As I hemmed and hawed over this article it was for good reason and perfect timing that there was as delay. Two days ago I received a call from my younger brother, who at 47 years old has decided to pop the question to his girlfriend. While we all have seen movies such as the Runaway Bride, or maybe even been on the end of thinking what if the answer is no, a shadow question is what if the answer is yes? Fears are common to many of us when we are at the crossroads of a decision. I wonder how many of us have considered our fear to be the what if of success.
Out of the Comfort Zone
As we all settle into our jobs, our lifestyles and ways of being in the world, it can become a comfortable and familiar place that is hard to leave. In some cases we use cognitive dissonance, or the bartering ability to justify and reason between our place of comfort and the possibility of a future shift that causes us discomfort. If you have been reading these blog articles written for The Positive Psychology People page, you might remember the article by Maia Aziz that challenge us to remember that element of discomfort was like a fire poker sticking in our side, pushing us outside our comfort zone and to consider possibilities.
So what about this fear of success? Why might a person fear being promoted, becoming a parent, a spouse, becoming closer to the type of person they desire to be? While we celebrate the optimal moment of acknowledging success in many shapes and forms, once the confetti and streamers have cleared, reality kicks in. As we move from one place to another, physically or emotionally, and realize we are no longer surrounded by the comforts of what we once knew the ball of fear comes rolling in. Fear, of failure, fear of letting people down, fear of humiliation, and even fear of ending up somewhere lower on the ladder than where we had been before; it is a risk—success is a risk.
During a group discussion with my Positive Psychology class this past week we talked about fears and attempting new goals in life. In relation to both fear of success and fear of failure, the ruminating question to ask oneself when met with the rush of reasons as to not to attempt was “is this an excuse?” The rush of excuse-reasoning becomes an overwhelming moat and it is up to us to bring down the bridge. To do this, the irrational fear, or just plain fear can be questioned with: what is the worst that could happen and what was the best that could happen? Do I really believe that the people around me would walk away from me? Would it be more foolish to attempt and not succeed, or not attempt and never know? What do I truly want?
So the next time you want to attempt something and are not sure ask yourself “What am I afraid of? Am I afraid of failure, or success? I think you will find that we tend to maximize the little things and blow them out of proportion, we tend to minimize the big things and toss them aside, and we don’t always give ourselves a realistic view of possibility. Now if you will excuse me, I have a new dress to buy for an “up-coming wedding”—I am an optimist.
About the author: Dr. Lynn Soots has been teaching psychology at the higher education level for over ten years. She is proud to integrate Positive Psychology applications in each of her courses to support growth and student goal attainment. She specializes in higher education online course-room design, adult learning, and diversity appreciation.