I have this weird relationship with success. As soon as there’s a whiff or a tiny hint of it I pull back from the thing that’s been successful.
I’m not sure where it comes from. I’ve never had any traumatic experiences with success. I never gained it all and lost it all. I never fell from the top of the mountain. The only thing that even comes close to an explanation for this aversion is some bad experiences in the RP world because of how well received my writing was, people just got a little bit…. intense….
All I know is it’s there and it’s part of the reason I call myself consistently inconsistent.
Some people think that having a fear of success means you’re risk averse and you’re risk averse because you’re afraid of failure. This is absolutely not the case. I have never really been scared of failing. For me it’s failure where we learn the most. Falling down is the best teacher, we move on and become better from it. When I was younger the only reason I was ever scared of failing in school was because of what my father (bastard that he is) would think, I was conditioned to be afraid of his reaction. I was never scared of failing because of what friends or the world would think of me though. People have different strengths and mine definitely did not lie in Physics, P.E or Maths.
I might not be the sort of person to throw myself off a cliff or just leave a job with no actual financial stability but that isn’t because I’m afraid of failing. The stuff that I’m interested in, that I want to try, I’ve never had a problem leaping into.
For example; Five years in a row I entered a writing competition and five years in a row not even a reply. My writing wasn’t up to the standard it is now of course, but that ‘failure’ to even place never stopped me.
So if the fear isn’t of failure, and it’s actually of success what does that even mean?
Well reading this article it seems that the fear of success is actually to do with the fear of the consequences of success….. which makes sense, given that I also don’t like attention.
That might seem strange to any of you who follow me on instagram, my gram is full of reels of me lipsyncing with various filters on. That isn’t about attention though, that to me is like a kid running around pretending to be a dinosaur. It’s play. It’s for me.
Attention, the feeling there might be a spotlight on me makes my skin crawl. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, it just does and so I shrink back. In fact the quickest way to get me to shut up is to make me feel like there is a spotlight on me.
Success = More Attention = My worst nightmare.
Maybe it has something to do with being an introvert. I love my own space, I love spending long periods of time alone and if I didn’t have the family and friends I do I could probably quite easily live as a hermit or shut in. Success means more people and more people for me is just another nightmare.
It was only recently that I pinned together the aversion to success with the inconsistency. I have a lot of drafts and stories just waiting to be let loose on the internet but after receiving a number of nice comments and likes last time I sort of noped out, and this happens every time.
Every time the level of praise tips over some imaginary thresh hold I nope out.
You’d think not being scared of failing would be freeing, and in a way it is, but being afraid of success can be just as much of a prison. People who are scared of failure have flashes of scenarios where they are destitute and embarrassed. A fear of success dangles scenarios of overwhelm in front of you. Crowds, notifications, not having enough time to do what you love, being burned out, feeling obligated to everyone.
So what is the answer?
Well, there’s lists of useful tips on the internet about it, about dealing with this, about not avoiding situations of success. The problem for me is it always comes back down to the very basic principle that more success = more attention = an unhappy me and all the techniques in the world aren’t going to help.
If there’s no helping me then, where do I go?
Well first of all I’m open and honest about what following me or wanting to read my writing means.
One week you might get a short story a day, the next three months nothing. One day you might get three reels and a blog post then radio silence for two years. I might write 6 books a year and then nothing for three years after that. There’s no formula, no rhyme or reason. It just happens when it happens. Consistency might be key for most but it doesn’t work for me.
Some people will be shouting ‘But consistency is key for the algorithms’
To that I say fuck the algorithms, but then I’ve always been a bit of a punk kid.