Ep. 8: Fear of Success

This week on The Gutsy Podcast, we’re talking all about something that I didn’t even notice until recently, and that’s the fear of success.

The entire month of February has been extremely weird for me. I have been on this emotional rollercoaster. Now, granted, I blame half of it on the fact that we live in Pennsylvania and Maryland and it’s been great for the last four and a half months. But the other side of it I had to really stop and digest like, Laura, what in the hell is going on with you?

I started to really break down what actually is happening. So, the very first months’ worth of content for this podcast I planned and recorded in days. Done. The content for February literally took me an entire month. And March, while off to a little bit of a better start because I planned all the content in one day, still has taken me two weeks longer than it should have to actually record the content. Now when I say this out loud, I sound like a super procrastinator. But when I really broke it down, I realized that I got weirded out that you guys actually liked this stuff.

We have been flooded with amazing feedback and I want to thank you guys so, so much. I want you to know that I read every single word of what you guys type and send into us. But if I’m being totally transparent, it also weirded me out. And it’s not the comments and what you guys were saying that’s weirding me out—it’s me that’s weirding me out.

See, I have fought the internal battle of worthiness basically my entire life, and I know that a lot of you have very similar thoughts like: Who am I to say this?; Why would anyone want to listen to me?; What makes me different than anyone else?; 1,000 other people have already said the things that I’m saying, so why should I do it?

And this year, we bit the bullet and we just did it. And… it’s working. I think that part of this whole transition and fear of success that I’m realizing is shedding that unworthiness cape that I’ve been sporting around my entire life.

If you tuned into last week’s episode on The Mental Cycle, you know that this is typically the downward part where we’re either in the mental scramble or could ultimately end up in the thumbs down. And that’s what I was doing, guys. I got caught up in the freaking thumbs down. The very spot that I told you that you don’t have to be—I ended up there, too! So, we’re all humans here doing this thing together.

I pushed off recording in fear that it was going to continue to be successful, which sounds really dumb when I say it out loud, like whaa? When I realized that the fear of success is an actual legit thing, I thought, who in the hell is actually afraid of being successful? Like, isn’t that ultimately what we’re here to do? Right? We’re not just doing these things for shits and giggles or for our health—because heaven knows running a business is not just some casual thing you just kind of do.

So, I started reading. I needed to find out if what is going on in my head is just my thing or if this is something that other people experience as well. I read a few articles online and then probably more importantly, I talked to a few of my trusted business mentors (people that I can share some of these depths with), and I quickly realized that it’s not the success itself that we fear—it’s the responsibilities that come with it that we do.

It’s questions like: Can I keep up with it?; What if I can’t handle what it needs from me?; If I have set expectations, can I maintain that? And what happens if it does work?; How am I going to have the time, the money, the resources, the help, all the effort that it’s going to require of me?; How’s it gonna affect my personal life and time?; I have the idea of building something, but is it actually what I even want at the end?; How’s it gonna change my relationships?; And will the people that I care about still be there when I’m at that level that I feel like I’m headed towards?

Guys, these are just a few of the thousands of things that I had been thinking over the last couple of months. And I would bet that if you have had a really cool idea and started to see it work, some of these things may have crossed your mind as well. So today, I want to breakdown a couple of different areas that we find ourselves freaking out over when we’re headed towards success so that we can learn how to better manage them and be able to support ourselves and others through the process as well.

Now, I’m also going to preface this with the fact that I’m literally in this headspace right now. So, I’m learning as I go and I’m gonna share some of the initial things that I have found along the way.

The first area that makes people’s palms sweaty is the fear of responsibility when it comes to success. This is where the question of “If this actually works, can I even handle it?” comes into play. Things like: Do I have enough time?; How am I gonna get all these things done?; I have made all these promises, can I fulfill them all?

This kind of makes you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, even though you’re doing exactly what you set out to do. See, the fear of responsibility (in my opinion) is one of the heavier loads because we put it on ourselves that if we don’t do it, it’s all going to crash around us.

For instance, if I don’t record these episodes for you, the podcast kinda dies. That’s a load of responsibility, but one that I created. So, the antidote to responsibility is delegation. Yes, there are absolutely things that you have to do. Yes, there are things that require YOUR particular time and attention. But there’s also a handful of things that you can delegate to those around you to help you execute the entire plan.

