Alishea Sutton

Strategic – Intentional – Visionary

The Crippling Fear of Success

fear noun
\ ˈfir \
Definition of fear (Entry 1 of 2)
1a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b(1) : an instance of this emotion
(2) : a state marked by this emotion
2 : anxious concern : SOLICITUDE
3 : profound reverence and awe especially toward God
4 : reason for alarm : DANGER

The fear of success is real. It may seem like a ridiculous notion. Who in their right mind would be scared of achieving more, making more money, or being in the public eye?

You feel your dreams slipping away because of this fear. You’re more than capable of achieving them. I totally understand how you feel. You want to do so much more, but you get a mental block because you will have to get out your comfort zone. For an introvert like me, it’s terrifying to be told I have to get out of my comfort zone because that means conquering the unknown – and I always want to know what’s ahead of me. I find any excuse to remain comfortable, but I know that’s not good for my personal and professional growth.

I’ve had so many opportunities that I passed up due to fear (jobs, opportunities for additional income, education, etc.). One of my goals in life is to support others and help them move past their fears. I know it won’t happen overnight, but it will take time, commitment, and dedication. It’s about the change you want to be and the change you want to see.

I once had a conversation with a friend about the fear of success. We both have multiple college degrees, professional experience, and are very intelligent (yes, I’m bragging). One of the things we discussed was that family members and their expectations can hinder our success. It’s not scientifically proven, but there are instances in the Black community where the family member who has “arrived” or attained a certain level of success (and income) are expected to provide financially for other family members. If you’ve seen the movie, Soul Food (1997), then you know what I’m talking about. The part when Vanessa Williams’ character, Teri, mentioned ATM (automatically Teri’s money). It’s as if your money becomes their money. Pressure from family to provide for other family members can be exhausting and will definitely cripple your pockets (reduce your disposable income/make you broke).

 Tip: Keep your income private.  

This is not to say we should turn our backs on family because they’re asking for money. Do make it a point to be honest about your financial goals.

If that is a reason for your fear, set boundaries. Set budgets for birthdays, holidays, and reunions. Be clear with intentions when dining with others. The last thing you want to do is arrive at a restaurant expecting to pay for your bill only have everyone’s meal on your bill. Please, don’t fall for the “I’ll pay you back line.” Cash App and other payment apps take a minute or two to install on your phone if that happens. Also, learn to say no – if someone gets upset at your “no”, let them be upset. You can’t control others; you can only control your actions and emotions.

Family isn’t the only reason people fear success. It could be being in the public eye. It’s scary, but it can also be very rewarding. You have the chance to impact someone’s life with the knowledge you share. I once was asked to speak about overcoming obstacles since I was a board member for a local organization. Lord knows why I was asked, but I did it anyway. At the end of the presentation, a parent came up to me because I presented information to help pay for college that she didn’t know was available. My struggle with paying for college possibly helped someone avoid unnecessary student loans. My philosophy is if one person is helped, then you’ve helped everyone who they will meet. You may be speaking to the next Michelle Obama.

I believe we all have a story to tell, so if public speaking is something you need to develop, take classes, join Toastmasters or enroll in public speaking courses. You can even ask to speak at engagements based on your expertise.

I have so many other stories, I could write a book. Maybe I will. But that’s not fear, it’s procrastination.

Whatever it is on your heart to do, just do it! The only way you’ll fail is if you don’t try. Everything else is a learning experience. You never know who you’ll bless or how you’ll be blessed.

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