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Are you more afraid of failure or of success? Did you even know they were different? (I didn’t!) Then, let’s say you can identify which you struggle with more–how do you overcome self-sabotaging when you are afraid?

After I started Life Mapping a few years ago, I realized I was VERY afraid of success. I had assumed I was afraid of failure simply because I was definitely afraid when moving forward (and what else is there to be afraid of!?) But it turned out I was afraid of something more than just messing-up. This became even more real to me this last summer, before all my kids started school again because I had more time/focus to invest (you can see my freak-out face here). Why? Because I had less excuses to self-sabotage (you’ll see in which way below).

Recently I was listening to Chalene Johnson in “Giving Yourself Permission to Do Big Things” talk about the difference between fear of failure and fear of success. Considering the difference was helpful to me, I thought it was worth sharing with you guys in my own words and experience too.

Fear of Failure or Fear of success

What is Fear of Failure?

Fear of failure usually has an undercurrent of, “If I fail, everyone (or my daddy, myself, or whomever you want to prove yourself to) will know I am not enough.” We fear this when we don’t have, or are forgetting that we have, a foundation of love. It is often identity related and the fear is rooted in our inherent worth.

So, pretty much it is impossible to have never struggled with the fear of failure if you are a human.

Self-Sabotaging When Fearing Failure

When we are afraid of moving forward, we all tend to self-sabotage. It makes sense why we would feel this way, but it is stupid too, for we can literally go decades of our lives around and around in circles to avoid actually facing our fears. (You don’t want to do that, do you?)

Here are some ways to keep from self-sabotaging when fearing failure:

  • Discover, build and stand on a foundation of love (Where do you want your identity to come from?)
  • Tell yourself truths and affirmations (Can you be enough even when you fail?)
  • Apply grace (Because you’re going to make mistakes, do wrong things, fail and mess-up! Can you find forgiveness from yourself, God, others?)

What is Fear of Success?

On the other hand, fear of success can be motivated by impostor syndrome. As I’ve written a series of posts on this, I’m pretty sure you guys know this is a thing for me! You can read them here: Fraud, Identity Theft, and Work.

This fear is rooted in me believing, “Surely someday I won’t get to do what I love because everyone will find out I don’t actually know what I am doing, that I am still learning along the way (and not give me grace), and/or that I don’t have the right credentials.” I can push through this if it is just one of those reasons, but when they are all going at once, ya, I totally have to spend lots of time with wise people and God to unravel this mess.

Here’s another part of fear of success for me: that when I succeed, my pride or other shortcomings will get in the way and a whole organization will topple because of it. That would suck. And as I’ve almost done that myself when I started burning-out, and because I’ve seen it happen before, it seems like a very real possibility to me.

Self-Sabotaging When Fearing Success

I’m beginning to see that I tend to frequently use three methods to drag my feet when I’m afraid of success to self-sabotage (of course, typically unconsciously). It is scary to do the opposite of each of these, but that is what I am trying to do! So, think opposite-action of the following to help you overcome self-sabotage: which is helping me overcome my fear of success!

  • Procrastination: Identify your classic procrastination methods to nip them in the bud. My traditional go-to’s are unimportant projects, responding to what is urgent before what is important and Instagram.
  • Not building a team: Building a team looks like training and teaching others new skills, inviting others in, giving responsibilities away, delegating, asking my team what they need, connected with them to support them. Are you building a team?
  • Not investing in success: Will I choose to invest financially, with time, with prayer and with my energy even though it scares me? Will I be honest in recognizing when I am using excuses that keep me from investing? How can you invest instead of avoid investing?

Do you do these things or other things to self-sabotage when afraid of moving forward?

What do you find yourself fearing most? Fear of failure or fear of success? And do you agree/disagree with these differences? I’d love to know, so tell me in the comments!

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