Transcript: Is Your Fear Of Success Sabotaging Your Business?

December 6, 2022

AMY PORTERFIELD: “While this fear is not a bad thing at all—you are human—it is important to pay attention to the behaviors that come along with it. When you're passing up opportunities, when you're procrastinating, when you're avoiding setting really big, exciting goals, you are succumbing to the fear. We don't want to give in to it; we just want to recognize it. I want you to do it afraid. I want you to do it anyway. 

“So if any of these patterns sound familiar to you, I challenge you to try to shift your perspective just a bit. Instead of looking at how daunting x, y, z is, whatever it is for you, try to see it as something just really exciting. You can say, ‘Yeah, I'm scared, but I'm excited, too.’”  

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: Hey, there. Welcome back to Online Marketing Made Easy. 

In this Shorty episode, I'm talking about something that happens a lot with business owners, especially new business owners, and that's having a fear of success. Now, when I say that out loud, it almost sounds a little silly. Like, I have had a really hard time getting behind this notion, or this concept, that people, including maybe me along my journey, have been afraid of being successful. Because of course, when you start something like a business or a new job or whatever, you typically go into it with the intention of being successful. But when push comes to shove and you actually have the opportunity to do something big that actually takes you to the next level, all of a sudden there's fear there.  

And when I sat with it for a moment, I thought, wait a second. I might not be starting from scratch—I'm well into my journey of entrepreneurship—but here I am launching a brand-new book, and I am terrified. Like, there are so many unknowns. It is so scary. And of course I want the book to be a huge success. But at the same time, to get there, what will it take? What do I need to do? How do I need to show up? To me, that's the fear. It's like, “Okay, Amy. Your book’s out there in the world, and I'm going to wave a magic wand, and you're a New York Times’ bestseller. Does that scare you?” No, that totally makes me so excited. But what does scare me is, do I have what it takes to get there? Will I know what I need to do to make that happen? Am I willing to show up in the way that I need to show up, or am I even capable? Do I even have an audience that will allow me to get to that level? Like, am I able to make it happen? To me, that's the fear.  

So it might look different to you. Fear of success might feel different or look different, but I think it's still there in all of us. One way or another, I think it’s showing up, whether we're just starting out or we're trying to go to the next level. 

Now, if you ever found yourself in a situation like that, let me tell you, sweet friend, having a fear of success is actually very common. I couldn't believe it, but it's actually scientifically true. In fact, according to Dr. Dimitrios Tsatiris, a practicing psychiatrist and professor at Northeast Ohio Medical University, this fear is very much a part of the human experience, because with success comes change, and as we all know, change isn't always easy. Changing up your routine, changing who you need to be, changing your way of navigating whatever it is you want, having to learn something new, or investing more time and energy into something, all of that can actually fuel anxiety. Because let's be real. We're creatures of habit who find comfort in what feels normal to us. Heck, sometimes even just thinking about achieving our goals can feel just as scary as failing them entirely. Did you hear that? Even thinking about achieving our goals can feel as scary as, “Oh my gosh, what if I don't achieve them?” because what's on the other side is totally uncharted territory. Just like with me launching my new book, Two Weeks Notice. I don't know what I don't know, and that is so scary.  

So this fear of success can show up in many, many different ways. Maybe you know that getting a new job would mean a ton for your resume, for your career, for your salary, but you're hesitant to apply because you'd have to take on more responsibility. Or maybe you posted something to your Instagram account, and you're hoping it doesn't go viral, because moving forward, that would mean that there's an expectation that you need to continue to create more and show up in a bigger way and be there for them.  

Or perhaps you know that hiring a team member would really help you grow your business. If you're multitasking, come back to me because I think many of you can relate to this one. You know that if you hire someone on your team, it could help you grow, but you're procrastinating interviewing anyone because there's a lot that comes with adding a new team member, especially if it's your first one. Like, most people wait way too long to do their first hire because they're like, “Oh my gosh, so much goes into this. So many decisions and so many fears. What am I going to pay them, and what are they going to do, and what if they don't work out?” Believe me, I've been there.  

