Success Sabotage: Agree or Disagree

(Originally published Nov. 13, 2007).

Last week, I participated in a group discussion about the nature of success and failure. Those comments jump-started my thought processes, and here is what I came up with: I believe that most of us are afraid of success.

I hear many of you disagreeing already, but I reiterate. MOST OF US ARE AFRAID OF SUCCESS.

Okay, so you may not feel that way (many don’t), but bear with me.

I’m not speaking here about our conscious thought processes. Who in their right minds would go out and deliberately court failure? “Bye-bye, honey. I’m off to blow that important presentation to the Board of Directors this morning, and, by the way, I will forget to pick up your birthday gift on my way home. In fact, don’t count on me to be home for dinner at all.”

I believe that, at a deeper level, our subconscious mind often sabotages our best intentions. Are we worthy to receive joy, fulfilment, abundance? Won’t success change the status quo in our relationships? If we are successful, will people like us or will they be jealous and try to sabotage our success? And what if ‘success’ as we have defined it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Then what are we left with? Good grief, we might have to formulate a different definition of success. Even worse, what if we tried our very best, gave it everything we had, and we STILL didn’t achieve success? Failure sucks, and learning from our mistakes is painful. Isn’t it easier to hold back — not much, just a little? That way we can tell ourselves, “I could have done so much better, if only I’d given it everything I had.”

In my experience, many people (okay, not you) are driven by buried feelings and emotions they are unaware of or in denial about. In times of stress, and, paradoxically, in times when success is within reach, those feelings jump up out of nowhere and bite us in the butt. Presto. Instant sabotage. As an assistant family counsellor at a local addiction center, I often see people who are not sitting in the driver’s seat in their bus of life. Rather, they are terrified passengers, while deep emotional traumas steer their buses on a collision course with failure. On the surface, these people look successful; underneath, they are paddling like crazy just to stay afloat (I know, I know, this is a terrible mixed metaphor).

To conclude, I believe that, to varying degrees, we all possess core issues which we buried away as deep as possible to protect ourselves. Some of us even cemented over our hurts to ensure that they remained hidden, especially from ourselves. I salute everyone who is courageous enough to look inside, chip away the cement, and deal with the monsters that might be steering that bus of life off course, making it possible to achieve unlimited success.

At this point in time, I call myself a work in progress.

Please feel free let me know your feelings about the nature of success.