We tend to put that weight on ourselves, guys. That mentality of if I don’t do it, then it’s not going to be done right, or I can just do it faster. Well, if you take on 10 tasks that you can do faster than other people, ultimately you’re still bogging down your time. The trick is to train those around you to do those tasks efficiently and in a way that aligns with your brand and your message and your overall goals.

I was meeting with my team this week and I caught myself a handful of times saying, “Well, I’ll just, oh, I can just,” and I thought then literally called myself out. I’m like: “No, I’m not. I’m going to ask you to do (fill in the blank) task.” And it’s not because they couldn’t do these tasks to begin with. It’s just because I carry the burden and felt like I had to do it.

Turns out when you’re surrounded by awesome rock-stars that have the same vision as you, they are more than happy to take some of the tasks off your plate so that they can do what they do best. So, give it to them! Let them help you because when you allow help in your life, you dilute the load of responsibility.

Next up, success means change and change means getting out of your comfort zone sometimes. Maybe you’ve always done something a certain way or allowed certain emotions to dictate your choices and how you reacted to things. Or maybe you’ve just had certain processes or ways that you’ve handled things that now require a different method. Change, in a nutshell, tends to freak people out in general. But the changes that you’re making to get you towards success aren’t negative—they’re necessary. If I still operated my business today the way that I did in year one, I would completely fall apart.

For instance, we used to use Post-it notes as a project management system to keep track of who we were working with, what our deadline was, and what project we owed. This was a manageable system back then, right? But we had to change things to adapt to the success of the company. My heavens, if we use Post-it notes now, it would be like one of those memes you see on the Internet (when people leave for vacation and they come back and their entire cubicle is covered in Post-it’s) because while that worked when there was one and two of us, um, now that there are four and five of us—not so much.

Change also means that it requires more effort and extra energy that you may or may not have right now. It’s easy to keep doing things the way that you’ve always done them because they’re familiar, right? You’ve already learned the ropes, you already know how to do it, so it doesn’t really require any extra effort on your part. But your success relies on the changes that you have to make that are necessary to get you to where you’re headed. So, the easiest way to adapt to change is by changing your mindset and accepting that if you don’t change, you can’t get to where you’re going.

Change tends to be more of this huffy puffy type of emotion. Like, I get the visual of Tinkerbell when you know she gets real pissed off and she crosses her arms and *huff* plops down and gets all angry. Instead of getting angry at change, change your mindset to know that you have to change certain processes, behaviors, surroundings, and emotions to achieve the level of success that you’re aiming for.

Next up is the fear of lack of time. A lot of people might think: “Oh my gosh, I don’t have enough time as it is right now. How can I handle more of what may be headed my way?” Or, “If I’m more successful at work, then I’m not going to have time to do anything that’s fun. How am I going to have time to have downtime or go on vacation or do the things that I love?”

There’s this whole concept of work-life balance, and honestly—I’m going to call bullshit on it. Because I think that a lot of us are striving for this beautiful, perfect, harmonious balance and I really just don’t think that it exists. Now, I don’t say that to be a Debbie-Downer. I say that as a realist to point out that the key to a balanced life is understanding that sometimes the weight needs shifted depending on what needs and requires your attention the most.

For instance, if I’m on vacation with my husband and my son, my family requires my attention the most. So I am not working at that point. No, I don’t check email. No, I don’t check in when I’m on vacation. When I leave—I’m gone. And in the same respect, when we are building up to something really tremendous at work that requires a lot of my time and attention, that’s where my energy goes first. We tend to beat ourselves up so much (and I still do this too, so I’m not perfect at it either), but the key to time is being 100% wherever you are and where your energy is most required at that time.

So, if it’s the fear of time that’s flipping you out about headed towards success, note, too, that it’s temporary. It’s not going to be 100% demanding, pounding the pavement every single day for the rest of your life. This is a season where your business requires your attention, and if you find that the demand of time for your business is over-powering after a long sprint or even marathon—then that’s where the beauty of delegation comes back into play. Because there are people around you that want to help.

