People used to constantly say to me, “You have no fear!”, and “I wish I was you, you’re not afraid of anything.” And for the most part, that is true. Heights don’t bother me. The dark doesn’t scare me. Public speaking invigorates and excites me, and performing anything from memory is a welcomed challenge as opposed to a death sentence. But there was something I was afraid of- deathly so. Success.
Yes, you read that right. Success, not failure. Failure, messing up, or not making the cut – that didn’t bother me as much. While we love to regale one another with our tales of woe, most appreciate failure’s importance to growth.
But success? Success raises expectations. You raise the bar and people keep expecting you to raise it higher. You start to hear those phrases… “We’re expecting great things from you.”, “We’ll be keeping our eye on you.” and “We’re looking towards your future”.
And while the intention of the comments are meant to encourage and be supportive, as a teen who was negotiating school, social and family life, hormones, and my own fledgling self-confidence – the words fell on my ears more like pressure than encouragement.
I was extremely fearful that I would successfully…not be able to raise the bar. I was afraid that I’d fall short and reveal that I was, in fact, a fraud and not as capable as others or I had believed.
Another thing that scared me about success was the change that I knew was inescapable. If I stepped into all that I was and all I knew I could be- what would happen? Would people be threatened? Would it change the way I was perceived? Would I have yet another turnover of friends? Would people think that I thought I was better than they were? When would that uncomfortable season end? Would I find my tribe of like-minded people? And man, when would I find them?
Success can be lonely sometimes. When sharing your accomplishments, there are times when people, even ones close to you, act as if you’re bragging or being self-involved. Sly, subtle remarks, or head-tilting comments begin to creep into conversation and can very much blindside you.
Certainly, there is a line where sharing becomes bragging; but simply inviting people to share the good feeling of your wins is not a crime. Unfortunately, between the external responses I was picking up felt like a preview of things to come if I was more successful. Plus, my self-esteem had been lowered as a result of having my victories minimized or glossed over because of petty jealousy and unconscious resentments. I was so turned off that I ended up retreating and shying away from my power. I thought that would resolve the matter…It didn’t
Self-sabotage became very familiar to me. My mother liked to call it, “shooting yourself in the foot”. If there was an opportunity where the odds of winning were in my favor, I’d get in my own way. I would plan and strategize for hours, mapping out a comprehensive blueprint for achieving what I said I wanted. Then I would delay, procrastinate, sporadically work on it, or just putt around. Basically, I was open to anything that might keep me from succeeding.
I didn’t care if I failed at something. I did care whether I succeeded and wasn’t able to duplicate the victory. I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder. I didn’t trust myself. With that came a diminished sense of my abilities and self-confidence. In turn, this led to me getting mad at myself more and more because I knew I was capable.
The longer I hid, the more people made assumptions about me. Since I wasn’t revealing who I was, they had no idea who I was. As a result, regardless of their good intentions, they arrived at conclusions regarding my life and future that were far from my own desires. This only added to my frustration. Because of this vicious cycle, I became a big emotional blob full of resentments, anger and fear. I was stuck.
Then, three years ago, I decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of feeling and thinking less of myself. I was tired of beating myself up again and again. I was tired of living in my own shadow. I was tired of allowing others’ feelings to hinder my life.
There were things I wanted to do, be, achieve. I wanted my power back. I was ready to fly. Actually, I needed to soar. I knew who I was. I knew what I liked. I knew what I was capable of and who I wanted to be . I was ready to be and remain fully “me”.
Unfortunately, there were consequences to continually shying away from the fullness of myself. It was similar to having been severely injured and requiring physical therapy. I needed to retrain myself. I remembered what it felt like to be fully and completely me, but I’d spent so long in the shadows, that it felt uncomfortable and foreign. I repeatedly attempted to step into the light, only to fall back on the useless old habits that I’d spent five years developing..
Over time I was able to establish more effective ways of operating. It was then that I realized the complete and total disservice I had done, not just to myself, but to my friends as well. I had allowed the manifestation of others’ thoughts and feelings to dictate how I should live and conduct myself.
Out of fear, I had stopped sharing my successes and accomplishments with people. Consequently, I had inadvertently hurt my friends who, after learning of my prior accomplishments felt robbed of the opportunity to support me.
Since then, I’ve not only been redefining success for myself, I’ve been embracing it. In fact, our podcast, Real Talk with Deb & Nia, is one of my greatest successes and proudest achievements. I was scared of this dream of mine for a long time. I was afraid of the change it might bring, concerned regarding whether or not I was good or interesting enough, and anxious regarding family and friends’ opinions. And yes, I feared successfully blowing up. We haven’t yet, but we’re planning on it and welcome whatever change may come. 🙂
Success, I’ve found, is defined by the individual. You don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations except your own. The bar doesn’t have to be raised unless you make it a priority. All you must be is bold. Do your best, and do the work. Don’t allow others to force you to make choices that don’t suit you. Be who you choose to be.
As I reflect on the success of the podcast so far, and as I celebrate the milestones with friends and family, I find that I feel more powerful than ever before. I’m not scared of failing and I’m no longer afraid of succeeding. I’m terrified of not trying.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” -Marianne Williamson