the fear of success and choosing right over easy


I’m not going to lie – the overwhelming support and positive response I received after my first post warmed my soul and reaffirmed my decision to write again. (Thank you to everyone who commented, texted or emailed me kind words; I appreciate it beyond measure.)

And as soon as that faded, panic washed over me and I became apprehensive about delving into a second post. My thought process over the last week has gone something like this:

  • Now people expect you to produce something amazing each time.
  • You can’t do that.
  • The second one won’t be as good, the third will be even worse.
  • You’ll never be able to live up to people’s expectations.
  • Maybe you should just quit while you’re ahead.
  • One and done, simple. Easy.

(Keep in mind in my last blog I said I’ve worked through some of my insecurities.)

Once my anxiety came down to a manageable 3.5, I was able to look at the situation a bit more rationally. Conclusion: I may not have a book deal yet, but I am fairly witty and relatively insightful, so maybe I should keep this up.

As I was examining my feelings (feelings, ick … but that’s another post), I realized two common themes that have likely been present most of my life:

  1. The fear of success.
  2. Choosing the easy way vs. the right way.

Fear of success sounds ludicrous right? Who the hell fears success? Turns out, after doing some research, that answer is: a lot of us.

The fear of success can stem from multiple areas of life. One, it is a potential response to trauma. Another aspect is risk and getting our hopes up, which can often lead to disappointment. (And no one likes being disappointed.) Additionally, many of us have also been teased, verbally abused or lead to believe we’re not “good enough” at some point during our lives. Given this, we then feel we don’t deserve success. However, even those who were not traumatized or picked on often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition, change and even envy.

I feel there is one more thing that personally affects me with my fear of success: I loathe disappointing others.

In my mind, if I try and succeed, that will be the standard I’m held to forever more. But what if that one time was just a fluke? Beginners luck? It seems easier if I don’t try. That way, people can hold me to lower standards and I won’t disappoint anyone. It’s simple – the easy option. And in an effort to validate my feelings, I have to say: part of me believes that’s reasonable. Most people don’t enjoy letting down those they care about.

But that’s just fucking stupid.

There is a postcard I have always kept in whatever office I’ve worked in since 2010. Obtained from the Minnesota State Fair, in the Newspaper Museum (go ahead, judge away), it says: “The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.” – Alfred Adler

Take the damn chance.

Who am I disappointing by not being a successful writer? And who decides my success? Answers: me and me. As high school Shannon would have said, “sounds like a personal problem.”

This morning I sent a text to a friend that said “I know how to do things the easy way […] I’m more concerned about doing them the right way.”

Sadly, in some areas of my life, this is a fairly new concept. I think the desire to do things right opposed to easy is something that has come with the many changes in my life over the last few years. The easy way has always been my standard mode of operation. At work, it meant settling for jobs I was overqualified for. In relationships, it meant pushing people away, creating bullshit and turning to avoidance because – let’s face it – relationships are hard (and scary … and again, feelings, ick.). Within myself, it meant me failing to make time to do the things that make me a better person – run, yoga, read, write, etc. (I can admit, it is a delicate balancing act right now, but it is still possible.)

But there comes a time in everyone’s life when right must overpower easy. My assumption is most people get to this point well before the age of 32. But we all move at our own chosen speed.

So here I am. Still writing, because now I’m choosing the right way.

We must be less precautious; we must take chances. On opportunities, on people, but most importantly on ourselves. By taking chances, we create the opportunity to succeed. If we do not give ourselves this opportunity, it seems we’ll never truly be fulfilled. And that’s no way for any of us to live our lives.

So take the chance. What scares you the most? Do that; start there.


2 thoughts on “the fear of success and choosing right over easy

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