Scary Success: Workplace Fears That Are Holding You Back

Feeling trapped.What is holding you back? What’s keeping you from achieving your dreams? No matter your answer, these are loaded questions. Regardless of the outside factors you attribute to your standstill, the main issue is still inaction. Famous football coach and sports analyst Lou Holtz said it best: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” For most of us, that 90% is crippled by something more debilitating than outside factors—inward fear. From the fear of exposure to the fear of rejection to the classic fear of failure, this basic instinct has kept many leaders from achieving success. Understanding these issues is the first step in deciding to overcome them, so let’s take a look at the three main fears that may be holding you back.

Fear of Exposure

The immediate emotion that many leaders feel when they go out on a limb is the fear of exposure. Whether you’re a young professional or seasoned veteran, the safest option is to stay under the radar. Speaking up can be terrifying, especially since no plan or idea is 100% foolproof. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once noted that the number one fear for the average person is public speaking, followed by death. “This means to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Humor aside, many leaders live with this fear and let it keep them from pursuing specific career goals or entrepreneurial dreams. And though public speaking is a small aspect of exposure, it is an important factor that flows into the next fear—rejection.

Fear of Rejection

Though success is a relative accomplishment, most people would agree that it is nearly impossible to be successful on your own. Whether through encouragement, financial investment, or partnerships, reaching a goal is easier when you have a team backing your interests. But what happens when you don’t have the support of those around you? Once you get past the fear of exposure, you set yourself up for the possibility of your peers rejecting your dream. In a recent article, author and therapist John Amodeo, PhD, MFT, explained that people are “biologically wired with a longing to belong, we fear being seen in a critical way. We’re anxious about the prospect of being cut off, demeaned, or isolated.” Whether your business plan gets rejected by investors or your ideas get squashed by upper management, the feeling of pursuing your dream alone can be daunting enough to cause you to give up all together. But if you’re able to get out of your comfort zone to conquer the fear of exposure and follow that with venturing out on your own to conquer the fear of rejection, you only have one more inward obstacle to face—the fear of failure.

Fear of Failure

Most successful people have experienced failure at least once in their lifetime. Simply looking at the facts may be enough to justify people’s fear of failure. For instance, nine out of 10 start-up companies fail. Moreover, several blue-blood companies, like Kodak and Blockbuster, were afraid of failure, and in turn, have failed. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before inventing the lightbulb. Failure isn’t something that only happens to incompetent or inadequate professionals, it affects some of the brightest and most innovative individuals. Failure should be expected. But, what happens afterwards should be planned for. The only way to avoid failure is to not try. Truthfully, failure still sets us back in our pursuit of success, regardless of the degree. However, if you can push past the final fear that is keeping you from pursuing your goals, you have a better chance of ranking with the elite who get to bask in the light of hard work, dedication, and self-fulfillment.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Don’t let your fears get the best of you. Dare mighty things, and push past the fears that keep you complacent. Who knows—you could be a lot closer to success than you think.

What fears keep you from pursuing your dreams? How have you overcome workplace fears in the past? Let us know in the comments section below!

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