As authors, we talk a great deal about fears and insecurities. About how we worry our work isn’t good enough, that we will be judged badly and receive harsh and very public criticism in the form of bad reviews. We talk about mindset and having the grit and determination to keep going when imposter syndrome sets in or we feel frustrated with a poor return on our marketing efforts.
We talk about what drives us – the desire to leave soul-sucking day jobs or to be able to support ourselves with our writing. Sometimes we even dare to dream about real financial freedom.
But there is something else that holds us back that we don’t talk about very much at all. Perhaps because as writers we are too humble, perhaps because we think we are being prematurely arrogant to believe we may actually be successful one day. What we are failing to talk about is the fear of success.
I know, I know, don’t scoff. Success sounds like a great problem to have and why would anyone be afraid of it, but I’m being serious. Stick with me here and you may recognise some of the symptoms.
Our brains are wired to keep us safe and stepping out of our comfort zones and changing things is not staying safe. Our brains like to keep everything the same, but sometimes staying just as we are is the more dangerous route. For example, staying in a job that is destroying our mental health or remaining in an abusive relationship. But for our brains, doing nothing is safer than doing something and that’s because our brains hate uncertainty.
Taking steps to improve our lives or follow our dreams is incredibly exciting and motivating at first, much like when we first decide to start a diet and we think about how fit and healthy and how much slimmer we’ll be in a few months’ time. But then we resist the changes to our diet and exercise (laying on the couch) routine. Why?
Well, the brain is a complicated machine, but one reason is that we can’t fully know the future. We are drawn to the idea of weight loss because we all know the benefits, but then as we take action we start to think about the risks. “What if I lose weight and my husband finds me less attractive?”
The same goes for making money. “What if I make money and then my family all start asking me to lend them cash?”
“What if I start making money from my books, quit my job and then the money dries up and then I get writer’s block…”
What if, what if, what if. Our brains do not like ‘what if.’
To avoid making a bad decision, we will often try to walk two paths, keeping one foot safely in what is familiar. But if you walk down the middle of the road, at some point you will get squashed. You need to take that leap of faith and cross the road fully.
When we make changes to our lives, it’s not just us that feels fear either. Our friends and loved ones can feel resistance as our changes impact them. They worry about how we will change and that we won’t want to do the things we’ve always done or behaved in the same way. People will say they support you, but they don’t always really want you to change. They don’t want you to be writing in the evenings instead of watching telly with them. They don’t want you to be mixing with new people and leaving them behind. They don’t want you to change, because where will that leave them?
And as they make their fears known, it can cause you to stop what you’re doing as you don’t want to upset them.
It’s important to recognise that as you set out on your journey to success you will begin to change and as a result, your relationships will change too.
There will be friends who will always support you and cheer for you no matter what, but others will resent the changes you’re making. They may feel jealous or unnerved by your ambition because it shines a light on their own life choices that perhaps they aren’t happy with.
You cannot be responsible for others, you can only walk your own path. Don’t allow others to hold you back because they are afraid of walking forward themselves.
Some people fear being abandoned by friends or loved ones who don’t like the new person they have become, or they fear being criticised or taken advantage of. To reach your goals you will need to adopt a new outlook on life, and that outlook won’t necessarily match up with the outlook of those around you.
For example, to be successful, you need to believe success is possible, but I’m willing to bet you know at least one person who always has a negative outlook and says that success or riches are not possible for ‘people like us’ and that you’re living in a dreamland.
People like this are not helpful to have around and it’s important to distance yourself from them. As Jim Rohn said: “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”
But making changes to your social circle can be scary and a fear of loneliness is understandable, as is a fear that those people will push back and accuse you of thinking you’re special or better than them.
You don’t need to make a big deal of it. But seek out opportunities instead to mix with people who share your ambitions. You can still maintain connections with your old friends, but limit the amount of time you spend with them, don’t seek their advice if you know it’s not going to be what you need to hear and be aware of the effect that spending time with them has on you.
“Surround yourself with those who only lift you higher.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
The solution to this challenge of being fearful of success is to first acknowledge it and to ask yourself, what are you afraid of?
Think about what you want to achieve, and then look at how you are stopping yourself from getting there, or what is holding you back. Then make a plan to push past those blocks.
One of the easiest ways to embrace success and bring it into existence is to visualize it. What does your future look like? Who is there with you and how are you celebrating? See it and feel it in your imagination until you have no doubt that it is your future. Then go out there and make it happen.
Think carefully about the following questions and answer them with as much detail and honesty as you can. When you’re done, you will know exactly what dream you’re chasing, have acknowledged any resistances that are coming up and visualized your success becoming reality.
1. What is my vision of success? What do I want to achieve? What do I want to be, have or do?
Be specific. If you want more money, what is your exact financial goal? If you want to sell more books, put a number on it. Your goals need to be clear enough that you will know when you hit them and can celebrate your achievement.
2. Am I standing in my own way? How? Why?
What doubts or fears are nagging at you, what do you need to let go of?
3. What am I afraid of losing if I succeed? How likely is this? How can I mitigate the risk?
In reality, good friends will not abandon you if you reach your goals. The friendship may need to adjust and your friend may need time to get used to the new you, but true friends will remain. Family can have even louder negative voices but remember they are most likely only afraid for you. You know they don’t need to be, because you’ve got this.
4. What happens when I am successful?
Visualize your celebration and how your life looks now. Visualize the people that you want to keep in your life around you, celebrating with you. Repeat this visualization daily for maximum benefit.
Thoughts, questions, comments? Please reply below!
Belinda Griffin is a Book Marketing Success Coach teaching indie authors how to make their ideal readers fall in love with them with effective marketing so that they can confidently achieve much greater exposure and sales without experiencing overwhelm. Belinda runs SmartAuthorsLab where authors embrace experimentation, to see what works for them!
Grab your FREE guide: How to get your book noticed with fantastic results! & follow Belinda on Twitter @SmartAuthors.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.