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The Fear of Success and Self Sabotaging

In this blog, I’d like to talk about something that can really stunt creativity: That familiar old monster- fear.

Have you ever stood at the foot of a mountain, looked up and been frozen by the sheer task ahead of you?              

Of course, few of us have really been in the shadow of Everest or Kilimanjaro in life, but the vast majority of us would have had our own personal ‘mountains’ looming over us, waiting to be conquered.

These range from completing a dissertation, preparing that all important presentation, finishing a novel, making a film or anything else which you have a vested interest in or substantial ownership over.

Typically we associate this fear in the face of a project that truly means a lot to us with a fear of failure. But interestingly, it isn’t

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necessarily the fear of failure that is the killer – it can also be the fear of succeeding.

Yes, some of us are scared of succeeding. Why? Well, that will differ depending on the person and the situation, but in general poor self esteem can lead to this; those of us who do not believe that they are ‘worthy’ of success.

Success can put us in new situations where we might feel vulnerable, it might expose weaknesses and we’d have to work on those. Succeeding also places expectations on folk; what if we can’t live up to our achievements again?

But ultimately, success can be scary because it involves a change i.e. going into the unknown – something we all fear. A common reflex to ensure we do not have to deal with that change is self-sabotaging.

We probably all know people who self sabotage – we may have done it ourselves or could be doing it right now. Common examples are procrastination, being lazy, convincing yourself you have no hope and reckless behavior coupled with bad timing, i.e. going out the night before a big presentation.

This behavior allows vicious cycles to perpetuate, meaning that we are not getting the best out of ourselves. It is nigh on impossible for creativity to thrive in these conditions. But what can be done to break this negative behavior?

Well, there are a multitude of things that can be done; from figuring out why you are self sabotaging to being more prepared and creating positive work routines. But the answer I want to focus on is by far the most essential:

Embracing that fear.

Be mindful that you are fearful of succeeding, openly admit it to yourself, and that in itself gives you valuable perspective. When you have perspective, you are no longer ‘living’ the fear but ‘watching’ it – there’s a degree of separation. As soon as you embrace fear, you begin to neutralise it – the grip starts to become looser.

Acknowledging the fact that we are vulnerable is a courageous act within itself and can be very empowering – which in turn can lead to further positive action, which can lead to more, and more and more… and before you know it, the sun is out, the birds are singing and you are the creative, productive you that you want to be.

So the next time you’re working on that all important project and you catch yourself watching TV when you should be working, or if negative thoughts creep into your mind that erode any belief, look a little deeper. Be honest with yourself. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable and embrace any fear that might be present…

…it is a brave thing to do, and it just might help you get the very best out of yourself. Surely that is worth the effort, isn’t it?


About Amir:

“My name is Amir Bazrafshan. I am a filmmaker and currently Head of Production at indie distributors Crabtree Films and soon to be Director at my own business Apricot Creative Video.”

Twitter: @amir_hb