How to Tell If Fear Is Keeping You From Being Successful

Fear is a normal, healthy, human emotion. It’s created from the ego as a protective mechanism. Hundreds and thousands of years ago, fear was an instinct you would trust in order to survive. But in the modern world, fear has a tendency to do more harm than good.

You no longer need to look over your shoulders in fear of a lethal threat. But the lingering instinct remains. And if it goes unmanaged it will stand between you and greatness.

So, when does fear arise?

How can it be identified?

And what are some things you can do to rewire your instincts to achieve the best possible outcome?

People may have personal triggers due to past experiences. But mostly, fear arises when we aren’t able to weigh our risks (facing the unknown), or when the risks are high–making the situation uncomfortable.

In life and in business you will face these kinds of situations regularly. They might be small and have little impact. But eventually, you will face a make it or break it scenario. In order to end up on top, here are a few ways to stay two steps ahead of fear.

Fear of Failure

Big success often requires a big risk. Going all-in on a deal, a partnership, or with investors–it can be terrifying. Even with all the self-confidence in the world, when the stakes are high, it’s nearly impossible to not think what if I mess this up?

Since the first day of school, our failures and successes were measured on some sort of spectrum. It could have been letter grades, numerical scores, or smiley and frowny faces–we’ve been programmed to know the distinction between the two.

Unfortunately, if a standard wasn’t met, the subsiding emotions of failure felt like shame, embarrassment, and self-criticism. It makes sense as adults to avoid those feelings whenever possible.

However, failure is inevitable since we simply can’t do everything right all the time.

The risk of not overcoming a fear of failure could be missed opportunities, resistance to change or trying new things, and becoming stagnant in life due to the obsession of what others think.

To keep the fear of failure from sabotaging your success, try this.

  • –  Separate yourself and your identity from outcomes. You are who you are and it has nothing to do with your achievements or let downs. Stand in your power and recognize your greatness outside of what you do or do not accomplish.
  • –  Enjoy the journey. It’s a phrase as old as time. Taking your time to learn, grow, and experience new circumstances instead of being addicted to the desired goal is what makes life worth living. The more you fail, the more you’ll be employed with strategies and lessons you’ll be able to apply in your next attempt
  • –  Accept that failure will happen at some point. It’s an inevitable part of the road to success. It won’t be where you throw the towel in. If you allow it, failure will be a pivotal moment in your life or career that will show you what you’re made of. Ultimately, as long as you do your best–you haven’t failed.
  • Surrender to the fear. If your mind is insisting that something can and will go wrong, entertain it. Take a moment to imagine the worst possible scenario. Just let your brain go there. You lose everything. People judge you. You have to start over. You feel embarrassed. There. Now you’ve seen the worst that could (but likely won’t) happen. Now that you know how scary and awful it could feel, let it go.

You’re too much of a boss to play small anyway. It’s okay to be afraid of failure as long as you refuse to let it hold you back.

Fear of Success

On the other side of that coin, the fear of success can be just as crippling. One of the ways a fear of success manifests is through imposter syndrome. The fear of being “found out” is an illusion. It’s self-doubt. It’s simply NOT REAL.

Chris Pace, Senior Director of digital marketing at Banner Health. Pace confronts imposter syndrome within himself and team members.

"Would they have brought you into the situation if they didn't believe in you and didn't believe you had the skill set to be successful?”

He goes on to emphasize the importance of building a team with diverse skillsets. This not only makes for a better team but also makes individuals worth and value undeniable.

You may have a fear of success if the idea of achieving your biggest goals is followed by the intense panic of being in the spotlight, others having high expectations, haters raining on your parade, and again–not feeling worthy.

Fear of success may have resulted in you turning down advancement opportunities, a dream role, or any other step toward your greatest potential. Or, at the very least, it can rob you of your joy when you do reach the top.

Whenever you feel the grip of fear before making a big decision that is likely to lead to success, have a conversation with yourself.

How long are you going to let fear hold you back?

Are you willing to settle and accept less than you’re capable of?

Once you come to terms with the bigger picture you have of your life and the sheer fulfillment of accomplishing your wildest dreams–fear won’t stand a chance.

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