Fear is a funny thing. We all face fears large, small, and gargantuan. Humans fears are so varied that they have been catalogued, studied, and given impressive scientific names. My niece just doesn’t fear spiders, she has arachnophobia. Standing on the edge of the cliff and looking down can give someone acrophobia (a fear of heights). Tight spaces cause claustrophobia. A gentleman’s impressive beard may cause someone Pongonophobia. Our fears are as individual as we are and affect us all to varied degrees. A mild fear for one person is completely paralyzing for the next. We may have one great fear or several smaller ones or any combination of the two. So why all this talk of fear?
I have discovered that I have a rather unusual combination of fears, the fear of failure (Atychiphobia), combined with the fear of success ( I couldn’t actually find a exact name for this one although it is often called the “Jonah Complex”). The fear of failure is actually quite minor, one I have been able to deal with quite easily. Failure is something everyone goes through and therefore is a manageable fear, at least from my perspective. I still have the occasional panic attack when I am tasked to do something new and unknown in my job or life. Then my process of dealing with the fear kicks in. My process seems to be asking myself a series of questions as I go about the task.
- Why would they ask me to do this?
- Don’t they know I can’t do that?
- I will fall on my face and look like an idiot!
- Wait a second, maybe I can do this.
- I’ve got it!
Yep, I can handle the fear of failure now. But the fear of success? Another story entirely.
The fear of success is an odd and cruel beast. I want to succeed. I want to be proficient at what I do, share my knowledge with others and make a living doing what I love. Yet I am also scared to death of being a success, of “making it”. I do have little successes here and there. This blog, for example , I consider a small success. I teach classes on witchcraft and a variety of other subjects – another small success. However, I am not doing all that I want to do, that I feel I am meant to do. I often find myself procrastinating, finding excuses as to why I am not writing or teaching. I make my lists of goals and then ignore them. It’s not the right time, I say. I can’t start now because of XYZ. Procrastination – one of the key tells to a fear of success. On the extreme side, I have in turn become absolutely paralyzed by the thought of succeeding and have not even shown up to an event or have cancelled at the last minute (my apologies all – anxiety sucks). On the flip side, I can seem downright apathetic and lazy. Work? Me? I often won’t even start a project for fear that it will be an utter failure – or may succeed beyond my wildest expectations. So what’s a witch to do?
Writing this now I can see how hilarious this all seems. Over the years I’ve encouraged and assisted many people in finding their own success. I’ve talked them down from the type of anxiety and fear that I am currently describing. Why am I having such a hard time being able to accept my own success? Could it be that if I do succeed I will now have this expectation of never failing again? Perhaps I am just overthinking everything, again (damn Virgo traits).
As a witch I know that facing your fears and moving past them is essential for growth. And is success not a facet of growth? Success is the finish line, and then again, the starting point, to all that is. Once we succeed, do we not begin anew, a different goal in mind. Perhaps if we (and I do mean me) think of success as not an end point but as a rest stop to further adventures then perhaps we will fear it less. Maybe we can embrace it as an old, and new, friend that we get to spend time with while traipsing through this journey we call life. Success doesn’t have to be scary. Like the monsters under our beds or in our closets when we were children, it’s best to shine a bit of light in order to see that there is nothing hiding at all but our very vivid imaginations.
While anxiety may still rear its ugly head, I do know for a certainty that I want to succeed. I want to get that book written, those classes taught and those workshops facilitated. I wish to do what I love and become prosperous while doing so. I know it will take work to get through these fears and I will need help from my family, friends and a few professionals, along the way. I will, however, persevere and achieve all of my goals and dreams. Maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else face their fears and succeed as well.