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I used to have a No Fear shirt that read "Are you afraid to die, or just afraid to live?".

The shirt got tattered and worn. But the words didn't.

Karin H.

Hi Steve

The best advice I ever heard on 'how-to-handle' a compliment was:
Don't giggle a compliment away, Smile it in!
(Courtesy of Peggy Klaus, the Brag! book)

Why don't we believe ourselves - or our achievements - as well as others seem to do? Strange folks those human beings ;-)

Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

peter vajda

Hi Steve,

A wonderful post and thank you!

A subject near and dear to my (coaching) heart: Why We’re Afraid of Success.

One perspective:

For many, early on in childhood, when some children wanted to, or attempted to, express their aliveness, their thoughts, their juiciness, their "wisdom", their self, they were often met with resistance, first, from their parents or immediate care givers, then from extended family, then from their teachers, perhaps from clergy and others. This reactivity may have taken the form of:

"You think you're so smart!" (with a negative edge)
"Little boys/girls should be seen and not heard"
"That's the craziest thing I've ever heard"
"What do you know!!" (with a negative dismissal)
"Not now, I'm busy (i.e., what you have to say isn't important)
"Who told you that?!" (skepticism)
"Don't say such a thing" (how can you say such a thing!)
"I don't believe you."
"You better not talk like that"
"God will punish you for saying/thinking that"
"That's not a nice/good/ thing to say."
"That's not true; you're stupid"
"What a crazy idea!"
"You don't make any sense"
"You think you’re so smart!(sarcastically)
"You don't think straight"
"You're crazy!"
"What makes you think that way!"
"You don't have half a brain"
"For someone so smart, you're really stupid!"
"you're an idiot!"

…with the result that many children create a(reified) belief from this thought which plays out as "what I have to offer is not "good enough", or that I am "bad", or that I am "wrong." This belief becomes an imprint, hard-wired on our brain, in our unconscious, and we carry this belief into adolescence and eventually into adulthood, like so many other self-defeating and self-sabotaging beliefs we form at an early age.

So, for many people, this belief is translated the into, "What I have to say, do, think, write, create…...isn't important (read: “I'm not important").

What we have done, unconsciously, is to create a self-representation, a self image, a self-concept, really, an identity, that I am not credible, or I'm not smart, or intelligent. Our belief is, "I'm the stupid one.", or (fill in the blank). So, in order to be heard, seen, recognized, "met", accepted, acknowledged or approved, (successful) many of us feel that having our own voice is not enough, that we are inadequate. So, to compensate for our sense of deficiency, we feel we have to bolster what we say and support our thoughts with other "experts' information so we can be seen as "somebody" as opposed to being a "nobody", stupid, someone who knows nothing, someone who is not very intelligent, wise, or smart, that I can’t be "successful" on my own merits.

Thus, many of us go through life silently, for example, remaining quiet at meetings, never seeking more responsibility, never going for the brass ring, writing our book, our poetry, our play, our music, deferring to others (the “experts"), and we remain fear-based, feeling insignificant, stupid, and frustrated, silently or overtly angry because we don’t feel "heard", because we feel we don't "know enough" or "have the right information." Success is out of our reach (emotionally.

We just don't have a good sense of our self.

So, mired in a state of insecurity, feeling small, invisible, irrelevant, and insignificant, adults often go through life quietly, like "good little boys and girls". The underlying belief is that I can’t stand (be, do) alone, that I can’t think for my self and if I did, I would be wrong. I’m not a success-oriented person. I will never be successful, so why try...I'll just get beaten down.

It's also important to remember that we bring our "family" to work, i.e., our biography and our biology. Often in interactions at work, at home, at play, in relationships, if we are self-aware and conscious, we can sense we feel like a child, young, in the face of another person across from us. This other, in some way, often unconsciously, reminds us of the reactive, judgmental, critical parent or other authority ("expert") figure who criticized us when we were young. So, we defer or else we feel we need to bolster what we say with "evidence, support, facts,” in order to feel seen heard and accepted (i.e., unconsciously loved and accepted). Success, being who I am, is a scary proposition in this dynamic.

It’s important to do the “inner work” to digest and metabolize these limiting self images and the negative energy and emotions related to them, so we can show up authentically, have our voice, our wisdom, be "adult" and be who we really are — our True, Real and authentic Self, as opposed to being the false image of "who I think I am." (i.e., the self-defeating and self-sabotaging self image, self-concept or self-representation that keeps us small, fearful, quiet, frustrated, sad, depressed, angry), voiceless.

When we come from this place of our Essence, our True and Real Self, being “successful” and “allowing my voice” is an adventure, is a “juicy” experience” that is wrapped in curiosity, aliveness, energy.....not fear.

