Self-sabotage and the Fear of Success

Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article that talked about a book by Gay Hendricks called the Big Leap in which the author discusses the universal “Upper Limit Problem” and how so many people, no matter how successful they are, will find a way to sabotage their world when things are going well.   Today, I want to share with you a ‘real-life’ example from one of my clients to demonstrate how easily we can fall into this trap – for any number of reasons.

Over the summer, Laura took part in a three-week detox program and got tremendous results.  She was following a healthier eating plan, was feeling and looking better, was releasing a lot of emotional baggage, and was excited to move forward with her new healthier lifestyle in her personal life and within her role as a spiritual coach.

Then something interesting happened.  Laura took part in a photo shoot that produced some stunning photos of her.  When I first saw them, I remember thinking, WOW!  She’s gorgeous, she’s glowing, she’s confident, and I could see success in her future.  Yet, rather than continue to move upwards and outwards during this growth spurt, Laura suddenly found herself–without contemplation–pulling into the drive-thru everyday for a fast food lunch.   She (unknowingly at first) was shrinking back due to a fear of success and sabotaging all the great results she was beginning to see with her health.   Luckily, she identified it very quickly and took steps to get back on track.

Isn’t it ironic that although most of us are afraid of failure, we also have a fear of success?  Whatever that success may look like–and it’s different for everyone–we begin to tell ourselves stories like: I’ll be too busy, I’ll have to give up something, I’ll lose people in my life, I’m not good enough, or things will change.  These are just a few of the many “reasons” we tell ourselves about why we can’t go for it; whatever “it” may be.  I catch myself doing it too.  It usually involves the word “but”.   As in, “I would, but…” And these types of situations are also why I work with clients over a time frame of 3-6 months, or more; because things inevitably come up and it helps to have the support and accountability from someone who’s not “in our heads” so to speak, buying into our false beliefs.

Think about where and how in your own life you may be unconsciously sabotaging your own personal growth and why.  Is it through procrastination, food, TV, toxic relationships?  What is this behavior producing in your life, and what is it ultimately costing you physically, emotionally, spiritually, or yes, even financially?  If you believe a fear of success is something you struggle with, I want to leave you with an excerpt from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles that may help release any resistance that holds you back from going for what you really want:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? 

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.