Dr. Srini Pillay, Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School says it best: “People often prepare for failure, but rarely prepare for what they will do when they succeed. Even when we consciously want to be successful, enjoying that success can be a challenge.”
Many successful people experience frustrations with the unexpected negative consequences of their success. Things like a surge in their anxiety at fearing the end to their winning streak, the fear that they’re being set up for failure, and the envy and jealousy of others at their success and good fortune. And, according to recent research, these kinds of concerns, as it turns out, aren’t just in their heads; these fears are quite real.
Here are 6 ways to overcome fear of failure:
#1. Celebrate But Don’t Boast
A recent study shows that people are judgmental of others who are ‘expressive winners,’ seeing them as arrogant; on the other hand, ‘inexpressive winners’ are considered more likable. It’s a common to fear being judged negatively for being successful. So, as a result, success can actually increase doubt about winning at life, even unconsciously.
How to avoid this? Be choosy about where and when you express happiness about your success. Share the good news with trustworthy friends and family as well as other successful people. We should enjoy the motivation that comes from being successful and not self-sabotage by pretending we don’t care or by downplaying our accomplishments.
#2. Don’t Just Play to Win
Another study found that when people are on a similar level of success but just a little bit better than we are, our brain’s conflict center is activated, which leads to feelings of envy. Related to this process is a phenomenon known as schadenfreude , taking pleasure in someone else’s failure. When we succeed, we project our own feelings onto others, assuming that they are just as happy as we are about it.
Knowing our own capacity for taking pleasure in other people’s failures, we harbor a fear – either unconsciously or consciously – that can affect our confidence. Likewise, we might feel anxiety about the effect of our success on other people. To counteract this fear of someone else hoping we’ll fail, focus instead on the value that you bring to the table instead of on winning. This will help boost your confidence despite this fear.
#3. Stay in the Present
When we are constantly trying to anticipate the reactions of others, we are probably projecting our thoughts and feelings and this can prevent us from achieving or maintaining success. If we start thinking too much about this stuff, it can prevent us from appropriately managing our expectations and our own emotions.
Stop overthinking success. Focus on the present – the “here and now.” Let go of worrying about the future and rationalizing the past. Obsessing about the past will distract you and keep you from having a clear mind.
#4. Practice Meditation
A great way to accomplish #3 (above) is to get into the daily practice of meditation. Although it might look easy enough, it’s actually quite difficult to do – at first. As a modern society, we are addicted to thinking and it takes practice and patience to learn how to quiet the mind. Once you get better at meditating, you will notice that you are more present in each moment, instead of constantly thinking about the past or about what’s next.
#5. Quiet Your Inner Critic
We all have that inner critic, that nagging, negative voice that tells us we can’t do it, that we’re not smart enough, not talented enough, not good enough, not good-looking enough…you get the picture. Well, that kind of thinking has become a habit and seems so normal to you; like it’s just the way it is. The thing is, you can erase that tape and record something new over it – positive stuff. Practice telling yourself positive self-affirmations, on a daily basis. Eventually, this is the voice you will hear, instead of that nasty ol’ voice you used to hear.
#6. Keep Striving
Finally, when we reach a summit of our success, such as in the area of career, we tend to plateau, becoming bored to the point that we slow down and lose motivation and passion. This is called the summit syndrome. In order to prevent boredom, always look for stimulating ways to apply your skills and talents. When you feel you have mastered something, ask yourself: How can I create something new from this? Be careful of boredom as it can lead you to sabotage yourself and your recovery.
Is fear of success and/or boredom keeping you from attempting recovery? These are actually quite common experiences of people who struggle with substance abuse and addiction, interfering with them getting the help they need. But help is available. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist for information.