Monsters In Your Head

There are a lot of folks out there who let past failures rent space in their heads and hang a “NO VACANCY” sign for future success.

Recently a blog reader (who happens to be a friend of mine) DM’ed me on Facebook to say that he’d been on an online internet marketing training call with CarbonCopyPRO and was blown away by the “direct message” of the speaker: “What you refuse to get over, you live under.”

Bill wrote, “You should blog about that, Donna. There are a lot of folks who got burned in the past and can’t get beyond it. They’re stuck in their businesses, they’re stuck in their personal lives; it’s a mess.”

I’m no therapist; I have no clinical training; my only claim to knowledge on this topic is having graduated from a family that put “Dysfunction Junction” on the map!

Here’s my take:

If you burrow into the heart of the matter, I think fear of success is the worm at the core. That, and a belief that you are unworthy and undeserving.

If I’ve struck a nerve, that’s probably good. That means it’s hitting close to home, waking something up inside.

“But I went through X, Y, and Z and this and this and this happened and I am NOT going to take that chance again.” Alright. I hear you. So, let me ask you: If you’ve already decided that you’re not going to take that chance again, why are you involved in my business opportunity? Why are you involved in this relationship? Why are you involved in X, Y, or Z? If you’re not going to take the chance again, don’t take the chance again.

Ahhh. But you WANT those things, right? You just don’t believe you deserve them. Perhaps you fear that if you accomplish all that you set out to do, you’ll still feel dissatisfied even once you’ve achieved your goal. Maybe you’re afraid of being recognized and honored. Are you worried that once you ramp up the motivation that it takes to reach your goal, the motivation to continue will fade and your success will evaporate? Are you concerned that there’s always going to be someone out there better, smarter, faster waiting to take your place when your performance slips?

The voice of fear is like a monster in your head. It whispers insidious things to you when you’re feeling the most vulnerable; it whispers nasty things, not empowering things. It says:

“It’s hard to be at the top, no one really likes a winner, you’re going to lose it all anyway, so why bother? And besides, you’re nothing…you deserve nothing! Starting over and over again has given your life meaning and purpose. Hard work and constant effort makes you happy! What would you do if it were different? You’d lose your friends if you were successful. You’d lose your partner. Who would love you then? Where would you live? Who would take care of you? People care about you when you’re down and out; will they still feel the same way when you’re successful? When you surpass them? I don’t think so! Everyone goes for the underdog. And anyway, you already feel so guilty when you realize how much you have; imagine if you had more? And then you’d be afraid that you’d lose it all. That would be awful. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are; to do this, you’d have to work even harder…I’m just not sure it’s worth it.”

If this is starting to ring a bell, see if the bell is tolling for you here as well: Folks who are afraid of success sabotage themselves. They subconsciously trip themselves up to make sure that they only reach a certain level of success – no higher. Maybe you’ve set a goal that was important to you only to run out of steam at crunch time and miss the bar you set. Maybe you feel guilty or anxious when you do achieve success and this leads you to waver on your goals and lose momentum. Maybe you sabotage any ground that you’ve made in your personal growth or mental health because once you become healthier, a better problem solver, more “together,” you fear that no one will pay attention to you. You’d rather stay stuck in “receivership”: receiving help, sympathy and compassionate support. Maybe you are choosing to do just the opposite of what you need to do to be happy, healthy and successful, consistently criticizing yourself enough to lose what you’ve gained.

Or maybe what you can’t see in yourself, you can see in others. Have you ever known someone who always “almost” has the world by the tail. Things always “almost” come together for this person and then something always comes up to ruin it? That thing that comes up to ruin the “almost” success is no coincidence. Gut check time: Any “no coincidences” in your life?

It’s true: “What you refuse to get over, you live under”

If you want to get the monsters out of your head and take the “No Vacancy” sign out of the window, you’ve got to find and release your fears of success. The longer you leave that little task undone, the bigger the monster gets and the more your fears will control you.

The most interesting thing about the fear of success is that it comes about when you are creating change and moving forward in your life. You’re feeling it because you’re imagining the future. The dilemma is that you’re filtering the imagined future through the past and missing the present entirely. Stop staring in the rear-view mirror.

One of the core fears that arise from change is that success will lead to loneliness. Women especially fear success because they are afraid that being powerful enough to create the life they want will render them unlovable. Sometimes folks fear that success will mean that people will want money or other things from them.

Some fears of success are easy to let go of because it’s unlikely that they will happen, like the fear of losing it all and becoming a bag lady. But some fears are real. It’s true that when you change, the relationships around you will be forced to change. Some friends (your true friends) will always cheer you on. But others, those that are threatened by your success, will try to keep you from moving forward.

Essentially, the fear of success goes away when we take our personal power back. How we give it up, I don’t know, but we do. We end up feeling powerless. Our fear is that if we reclaim our power and succeed, we have to acknowledge that we have always had the power to change and could have done so a year or 3 or 5 years earlier. Change is a choice.

Marianne Williamson writes in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I have that quote posted above my desk as a daily affirmation. It’s my personal “check up from the neck up.”

Once we “cowboy up” to the realization that we’ve had the power to change all along, we have to acknowledge that we caused unnecessary suffering to ourselves and others along the way by our failure to change. (Suffering, by the way, is not a necessary part of life.)

The common denominator to every problem in your life? You! You were there when it happened!

The pain of the realization that you have been powerful enough to effect change all along can only be healed by forgiving yourself. How do you forgive yourself? Well, start by understanding that it doesn’t come from the outside; it comes from the inside.

Making a conscious decision to forgive yourself is a courageous act that leads to a sense of completion and release. It’s a personal journey of some miles that starts with a single step and once undertaken, will allow you to move on and not act out your failure over and over again.

To begin, you need to understand why you have held onto being powerless for so long. How has it rewarded you? What are you hoping to get out of pretending to be powerless? Some basic questions to help get you started are:

• What am I avoiding?
• Who do I get to punish or love?
• What emotion am I not willing to release? (For many it’s anger)
• What guarantee am I holding out for?
• Am I manipulating with self-pity?
• Am I feeling “better than” or “less than”?
• What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?

Once you identify your fears and understand why you hold onto them, you can begin the process of self-forgiveness. A great visualization technique that I learned years ago goes something like this: envision your entire body as a dark silhouette and slowly fill it with light. As light chases away the darkness, you release what you’ve held onto and forgive. (Incidentally, this works in forgiving others, as well.) Alternatively, you can release your fears by visualizing your fear coming true at some point in the future, then creatively destroying it in your imagination. Or you can write out your fears and destroy the paper (many recommend burning the paper.) You can do more research on the interwebs – there are a ton of websites, books, and professionals in your local area with lots of insight to share.

Whatever you do, don’t let it stop here. If this article turned a light on, keep the light on. Get the monsters out of your head. Look back if you must, but don’t stare. And remember, today is a gift: That’s why they call it the present.


  1. 1

    Bill Espinosa says

    Thank you Donna for sharing this. You are a great leader and mentor.

    God Bless.


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