April 26, 2016

Fear of success is real, and it sucks



At last month's Shake Up Your Speaking retreat, I gave the attendees an exercise that involve picking a temporary tattoo out of a bag, applying it to their arm, and then applying the message on the tattoo to where they were in their speaking journey.

The messages included "Do it now," "Focus," "Courage," "Breathe," "Stand up," "I am powerful," and more. As we went around the room, each woman expressed a clear vision of how her tattoo related to her speaking challenges and goals. It was quite magical.

And then it was my turn, and I could not wrap my head around what my tattoo meant. I had to pass, saying I needed more time to think about it. "Be strong" was my message, and I couldn't relate to it at all. In what way did I need to be strong? It just didn't resonate.

Fast forward to today, a little over one month after the end of the retreat, and now I know what it means. But I didn't know then what I know now, and I hadn't yet experienced what I've experienced since the end of the retreat. So the tattoo was a bit of foreshadowing. It had a message for me that I didn't know I would need.

Have you heard the expression "Fear of success?" Frankly, I always thought it was a ridiculous concept. Who could be afraid of success? Isn't that what we all want, in one way or another?

Well, it happened to me, and now I get it.

After the retreat, I was on a high. Everything went exactly as I expected it to... better, in fact. The participants were a joy to work with, fully engaged and motivated. My team anticipated my every need and the group's needs, and nothing was overlooked. The service given by the hotel was spectacular, the food was abundant and delicious, the view of the ocean across the street was refreshing and inspiring. Attendees left feeling well taken care of, with clear takeaways, intentions and action steps. I mean, it really could not have gone better.

Well... a couple of days later I dropped into a downward spiral. I had spent way more money on the retreat than I had intended, and had a big credit card bill to pay. I got back an evaluation that I took to heart as proof that I hadn't done a good job. A less-than-supportive response from one of my coaches left me feeling like I was still so far from where I wanted to be. And suddenly I started thinking, "It was too good to be true. I knew it wasn't as great as it seemed at the time. Why do I even put myself out there in the world? Why do I expose myself to criticism? Why can't I just hide and be small? Why can't everyone just love me and think I'm perfect?"

I laugh now as I read this, but it was all so real in the moment. And I realized that I was experiencing fear of success!

As Rocky says to Adrian in Rocky III, "You wake up one day thinking you're a winner, but you're not. You're a loser. So we wouldn't have had the title as long. So what? At least it would have been real."

He believes that the fights his manager had set up for him were chosen because they were easy wins, and that his career was built on a lie. He believed he didn't have it in him to beat a "real" fighter, in top shape and in his prime. And if he were to fight a top fighter, he would be exposed as the loser he really is.

This is exactly what I was going through. I had dreamed of putting on a successful event like my retreat for so long, and had worked so hard on it. Was I kidding myself that it was a success? I mean, were all the participants just being polite and trying to make it through the 2 1/2 days the best they could, but really feeling like it was a waste of time? If it wasn't actually a success, and I was just imagining that it was, then I would be embarrassed and want to hide my face from the world. If it really WAS a success, could I ever replicate it or improve upon it?

Well, that was a revelation. And that's where the "Be Strong" tattoo finally made sense to me. It took a lot of mental and emotional strength to look at what I had created with open eyes and open heart. Was it a success? No question. Can I improve it? Absolutely! Can I listen to feedback without feeling like dying? I'm getting better at it. :-) Was it one of the best learning experiences of my life? You betcha.

The thing is, I know what my destiny is. My destiny, my purpose, is to teach, support and help others grow. I've known that since I was a little girl. Everything in my life has led me to this place. It's where I'm meant to be. How I reach people, how I teach them and help them grow - that changes all the time. And I have to be strong every time I put myself out there, try something new, and set new goals for myself about the most effective ways of helping my clients. There will be criticism. What and how I teach isn't for everyone.

But I can't stop doing it, because it's who I am, and I can't stop doing it, because I know I help people. 

Self-doubt sucks. Fear of success sucks. And we all go through these things at times.

Just last week I totally nailed a presentation. I felt it in my bones. The energy was incredible. Afterward, I got requests for coaching and business collaborations. It was exactly as I perceived it to be, no worse and no better, and I achieved my goal of facilitating transformation, right then and there, with people who needed it.

Sometimes everything is perfect. And sometimes we need to Be Strong.

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