Or maybe it's your goal to write a New York Times’ bestseller, but you haven't put pen to paper because if it were successful, there'd be pressure that you have to show up in a new way. Or what about the next book and figuring that out? Now you've got to hire people and grow your platform.  

There's things that I actually—I've never talked about this before—I think some of those fears for me are unconscious because, like, if you told me, “Okay, Amy. You're going to put Two Weeks Notice out there, and it's going to be a huge hit. But what's going to come with that are all these other things that now you have to show up for, whether it be now you're getting a bunch of speaking gigs and you have to decide, do you really want to get on stage or not? Or there's going to be a whole new audience, and do you have an offer for them? You might need to create something new.” Like, all these things that come up, I can conceptualize them. I could be like, “Oh, I could figure that out. I could figure that out.” But really what I think it comes down to is, oh, my gosh, this is almost going to open up a can of worms. Like, who knows what's going to come of this? And that makes me uncomfortable. I don't know how I'm going to navigate it. So sometimes I can talk myself into just staying right where I'm at because that fear of the unknown is really, really overwhelming.  

So this fear of success, I think sometimes can be conscious, but unconscious. You haven't even thought, you haven't even run through all the “what ifs,” but you know they're there, so they just kind of linger around with this anxious energy, and you just stay stuck. I know I'm talking a little bit in vague terms right here, but I bet you can relate to some of this. I bet you're like, “Oh, no, Amy. Yep. That shows up for me, and let me tell you how.” Like, I wish you were at my house right now. We're sitting on my couch, having a conversation, and when I tell you, “Sometimes I'm afraid of success because I don't even know what's on the other side of it,” and you're like, “Ah, me, too. Let me tell you about it.” That's what I wish we are doing right now, because it feels very one sided for me to share all of my fears around success, but I think you can relate to it as well.  

And it's not just in your professional life that this fear of success can manifest. It does this in your personal life, too. So, for instance, have you ever stayed in a romantic relationship because the thought of getting back out there and dating feels like more work than actually the work of staying in the relationship that's not even serving you? Like, even though you know there's someone much better for you out there, you just stay in your relationship, whether it be a marriage or you're dating or whatever, because you're like, “I don't even know what that would look like,”—fear of the unknown—”I know I'm not happy here, but I'd have to get really uncomfortable if I was single again, so I'm just going to stay here because although I'm not happy, I'm at least safe or comfortable.” Yeah, that's what we're talking about here, my friend. That issue right there.  

All of this is to say that even when we know what the best thing to do is, we often hesitate moving in that direction because the unknown can be so scary. And believe me, there have been plenty of times in my own journey as an entrepreneur that I've been afraid of doing something that I know deep down would benefit my business. And to be honest, it's always been a bit hard to talk about. That's why I feel like I'm stumbling a little through this episode, but I still wanted to do it because society and this hustle culture tell us that we should be chasing our success, not fearing it. And I agree with that. Go for it. Go after it. But I just wanted to make it known that that doesn't mean it's easy.  

Not to mention, I think sometimes we are meant to feel guilty if we're not having positive feelings. It's almost like if you say, like, “I'm scared to go live on Instagram,” and someone's like, “You should be grateful you have an audience.” Or if you say, “I'm sick and tired of long hours at my nine-to-five job,” “Well, you should be grateful you have a job.” And so we're kind of, like, attacked when we have these negative feelings.  

And I guess on my podcast, I just want to have all the feelings. I just want to be honest with you. When I'm feeling anxious or I am scared of success in different ways and what that looks like for me, I just feel like if I share with you—and believe me, my friends. It's never easy for me. Every time I do these episodes where I'm really sharing some negative feelings or some darker thoughts that I have, I always think, “Should I really put that on the podcast?” because is it going to just make people think, like, “Well, isn’t she a Negative Nelly”?  

