When you imagine yourself into your own future writing success, how does it feel? Is it exciting but terrifying, all at once? Do you imagine yourself changed irrevocably by your fame and fortune? Do you sense yourself being overwhelmed by attention, energy, and even money? Will you still be a good person?
Will success change you?
A Sneaky Kind of Resistance
I’ve seen in myself and others this terror of success manifesting as a very sneaky kind of resistance. We self-sabotage because we’re afraid we can’t handle the success. Another way to think of this is as an “upper limit problem,” where you thwart your future success by imploding in the here and now, even in the smallest of ways.
Does “I just don’t feel like writing today” ring any bells?
Under the terror is a fear of losing your very sense of self as a result of being successful. As if you'll be so overloaded with the intensity of success that you’ll transform into chaotic energy that floats you away into nothingness.
Sometimes we stop ourselves from writing because we’re afraid to fail.
And sometimes we stop ourselves because we’re afraid to succeed.
Symptoms of a Fear of Success
It could be as simple as procrastinating or being a perfectionist, but it might also look like taking on so many tasks that you can’t write, failing to do your best work, stopping just short of finishing project after project, fearing that you'll betray your loved ones if you succeed or are happy, or even allowing emergencies to erupt and backlogged work to accumulate so you can’t write (or write well) because you have too many demands on your time, space, and energy.
Interesting how those symptoms match both a fear of failure and a fear of success, isn't it?
Addressing a Fear of Success
But the solution for moving past the fear lies in understanding which fear it is.
Having a fear of failure means needing to adjust your mindset about what failure means.
If you're struggling with a fear of success, though, the solution lies in bringing yourself into the here and now, into this moment, right now, reading this piece with me, and remembering that you get to decide how to handle your life. You’re the author of your present, and your future. You get to practice being grounded, centered, present, and calm, right now, right here. You get to make decisions and plans for your money, time, and energy now, so that when success arrives you're well prepared for it.
So just breathe with me, right now. Notice the air, the light, the sounds around you. Take a deep inhale, and then let it go. You don’t have to worry about the future right now, because you're getting ready to be your future self, one step at a time.
Your job, right now, is to calm and soothe yourself. To bring your attention back to the work you’re doing right now. The learning you’re having right now. One step at a time.
You may also like:
- Are success and failure really opposites?
- Failure, zombies, systems, and Steven Pressfield
- What is failure? What is success?
- Bored with your writing project, or terrified to face it?
- The next Called to Write Coaching Circle session starts on May 22. Register for the next Writer's Coaching Circle session here.
- My next Fitting Writing Into Your Life* intensive course at Screenwriter's University starts on June 1.
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