates adrenaline, which has often been used to achieve some pretty amazing feats. Instead of running from your fear of success, take that adrenaline boost and use it as fuel to reach your goals.
- Find A Mentor: The best way to achieve success is to find someone we admire that has done it before and copy what they did. Learning from a mentor has been scientifically proven to work for those who implement what they have learned. If you are feeling that no one has ever accomplished the goals you have set for yourself (Which I assure you, is very unlikely), try reading an autobiography by someone whose accomplishments you admire. You will learn that success is never easy, but it is always worth it.
- Hold Yourself Accountable: Overcoming a fear of success is never simple. Success requires hard work and we all know how easy it is to avoid that. Force yourself to be successful. Set small goals for yourself and hold yourself accountable to them. Write a check list and reward yourself when you complete a task. Avoid extracurricular activities until a task is done. If you can hold yourself accountable to show up to work on time every day, you owe it to yourself to be accountable for your own success.
As children, our fears are ruled by external forces indicating physical danger (spiders, ghosts, heights, etc.). As adults, our fears are internalized in our minds as an irrational idea that prevents us from living the life we desire.
The fear of success is a phobia that many have suffered from, including myself. The good news is, because it exists in your mind, you can change it.
By looking at your past successes, exposing yourself, using your fear as fuel, finding a mentor, and holding yourself accountable; you can overcome this Achievemephobia, leading you back onto the path you belong.