From this inner place, one feels courageous and strong in and of one’s Self, experiencing one’s inner capacity, heart- and soul-driven strength, courage, will, and confidence, to speak "one’s truth" and thus not be concerned or caught up in what others think about me. Success from this (emotionally mature adult) place is eminently do-able.

Steve Roesler


Let me know if I can find one of those shirts someplace. If not, I'll have one made!

Steve Roesler

HI, Karin,

What a nice, simple line to show people how to take a compliment and bask in it.

And yes, we humans can sure be strange, eh?

Steve Roesler

That, Peter, is a powerful and deeply appreciated treatise on the "Fear of Success" phenomenon.

I will confess that my willingness and ability to write on the issue is a result of having experienced your entire list--not the result of a life filled with encouragement. In fact, in order to break free of that, at age 35 I deliberately left the country--not just my community, but the country--and lived and worked in the Middle East and Europe.

It wasn't until I was able to follow through on my ideas, view and discuss the results objectively, and then form a legitimate view of my "self" that I was able to start "living" fully.

Your words describe the accuracy--and need for--that process.

Thank you.

Karin H.

Very impressive list and re-cap Peter. We've all 'suffered' from it.

But hopefully most of us are cured by what I like to call a very precious gift. The gift of someone believing in us, telling us again and again - gentle but firm - until we start believing it ourselves. Then the world becomes your oyster.

Karin H.

Travis A. Sinquefield


Just wanted to let you know that you've been tagged:




Steve, thanks for offering up such a meaningful conversation with this post.

And thank you for sharing a portion of your own journey in your reply to Peter's comment.

The wisdom of a transformative journey away from one's community and country makes perfect sense to me.

Maybe that is why Tolkien's alternative title to The Hobbit was "There and Back Again".

Keep creating...a fearless workplace,

Steve Roesler

Thanks, Mike.

It's good to see you light up the Comment screen again. I enjoyed your latest post while stuck in an another airport! Similar situation, different Zombies.



The No Fear brand is still around, but they don't have the great t-shirt slogans they used to from what I can see ... Cafepress is a good resource for getting shirts made though

Phil Gerbyshak

Wow Steve, you've really hit this one further than I've seen, especially with a lively comments box here.

So what are we really afraid of? One thing that's helped me is an oldie but a goodie: If you can name it, you can claim it. I keep asking myself what it is I'm afraid of, followed by an "And why am I afraid of that?" until I get to the root, and then I have a name for my fear. Sometimes it is success, but sometimes it is really the unknown. If I don't know why I'm afraid, I can't conquer it. Once I do, I can.

Great conversation and topic. Thanks for continuing it!

Steve Roesler

HI, Phil,

You are right on the money. The very act of accurately identifying and naming a fear has a neutralizing effect.

I can see a post on the horizon: "From Neutralized to Gerbyshized!"

Go for it, Phil!

Mark McGuinness

I remember being surprised how often 'fear of success' cropped up when I started coaching - it's counter to common sense, but you've done an excellent job of summarising why we can feel afraid of opening up an exciting new chapter in our lives.

Quite often there's a sense that "I won't be 'me' any more" if I become successful, and a genuine concern that it could impact on friendships and other relationships. So as far as it makes us reflect on how to stay connected to our core values and close relationships, the fear can be a positive prompt.

On the other hand - and this may be a cultural stereotype - in the UK at least, success has a bit of an image problem, maybe more so than in the US. There's often an assumption that to be successful you have to be selfish or ruthless. "You've changed" is usually not a compliment!

I'm put in mind of the David Bowie song "Who can I be now?" - a much more playful and creative approach to identity.

Steve Roesler

Hi, Mark,

You know, I think you've uncovered a very good coaching question:

"What is your biggest fear if you achieve success?"

That just might be helpful to our clients since the fear is usually unspoken. Getting it out in the open can help neutralize it and lead to some deeper discussion.

As for the UK/US dichotomy, my own experience says it really isn't there (except in the movies!). I used to live in London and worked on the Chiswick High Road. Although the demeanor is often quite different between the two nationalities, the fears about being seen as "different" or "having changed" seemed to me to be fairly universal.

And now I have to go downstairs and take the David Bowie vinyl LP off the shelf...

Mark McGuinness

Oh dear Steve, you've just shattered all my illusions about America! :-)

Yes you're right that it's important to ask the question because the fear is unspoken. It also helps if we can 'normalise' the fear by pointing out how common it is - clients tend to relax a bit after that and stop saying how 'silly' their fear is.

And taking Bowie off the shelf is always a good outcome!

