Do You Fear Success?

Kelli Ann - angel2

Kelli Ann - angel2

Woman entrepreneurs may not be aware of it but some have fear of success. It is something some Catholic entrepreneurs are often guilty of. You, too, might have success set point and are bumping up against it.

How do you know you have it? Let me first share a very personal story.


Our oldest son almost didn’t make it to earth alive. Ian was born two months premature, breech, with the umbilical cord strangling his neck. He was blue, but quickly revived after an emergency C-section.

Four months after his birth, we learned Ian was bilaterally profoundly deaf.

Following doctors’ advice five years later, Boys Town Research Hospital in Nebraska completed a genetic evaluation. Genetic scientists were learning a defective hearing loss gene could mean, adjacent ones, like the kidney gene, might also be. Testing helps patients proactively respond.

The results showed Ian had damage to his central processing functions, probably related to his difficult birth. The physician explained that with the brain damage Ian would never be the “star football player”. The evaluation team encouraged us to optimize Ian’s abilities.

The feedback was not a complete surprise. Upon entering 1st grade Ian carried with him the social challenge of being unable to catch a ball. He dodged some bullies, but not all. Several years of occupational therapy reprogrammed Ian’s brain to master basic physical skills.

Upon discharge, the occupational therapist encouraged Ian to play sports to progress. I started Ian as early as possible in different sports to help make up for his physical deficiencies, first with regular tennis lessons. Tennis was a good fit for Ian. By being steady he developed great fundamentals.

Ian liked the lessons, but was phobic about competitive play. I strong-armed Ian to compete in his first tennis tournament last summer. Convinced he would not win a match, he almost won his first game against a classmate who hung with the group of early bullies. Ian won his second match and actually finished 3rd in the tournament, ahead of his classmate.

A year away from entering high school, the tennis coach cornered Ian into doing team tennis. Kids partner up and participation in five matches at various tennis clubs. Reluctantly, Ian agreed.

Last weekend, a buildup of fear-of-success and inadequacy rose and dissipated from Ian as he and his doubles partner won their first team tennis match. In his second singles match, Ian came from a 5-1 game deficit to win the match in the tie breaker.

Ian’s wins created a disconnect with his his self-perception as an athletic failure. The new successful self-image was now cracking through years of negative self-talk and painful experiences.

Ian’s fear-of-success surfaced in his final match. Losing to a girl, a far inferior tennis player, 6-0, Ian’s play did not resemble the first two matches. He made little effort to hustle to balls and had a number of out-of-character double faults.

Ian’s psyche could just barely tolerate the two wins. With his current mindset, he had hit his success set point.


So what is your success set point and how do you know when you are bumping up against it?

Here are the clues:

  • Same Goal Wish List – If you are listing the same goals year after year – lose weight, earn more money, be more balanced – but don’t gain much ground, it may be because your image of yourself doesn’t match the “you” you would be if you achieved those goals.
  • All Talk, No Walk – People reaching their success set point talk plans with no action. The talk can give you false security you are moving towards success, when you are really hitting your self-imposed glass ceiling.
  • Going At It Alone – Successful people don’t reach those milestones alone. Jesus had his 12 apostles. Great presidents surround themselves with the best advisors. Trying to grow your business without God. a team, and mentors, creates a long-uphill battle. Your blind spots get the best of you. You don’t know what you don’t know. You stay in a holding pattern or eventually go out of business until you figure that out.

Ninety percent of success is mindset. Don’t let fear of success stand in the way of your Holy Spirit-inspired vision.

Christian Women Entrepreneurs Biz and Life Tips: Honestly assess on a scale of 1-10 if you might be putting brakes on your success at some level, and take some action to push through the block.

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7 thoughts on “Do You Fear Success?”

  1. Insightful, and timely.

    Perhaps one of the reasons why many Catholics fear success is that they haven’t distinguished between success for God and “success for the sake of success.”

    Besides, if we’re afraid, we can always make what we’re doing an offering and see what He does with it, right?

    1. I agree. I think many Christians struggle with thinking that worldly success on some level is bad, when it can actually be God’s plan in building the kingdom if it is the mission he has for you.

  2. Good story. Getting the advice of people and mentors is key. However, I find that letting go and letting God is the best way to success, much more than trying to figure things out myself. The more I try to exercise my will, in general, the worse things get. If I just let go of the outcomes, do my best, and trust in Jesus, my way is usually better than anything I could try to do on my own. When I release any attachment to the outcome, often people whom I would least expect to be helpful turn out to be giving me just the insight I need. I also rely on the communion of saints for guidance, always bracketing any petition to the saints with the name of Jesus Christ.

  3. Pingback: Anthony Esolen: How Dark Were The Dark Ages? - Big Pulpit

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