Next up is the fear of uncharted territory. When you’re building something that you’ve never built before, trying something you’ve never done before, or breaking out of your comfort zone to move some mountains, that can be scary enough on its own. Because you’re now doing things that you’ve never done before > which means you have to learn > which means there’s probably mistakes ahead of you. It also means there are probably lessons that you’re going to learn, and it’s so much easier just to stay in your comfy little bubble that you’ve created.

But remember: At one point you did not know the things you know now, and you had to learn the things you had to learn to get to where you are today. And even if it was hard or you fell flat on your face, you’re standing strong today. And are now completely armed with all this knowledge you didn’t have before that helps you make better decisions and make a positive impact on your life. So, this uncharted territory that you’re marching into right now—know that it’s going to give you such incredible knowledge > that’s going to help you make great decisions > that’s going to help you continue to grow your business.

This next one is a little hard to swallow because it is the fact that success means I have to work harder. Now, I’m not saying that none of us bust our ass on a daily basis. But when we are leveling up, when we’re headed towards something new and we’re creating something that doesn’t exist, it requires a whole lot more time and attention. Which means that we have to work harder to get to it.

Once we achieve a level that we have worked towards in the past, we get to a comfort zone and once we get to that comfort zone, the pressure isn’t as intense. Your schedule might be a little bit more relaxed and things just kind of seem to be a little bit more easy-going. But when we are reaching the next level, we have to put a lot more elbow grease in to get to it, right? You didn’t get to where you are right now by just kind of floating along. At one point, you had to bust ass to get to where you are today.

It’s also really easy to kind of get stuck in this someday mode where “someday I’ll have this” and “someday I’ll have that”. And the idea of having it is more powerful than actually doing the work to get to it in the first place. Success means committing to doing the things that need to be done to accomplish the goal, and that means rattling up your routine.

See, a lot of people strive for success but don’t want to put in the extra work that it takes to get to it. And it’s not because people are lazy, it’s just that what you already know is more comfortable. So to combat this, know that if you don’t put in the extra effort—no one else is going to. You have to lead by example and trust that by changing your routine, you’re putting energy and momentum behind something that may allow you to live a life that you desire.

Success also means maintaining expectations. This is the one that I’ve been particularly hung up on because I’m like: How am I going to continue to develop and create content that people not only want to hear but are positively making an impact on their lives? What I’ve also found is if you get wrapped up in the fear of maintaining expectations, you actually start to put creative blocks on top of yourself.

I got real weirded out about creating content for the podcast > which took me two weeks longer to record > which created this domino effect that had our audio guy behind > which had our communications girl behind. And all because I couldn’t get my shit together. You have to be the one that removes the weight of expectations because 9 times out of 10 the expectations we create are within our own heads, not from external sources or people.

I also find tremendous power in just being raw and open with people. If we find that we’re falling behind on something or we’re having a challenge, our first instinct is to bottle up and absorb all the worry and concern within ourselves. But really, if you just tell people what’s going on and you say, “Hey, I need a little bit more time because,” “Hey, I’m struggling because of this,” “Hey, I could use a little extra help or motivation here,” not only do you create an approachable setting, you also help set other people up for success as well. Because when you leave people in the dark and they’re not sure what’s going on, that puts stress on them and again, creates this domino effect.

I also want you to really consider creating manageable expectations for yourself because just because you can do a hundred things—doesn’t mean that you should. Taking on too many responsibilities and too many expectations ultimately leads to burnout. Stop creating so many expectations of yourself for yourself. You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody by creating the busiest lifestyle that you could ever imagine. Knowing that not every idea that comes across your way right now needs your attention RIGHT NOW.

Creating success is not all about creating these high-level expectations that you’re the busiest person on the planet. It’s honestly about working smarter, not harder. So if you create manageable expectations, things that you can see through to the end, not only are you going to feel successful, but you’re going to have the energy to maintain the momentum you have created.

Success also comes with this fear that the people around you are going to change the way that they view you. As people, in general, we put a lot of weight on other people’s thoughts and opinions of us. I am super guilty of that as well. By creating more success, naturally, you draw more attention to you. Which can open up the potential for more naysayers or people with strong opinions of you. It might also open the door for lots of positive feedback, which could add to that level of expectation and fear of being able to maintain it.