Steve Roesler

Yep. Our movies are much better than the reality, Mark.

The "commonality" issue really does help, doesn't it? Some of my coaching friends invite their clients together periodically for something akin to a "master group" meeting. That way, people discuss business issues and, in the process, hear others who are wrestling with similar apprehensions. It's a wonderful tool for the coach and helpful to clients from both a personal and business perspective.

Mark McGuinness

Same with our movies, life isn't usually as gritty as Trainspotting or as romantic as Four Weddings...

I like the idea of a master group - I often say to clients I should get them all in a room together so they can hear how common (i.e. normal) most of their concerns are, I'm impressed that you've actually done it!

Steve Roesler

Hi, Mark,

The master group really is something to ponder--for your own sanity as well.

Once people start recognizing how normal their concerns really are, many are able to move on. Then, your coaching experience with them can take on bigger or deeper challenges.

Why not give have a go at it? It does take time and organization but the payoff can be big for all.

weird phobia

List of phobias and fears
Fear of long words and fear of success are only a few of the phobias and fears that people experience. Let's get down with the madness of phobias and fears. We promised you an exhaustive list of phobias and fears, and an exhaustive list of phobias and fears you will get.
This list of phobias include many of the categories used to describe phobias and fears. From social phobias as common as phobia of public speaking, to specific phobias like fear of success, passing through really unusual phobias like fear of long words.
Unfortunately we cannot include all of the phobias and fears that exist, but this list of phobias is pretty complete:

* Ablutophobia: Fear of washing or bathing
* Anemophobia: Fear of wind
* Anthrophobia: Fear of flowers
* Batophobia: Fear of being close to high buildings
* Bibliophobia: Fear of books
* Chaetophobia: Fear of hair
* Chionophobia: Fear of snow
* Chronophobia: Fear of time
* Dendrophobia: Fear of trees
* Didaskaleinophobia: Fear of school
* Eisoptrophobia: Fear of mirrors
* Eosophobia: Fear of daylight
* Ergophobia: Fear of work
* Geliophobia: Fear of laughter
* Graphophobia: Fear of writing
* Heliophobia: Fear of the sun
* Hemophobia: Fear of blood
* Homichlophobia: Fear of fog
* Kainophobia: Fear of anything new
* Lachanophobia: Fear of vegetables
* Logophobia: Fear of written words
* Melophobia: Fear of music
* Metrophobia: Fear of poetry
* Neophobia: Fear of anything new, again...
* Oneirophobia: Fear of dreams
* Phengophobia: Fear of daylight, again...
* Photophobia: Fear of light
* Pogonophobia: Fear of beards
* Sciophobia: Fear of shadows
* Scolionophobia: Fear of school
* Sociophobia: Fear of society or people in general
* Somniphobia: Fear of sleep
* Spectrophobia: Fear of ghosts
* Spheksophobia: Fear of wasps
* Stenophobia: Fear of narrow things or places
* Suriphobia: Fear of mice
* Tachophobia: Fear of speed
* Taurophobia: Fear of bulls
* Technophobia: Fear of technology
* Telephonophobia: Fear of telephones
* Thalassophobia: Fear of the sea
* Thanatophobia or Thantophobia: Fear of death or dying
* Tocophobia: Fear of pregnancy or childbirth
* Tomophobia: Fear of surgical operations
* Traumatophobia: Fear of injury
* Trypanophobia: Fear of injections
* Urophobia: Fear of urine or urinating
* Verbophobia: Fear of verbal words
* Venustraphobia: Fear of beautiful women
* Verminophobia: Fear of germs
* Virginitiphobia: Fear of rape
* Wiccaphobia: Fear of witches and witchcraft
* Xenoglossophobia: Fear of foreign languages
* Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners
* Xyrophobia: Fear of razors
* Zeusophobia: Fear of God or gods
* Zoophobia: Fear of animals

That's a pretty long list of Weird phobias and fears. I would like to call the attention of two phobias that will be discussed in another article, and hopefully in a future list of phobias: Fear of success and fear of long words. Fear of success is not as uncommon as it seems. Many people feel too much pressure in their life to achieve success, therefore, making fear of success an every day thought in their life. Now, fear of long words is plain funny. People actually cringing at the sound of the word 'physiographies' makes me realize I'm not that crazy. For more information on fear of long words read the article in this site.

You can find more info at: http://www.weird-phobias.com/

elliptical reviews

No offense, but i suggest admin adding a "google+" button for easy share!

Steve Roesler

Dear Readers:

Thanks to the efforts of "weird phobia," we now have what might be the premier phobia resource on a business blog!

Hat tip to WP

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