My guilty pleasure is those #FAIL pictures, especially the sports-related ones. I firmly believe that it’s OK for me to giggle at other people’s flubs because walking without tripping is a hysterical challenge I face on a regular basis.
Sports history is laden with examples of epic fails or classic “chokes.” In the 1996 Masters tournament, Greg Norman lost a historical lead in six holes. In the 1984 French Open final, John McEnroe, still undefeated that season, took a commanding lead in the first sets – and then dropped the next five in one of the worst Grand Slam losses in history.
Why is it that so many people who find themselves on the brink of success suddenly falter? According to research we conducted at Queendom, people who fear success often find themselves “choking” at the most inopportune moments.
Collecting data from 4149 people who took our Success Likelihood Test we compared people who indicated that they are afraid to succeed to those who are not. Here’s what we found:
- 20% have “Impostor Syndrome.” They believe that they don’t deserve success or that the success they have achieved was just a lucky break (compared to 5% for those who are not afraid to succeed).
- 24% believe that success will add more stress and worry to their life (compared to 7%).
- 28% worry that if they excelled at something, others would feel inferior (compared to 10%).
- 29% are concerned that if they became financially successful, people would only like them because of their money or only come to them when they needed cash (compared to 14%).
- 31% would be uncomfortable knowing that others were jealous of their success (compared to 15%).
- 33% don’t like the idea of standing out because of their accomplishments (compared to 17%).
- 33% are worried that success will interfere with their social life (compared to 20%).
- 41% believe that being the best performer or being at the top of their field implies a heavy load of responsibility they don’t want to carry (compared to 17%).
- 56% are afraid that taking pride in their accomplishments will make them appear arrogant or conceited (compared to 36%).
- 65% believe that success is a matter of fate; about being at the right place at the right time – which means that they don’t have full control over their ability to succeed (compared to 55%).
- 71% would feel humiliated if their success did not last and they ended up failing in the end (compared to 49%).
If you’ve fallen victim to any of these self-sabotaging habits, here’s my advice:
- Face your fears. Recognize your fear for what it really is. It could be a fear of the unknown, of rejection, or of being envied. Take the energy you are spending on worries and self-doubt and channel it. Grab a paper and pen and write out your fear. For example: “What would happen if I did get that promotion?” Once you’ve created a list of all the consequences of success that you’re concerned about (“My former colleagues will resent me”), do a reality check with someone you trust. Discuss with him or her the likelihood of each consequence, and ways in which you could avoid or overcome them. You may still be afraid, but now you know what scares you and how you can deal with it.
- Rise to the occasion. Don’t obsess about your ability to live up to expectations when offered a challenging assignment. You may have doubts about your abilities, or are concerned that doing well on this project will mean that you’ll always be the go-to person for these tough assignments. The person who assigned you the project, however, does not doubt your ability to rise to the occasion. He or she probably sees something in you that you are too humble to acknowledge. Don’t pass up an opportunity just because you are afraid of the consequences. This is more than a chance to show others what you’re capable of …it’s a chance to prove it to yourself as well.
- Don’t forget who you are. Major success is often accompanied by the need to redefine yourself. This forced introspection can bring about anxiety. You may feel as though you don’t fit in with “the successful people,” but keep in mind (and keep reminding yourself) that you are just as talented and deserving of success as anyone else.
- Remember, success comes from within. Aside from a fear of success, a lack of confidence in your abilities is another setback that can keep you from attaining success. Perhaps you feel like an imposter, and attribute past successes to luck. If you believe that without luck you don’t have what it takes to sustain success, it’s a good sign that you need to work on your self-esteem and self-confidence. A little luck may have helped you along the way, but it’s your own hard work that got you there in the first place.