Pride In the Possibility: On Conquering the Fear of Success

By Aisha Beau. Photography by Deun Ivory. 

I write a lot about my fears. Specifically my most obvious one of failure, but rarely do I –or others in this space, discuss the fear of success. Which can actually be more crippling. We as human beings are conditioned into trying to be “brave” and learning to deal with the fact that “the worst that can happen” is that someone tells us no, or that we lose, or that we don’t get the opportunity we hoped for. But what if we did? What if you were told yes, what if you won, what if that opportunity was handed to you right now? When it comes to failure, at least that means you can go back to living a life you’ve known, walking a walk you’ve done time and time before — but when you succeed, that opens the door to an entirely new life in some instances. The intense and sometimes sudden change that accompanies success is intimidating, to say the least. 

This past weekend it hit me that my underlying fear is the journey that comes with success. Of course, I’m afraid of failure and not living up to the expectation I have of myself, but given that I’ve recently taken this leap — I’ve clearly put that doubt to the wayside. I’m not the type of person to self-sabotage (on purpose) in order to not get ahead, but instead I’ve actually settled into a comfort zone of knowing that, if this all doesn’t work out for me I can simply “just go back to PR.” Which, in some respects is okay, but I need to reposition my thinking to that of someone who is planning for the success to come, and welcoming it. Because, after all, what you believe is what you manifest.

I recently applied to be part of the Spotify Sound Up Bootcamp, which is a weeklong intensive program for aspiring black women podcasters. Sadly, out of the 18,000+ applicants I was not one of the few chosen. Along with my minor feelings of disappointment I also felt relief. Relief in knowing that I wouldn’t have to leap into this uncharted territory of podcasting just yet — failure allowed me to bide more time. It pains me to even admit that was my thought process, and some may say I was thinking on the bright side, but I know that I was more so worried about the added responsibility and expectations. In one of my earlier sessions with my therapist she said that I have imposter syndrome, which I feel is the case for most who have a fear of success. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent often internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It is often the case for those who feel undeserving of positivity in their lives due to some sort of past trauma or experiences.

Ways to Overcome this Fear

Incorporate Positive Thinking and Affirmations

So, now that I’ve identified the issue. What’s next? In order to overcome this crippling fear of success and imposter syndrome it’s important that I (and you, if you’re feeling the same!) try to counteract these negative thoughts. I’ve recently started a gratitude journal, where at the end of each day I write down 5 things that I am grateful for or accomplished that day. Big or small. I recently got 400 subscribers on YouTube — I know, thats a tiny number in comparison to the millions that other vloggers have, but boy was I hype. Appreciating and embracing the often overlooked parts of the journey to success make it less intimidating.

Take Note of Your Current Successes

Furthermore, it’s not like my life is without major success. It’s important to look back at past big moments and times in which I’ve gotten ahead. How did it make me feel? I was able to handle whatever change was handed to me then, so why not with future opportunities? Before you were a manager, you may have been a coordinator, before that you were an assistant, before that an intern. Each time it may have been scary thinking about taking on that new role, but guess what you did it. So the next step really shouldn’t be that bad.

Pinpoint What Success Really Means

Identifying what success actually looks like and setting specific goals is helpful as well. Putting pen to paper and simply writing out what it is that it takes to get where you want to be, makes the process less daunting. Those of us with a fear of success find uneasiness in what we perceive to be the potential added pressures that come with the new role, status or level. For instance, my worry when it comes to gaining more followers, subscribers and readers is being able to continue to produce content that will keep them interested. Constantly having to perform even better each time.

Instead, I’m working to look at these less like stressors and more like stepping stones to reaching the level of comfort and abundance that I seek. I deserve success, we deserve success — it’s time to start believing it.

Aisha Beau Johnson is a blogger and founder of AishaBeau.com, a digital destination highlighting all things self-care for women of color. She specializes in writing about beauty, mental health and wellness topics, emphasizing the importance of internal and external well being. You can contact her at aisha@aishabeau.com or follow her on social media @aishabeau