02/13/2015 04:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fear of Failure, Scared of Success


"Why aren't you going after your dream?" my client asked me. "What are you afraid of? What's the worst thing that could happen if you did it, if you stepped out in fear and simply tried?"

The irony of her questions hit me hard. Yes, what would be the worst thing that could happen?


In our program helping individuals who struggle with hoarding behaviors, we teach self-awareness and promote insight into the "why" of hoarding behaviors. Additionally, we encourage our participants to test out the core beliefs that have led them to the cluttered existence that rules their homes, hearts, and minds. These exercises are challenging, not just for them but also for all of us. It's not a hoarding specific exercise. Each of us can benefit from gaining understanding of our actions, the thoughts that lead to them, and the core beliefs that guide them all.

I learned early on that I didn't need to perfect as I worked with others; instead I needed to be authentic. I learned that I must be willing to do whatever I could think to ask them to do. I must be transparent and real, even messy, to offer the kind of support and encouragement those I help need.

I knew the moment my client pressed me about my own fears that there was no choice but to practice what I teach. I must test out my fear of failure, matched only by my fear of success.

As I look back on my personal recovery and healing process, it becomes painfully aware that I've been struggling with this fear of failure and success for too many years. It's stopped me from beginning to write although many have encouraged me to do so. Likewise, it's stopped me from taking on stigma, challenging the status quo that makes funding and growing our program (and a sorely needed program, I may add!) almost excruciatingly difficult, and doing what I know needs to be done.

In fact, I've been battling with this fear actively for at least four years! On my personal blog, I wrote a post, "Sometimes You Just Can't Fail," on this very topic nearly four years ago. Looking back, I can clearly see that I've made progress but that I am still far from overcoming this fear.

So I am doing what I know I must do for myself, and for my clients: I put my money where my mouth is. I gave myself the same assignment I have given them. Now, I am challenging you to face down and explore the fear that is keeping you from seeking after your biggest dream.

Identify your core belief. "If I begin to write this book and submit a book proposal, then I will be rejected and find out that I'm not a good writer."

Develop a plan to test this core belief. Choose a way to test your belief that is low risk. Although a book proposal takes quite a bit of time and lots of effort, submitting work online through various writing outlets gives me the opportunity to invest less time initially while still allowing me to get feedback.

Implement your plan. For me, this piece of writing is the action required to test my belief.

Evaluate the outcome of your plan. I believe that this piece is worthy of submission, and I will evaluate the response it receives. If it receives favorable feedback, I will know that writing is a worthy effort for me to continue pursuing. If it doesn't, I can evaluate if I enjoy writing enough to work on further developing my skills, or if it should remain something I do for personal enjoyment and its therapeutic value.

Depending on the results of your evaluation, it may be time to adjust your inner dialogue. I know that for me, the action of testing my belief and fear will result in a changed outlook and belief. Here's to shaking off the fear of failure and saying goodbye to being scared of success!

If you have enjoyed this post, please check out more of my writing and musings at 1WeeSpark.