Why Are We So Afraid Of Success?


Success is a scary word.

I want to analyze it and come to some ground-breaking, in depth discovery, but frankly, I’m not sure why it’s so terrifying. It’s an all-consuming thought, a definition we’re all chasing after, but who even knows what it means half the time?

It’s not like hunger. If you’re hungry and eat food, you’re not hungry anymore. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! (Please stick with me despite using that 87 year old woman phrase, I’m young! I’m hip! I swear…)

You have a distinguishable need. You satisfy it. And you’re fine.

But success isn’t as black and white. It doesn’t just exist in a dictionary or in your stomach. No indicator that says, “Yes, please! Feed me now!” It’s a different kind of hunger. The kind you can still recognize because it aches and burns, it shoots up and down your body, but you’re not exactly sure why. Or what it is. It’s just….there.

Success. We’re ingrained to want it. Maybe it’s professionally. That job. The promotion. The salary. Or personal success. The relationship. Family. Inner success, finally accepting that part of your body that you’ve loathed since adolescence. Or finally being aware of your strengths, and not being afraid to champion them.

We chase it from the first moment a teacher decides to assign our intellect a grade. We take standardized tests. Our value becomes reduced to what we’ve achieved, what we’ve gained, what we can stack on top of a mantel. Trophies. Diplomas. Photos that prove, “Yes, I’m doing something! I’m becoming something!”

Listen, I don’t know a whole lot about life. I’m the first one to admit that. I’m 22 years old and for a while after graduating college, I thought I was destined to be stuck in a big, giant, sucky black hole of loneliness. I cried about boys who didn’t care. I drunk texted people I shouldn’t have. I ignored real friends and chose the internet instead. I’ve felt bummed when love didn’t pan out the way I hoped. I’ve wasted time and energy on things I knew were bad for me. Cheery, eh? I’m not someone who has it all together or all figured out. But then again, I don’t think anyone does.

But when I started realizing success isn’t one goal or end result, I felt happier. I am happier. And that’s more important than an arbitrary definition of success. That is success.

If you’re afraid to chase something, I totally get it. I understand you. Because as much as we’re told to “follow our dreams” that’s so much more simple in concept. As soon as you start creating the blueprint to your own success, you see how complicated constructing a plan like that is. You don’t just magically wake up into your dream life. You can visualize and pin things to your wall, but the reality of it is so much heavier. It’s scary. And it’s okay to say that. Success is scary. Following a dream is scary. You can be scared. You are allowed that.

We need to remind ourselves that success can be as much about the losses as it is about the wins. It ISN’T just that trophy. The resume of accomplishments you hand out, a piece of paper that somehow is supposed to sum up all your parts. All the pieces that have made you this person, lead you to this exact moment. You’re a success because you’re getting up and trying. You might fall sometimes. You might even royally fuck up. But that doesn’t eradicate everything else you’ve ever done.

I still don’t know what success completely looks like. I don’t think it’s as simple as a picture you can clip from a magazine. It isn’t that biological hunger, the “eat some food and you’re okay” deal. It’s an individual definition. And one that is always changing. Being afraid of success is okay, but don’t let that stop you from living. You’ve got to eat, right? You’ve also got to live. So just keep on pushing.