And then I think, “There is no way my students aren't feeling what I'm feeling. There is just absolutely no way. And if I don't talk about them, my biggest fear is you will think that you are wrong for having those fears and those negative thoughts that come up for us.” So if I show up and say, “Look, I'm fourteen years in, and I still struggle with this,” what I'm really hoping is sometimes when I do these episodes, you take a really deep breath in, and you hold it, and you give out a big sigh, like, “I'm not alone. I'm not alone. This is human. This is normal. This is part of being an entrepreneur.” That's all. That's what I want you to think because then you're going to be easier on yourself—give yourself some grace—and then you're going to get back into the game and get the work done.  

So I guess I want you to know that if you're scared of success, unconscious or conscious, just don't be feeling ashamed of your fear. When it shows up, give yourself some compassion. Realize that it's simply your flight-or-fight mind trying to protect you.  

And while that fear is not a bad thing, it is important to pay attention to the behaviors that come along with it. So here's where I'm going to tie a bow on this conversation. So I'm going to say that one more time. While this fear is not a bad thing at all—you are human—it is important to pay attention to the behaviors that come along with it. When you're passing up opportunities, when you're procrastinating, when you're avoiding setting really big, exciting goals, you are succumbing to the fear. We don't want to give in to it; we just want to recognize it. I want you to do it afraid. I want you to do it anyway.  

So if any of these patterns sound familiar to you, I challenge you to try to shift your perspective just a bit. Instead of looking at how daunting x, y, z is, whatever it is for you, try to see it as something just really exciting. You can say, “Yeah, I'm scared, but I'm excited, too.” Like, what if every time you were very afraid to take action, you identified the feeling that's holding you back? “Yeah, I'm feeling lots of anxiety, but I'm also hopeful, too.” What if you could follow it up with something positive that you genuinely do feel as well?  

It's okay to feel scared and excited at the same time. It’s okay to even—because this is something I've dealt with—to feel depressed but also very, very happy that something is happening. Like, you might deal with depression, but you can also be happy about something that's going to happen or on the horizon. We can have negative and positive emotions at the same time. Tell yourself, “I'm about to step out of my comfort zone and do something different. And once I do it, I’ll know that I'm more than capable of doing the things that scare me. So I'm going to feel really scared, but I'm also going to feel hopeful, and I'm going to allow myself to have two feelings at the same time and not judge myself.”  

When I worked with Tony Robbins, he used to say, dance with it. You feel fear? Okay, dance with it. Welcome it along for the ride, know that it's simply your mind trying to protect you, and stay in motion.  

And after you've identified what it is that you've been avoiding, maybe it's even multiple things, I want you to do two things. Number one, share it with me on Instagram, either in a DM or in the comments on the post for this episode. Just let me know, like, what is it that you've been avoiding? And number two, share with a friend or a coach or a mentor or a therapist. Just get it out with someone that you trust that you can have a conversation back and forth around. I think keeping it inside is why it's festering for you.  

So, like, for me, this is therapeutic, letting you know I've got a book coming out. I'm so nervous of the unknown. I'm nervous about how I'm going to need to show up and what I'm going to need to do. But I'm also really excited and hopeful about it. And I'm just going to allow all of those emotions in.  

So anyway, I just wanted to share this with you because I do believe that there's so many emotions that come up with starting a business, growing a business, being an entrepreneur, and we've got to talk about it all, not just the good. I always say the good, bad, and ugly, right?  

So there you have it, my friends. Thank you for allowing me to share my truth around some of the stuff that's coming up for me. I hope you could relate to it. And let me know on Instagram how you feel about this episode. I would just love to know because now I'm feeling a little vulnerable that maybe it was a little too much. Maybe I went a little too rogue with this one, but I'm going to put it out there anyway.  

Sending all my love, and thank you so much for tuning in. On Thursday, I come back for some more entrepreneurial goodness. Thursdays are usually my interviews with experts, or more in-depth, step-by-step strategies. And Tuesdays are my Shorty episodes, where I take you behind the scenes of being an entrepreneur—again, the good, bad, and ugly.  

All right, my sweet friends. Thanks for tuning in. And I'll see you same time, same place next week. Bye for now. 

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