As a communication and speech specialist, the subject of fear is ubiquitous. In fact, it’s so prevalent that I’m shocked when it doesn’t come up for discussion with my clients. When we do talk about the fear that a client is experiencing it’s inevitably a fear associated with failure. This translates into…I’m afraid of: having a brain freeze, having my hands shake visibly, not knowing how to answer a question. The list goes on and on and may become paralyzing over time. So we know that fear of failure is well-ingrained in many people. Because of this it’s easy for any of us to assume that the fear we feel is directly related to failing.
Consider this wild and crazy thought–what if our fear wasn’t related to failure but to something else. Like what? What if our fear was related to success? Sound crazy? Actually it’s not. In fact it’s more common than you may realize but perhaps not as widely known as fear of failure. After all, who doesn’t want to succeed! There’s a thought to ponder.
To some extent, fear of failure and fear of success overlap. In the end, they both deter you from reaching your goals and fulfilling your aspirations. See how many of these behaviors sound familiar:
1. Do you tend to procrastinate?
2. Do you use negative self-talk (see my blog on this topic)?
3. Do you have doubt about whether or not you deserve to be happy?
4. Do you wonder if others will resent your achievements?
5. Do you worry about how to maintain your level of success?
6. Do you have uncertainty about the changes you’ll experience from success?
Answering yes to any of these questions may tell you that your fear is less about failure and more about success. Going back to my clients, this makes a lot of sense relative to achieving success in public speaking. I believe that effective speakers can be very powerful and influence others. Accomplishing this skill can therefore be intimidating.
So what’s the answer if you fear the success associated with being an effective speaker? Do you give in to the fear and simply avoid pursuing your goal—hardly. Ultimately it’s going to come down to your choice, of course. Here’s what I tell my clients if I suspect this may be the issue: start by getting to know yourself better by asking questions. In other words, expose the fear by dealing with it directly and not burying it or pretending it doesn’t exist. If you want to vent, talk to a trusted friend about your answers. Consider keeping a journal to collect your thoughts on the subject and begin to chip away at the fear. Ideally, it will help to challenge your instincts and see if they’re justified vs. assuming that’s the case.
Becoming an effective speaker is valuable to everyone, so whether fear of failure or fear of success is the culprit, start listening to what you’re telling yourself and then see where you can sort out what’s real vs. what’s not.
I can’t wait to hear from you!