We also tend to create this fear that if we become successful, that the people we care about—the people right in the front row of our lives—are gonna change the way they view us. Now, part of this falls on your shoulders and part of it honestly falls on theirs. If you start to achieve a level of success that you have been striving for, whether that’s financially or growth wise in your company, and you start completely ignoring the people that have been there the entire time for you, then yeah—they’re gonna get upset and they’re probably going to change the way they view you.

So if you all of a sudden come into a boat-load of money and you move across the country and never talk to people again, then yeah—that’s gonna kind of create problems within your relationships. So that’s where it falls on you. It’s really important to always maintain the relationships, especially with the people that have been there to support you since day one. But sometimes your successfulness will naturally weird other people out. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they can’t relate to you anymore and sometimes it brings out other people’s insecurities. That’s where those things fall on their shoulders, not yours.

A few weeks ago, we talked about finding your tribe and how it’s really important to surround yourself with people, places, and things that fill your cup—not empty it. People can honestly just kind of get weird, like, if your goal is to let’s say be debt-free in the next two years. You put all the things in place to be able to achieve that, then at the end of those two years, you are completely debt-free and start screaming it from the mountain tops because you’re proud of it, right?

Sometimes people will get weird with you because they are not debt-free. Therefore, they see you as a threat and stop talking to you. It can be so frustrating, but honestly, a lot of it comes down to insecurities. How many times have you seen somebody else do something that you feel like, oh, I wish I could do that or I’m not there yet so that makes me frustrated? And then you just kind of naturally get quiet.

Your opinion of what they have going on should not alter them from doing what they’re being called to do. Likewise, other people’s opinions of what you’re doing should not stop you, either. Look, everyone’s going to have an opinion of what you’re doing – whether they like it or not and whether you like it or not. So you might as well do the thing you want to do most—that you’re gonna make a positive impact in the world with—because people are going to talk regardless of what you’re doing. Might as well be happy with what you’re doing in the process.

And again, I’ll remind you, you do have a tribe. Whether you realize it or not, there are people cheering for you in the front row, the mid-section, and all the way up into the nosebleeds. I mean, you have people around you that solely believe in your mission and what you’re being called to do. Your core people will be there with you as you climb and as you continue to grow.

And lastly, the fear of “Oh my gosh, what’s next? What do I do after?” This really can come into play when you’re fearing success because you might think: Oh my gosh, I did this once. I don’t know if I could do this again and again. Can I maintain this? Do I have enough time to do this all over again?

In reality, each level of success doesn’t always have to be this Mount Everest sized achievement you go after. Sometimes, success is as little as getting to work 10 minutes early or cleaning out the junk drawer that’s been driving you up the wall for the last year and a half. Sometimes it’s just cleaning up your inbox.

The point is, sometimes success is just achieving the things that take up space in your mind on a regular basis. And then other times, yes, you are ready to level-up. You are ready to create a new product. You’re ready to create a new campaign. Maybe you’re going to start something you’ve never done before. So, know that if you start to get wrapped up in the, “Oh my gosh, I have done this, so now what do I do afterwards?” Give yourself some time to just celebrate what you have just achieved.

Oh, it’s so easy to get wrapped up into the “What’s next? What do I do next? I have to do more.” And we often forget that it’s okay (and actually quite necessary) to stop and celebrate the things that we’ve just achieved. And whether that’s a little thing or a huge thing, you have put in work and you have done something that you’ve never done before—which absolutely calls for a time of celebration.

Now, I’m sure that there are a thousand other reasons people fear success, and to each their own, right? Like what freaks me out may be different than what freaks you out. What you’re working towards may be very different from what someone else is working towards. The point is we all go through different emotions and stages in our businesses. And just as someone may fear failure, the fear of success is a very, very real thing as well.

The key is to not allow these fears to hinder you from actually achieving those things. Because even if you are hung up in your head and you’re worrying about things, if you get busy—you can hire. If you don’t know—you can learn. If you have a really dense schedule—you can plan ahead for downtime. If people say crappy things about you—you can toss it back at them. Because honestly, it’s not really about you to begin with. Whatever obstacle or hold you may be experiencing can be pushed to the side by knowing you have time, resources, and people around you that are willing to help. And that you have done something you’ve never done before. Which means you can do this, too.

So, I’m gonna keep trucking on. Even though this weirdo fear of success thing has been a part of my life here recently, I’ve got big things to do and I know that you do, too. So why don’t we do them together?

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