Figure It Out Friday: I’m Terrified Of Success – Help!

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‘Figure It Out Friday’ is a new weekly blog series where you submit your questions and struggles about designing your Uncaged career – and I give you my straight up advice. Because sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do.

This week’s question is SO SO SO super important, so pay attention! I’ve been on a bit of a soapbox lately about how when things aren’t moving forward in your business it’s often not because you don’t have the skills. It’s usually something WAY deeper that is holding you back. And this week’s question is a perfect example of that. Here we go.


It’s hard to know which business idea to move forward with, and I find myself getting stuck and doing nothing. Underlying it all is probably a fear that it won’t work out, that I’ll suck and I will fail. I’m aware that in addition to fear of failure, fear of success is also an issue for me, and I’m having a hard time moving deeper into a plan/planning mode because of those fears. What’s with that?


I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote, so I’ll spare you that. And even though you might be saying “Yeah yeah, I’m not really scared of success”, I’m 99%* sure you have some variation of this fear (*not an actual statistic, more of a Becca estimation). What I mean is – there’s likely something you feel or think about what success will be like, that feels scary to you.

It’s like getting so freaked out about what you’re going to wear to the Oscars before you actually make the movie, that you stop yourself from actually showing up to the audition, because OMG, what if Joan Rivers makes fun of you and you never live it down!?

Backwards, right?

So let’s cut to the chase: How the hell are you supposed to figure out exactly why you feel stalled, and if you do figure it out, what can you do about it?

I’m going to get all coachy on your ass and tell you how. In a simple step-by-step process. Not that it’s always so linear, but I’m all about systems and steps lately, and if you can see the steps all laid then you can try this on your own anytime you find yourself holding yourself back. Self-coaching 101. Enjoy.

STEP ONE (we can have lots of fun):

Figure out what is REALLY holding you back. First, ask yourself what you think it will be like when you’re successful. What comes up as your gut response? It might be that you’re worried you won’t be good enough, or that you will fail. Go deeper with it. What’s behind that? What does it mean if you fail? What does it say about you as a person? Maybe deep down you don’t think you’re worthy of success. Or that you’ll never be “good enough”, so why even try?

What is it that you believe about successful businesses and the people that run them? It’s likely that you’re making up all kind of crap about what success “looks like”. Maybe you’re worried about how hard it’s going to be, or how much work you’ll have to do. Or maybe you think all successful people turn into jackasses, and you don’t want to be a jackass. Maybe you think that if you’re successful then you’ll have to spend all your time Twittering and Facebooking and blogging online, and that doesn’t feel fun to you. Maybe you think people will resent you if you become wildly successful, and you don’t want to deal with that!

It makes sense then that you’d be holding yourself back if you have all these terrible thoughts about what success will be like. Right? Why would you be gunning after something that you think is going to be not so awesome?

Your belief about what success means is what is really holding you back, so the sooner you recognize it, the sooner you can decide what to do about it.

STEP TWO (there’s so much we can do)

Now that you know the real thing that’s holding you back, ask yourself these very simple yet complicated questions:

1. What is it costing you to hold onto this belief? And again, get deeeeep. What, really, is the price of not moving forward? How is it affecting your life, your health, your career, your relationships, your overall happiness?

2. How is this belief serving you? Your initial answer might be “It’s not”. But if you’re still believing it, then it definitely is. It might be that by holding yourself back, you’re safe from ridicule, you’re protecting yourself from failure, you’re making sure you don’t have to work too hard, or that you’ll never have to make yourself vulnerable, or that you’ll never be resented. Whatever it is, in some way it’s serving you, so get clear on how.

STEP THREE (it’s just you and meeeee)

Ask yourself if it’s true. If you are successful, will you actually have to spend all  your time online? Will you actually turn into a jackass? Will people actually resent you? Think of examples of successful people who didn’t turn into jackasses. Who don’t spend 24/7 on social media. Who are loved rather than resented?

The answer may be yes or no. There may be some truth to the fact that some people will resent you if you become a huge success. Or you might be making it all up. Determine what is real.

STEP FOUR (I can give you more)

Decide what you want to do about it. It’s clear that what you are doing now isn’t working for you. We can pretty much agree on that. But we don’t know what it will really be like in the future when you’re successful. Whether your fear/belief has some truth to it or not, you’ve gotta make a decision about how you want to move forward. Are you willing to risk resentment to follow your dreams? Are you willing to believe that you can create it to be whatever you want it to be, and you don’t in fact have to turn into a jackass/work all day on social media/whatever else wasn’t appealing about success? Are you willing to let those beliefs so, knowing that they’re not necessarily true? Is the vision of your big dream business compelling enough that you’re willing to risk it and push forward anyway?

Now that you’re aware of what it really is that’s stopping you, you get to decide what to do about it. It’s a choice.

STEP FIVE (don’t you know that the time had arrived)

Get moving. What would it look like if you were to let this belief go and move forward with what you want? What would you be doing? How would you be spending your time?

Figure out one small step you could take that would help you get started in that direction. Then go do it.

Sounds simple, right? A little 5-step action plan. The reality is that making the choice to move forward will likely be the hardest thing you ever have to do. To let go of the fears that are keeping us safe and small is a WAY bigger deal than it sounds.

But it is absolutely the only way to get to where you want to be. And I promise you, when the vision of your dream business is compelling enough, and the reasons you want it are so strong you can’t ignore them, and you really see your fears for what they are, it becomes so much easier to make the choice.

And I’m guessing you’re getting pretty fed up with your procrastination and excuses, right? Right. So it’s time to make the choice, leave them behind, and move on already.

I’d love to hear from you after you go through the steps. What is really holding you back? And what are you going to choose? Comment below!

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Read 2 Comments & Leave Yours

  1. EllenErcolini

    Ermahhgawd the beats, the rhymes, the step by step guide, I LOVE this.  You’re killin’ it with Figure It Out Fridays.  I hope who ever sent this Q in shares how this process works for them!

  2. EllenErcolini Thanks Ellen! I also hope she enjoys the NKOTB flashback!