On the surface it sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone fear success? Isn’t that what we strive for our whole lives? What else are we doing if not trying to succeed at something?
These days we are told from birth (thanks in no small part to the Disney empire) to believe in our dreams and make them reality. No one ever tells us what happens after we achieve our biggest goals. That special place on the timeline of our lives is the “Happily Ever After” zone. We aren’t supposed to think about what happens after because there will be no more problems at the end of our journey. Once we get “there,” wherever “there” is, we will be happy forever.
Life is a constant search for this fantasy state of being. As soon as we solve one problem, everything else falls apart around us. It’s a law of nature. Either that, or when we do get there, our dream changes and the search continues.
This in mind, “fear of success” could stem from not believing in “Happily Ever After.” Us cynics might think about it every once in a while, and fantasizing about it gets us through the day. Deep down though, we acknowledge that our lives will never be problem-free. There will always be stress and obstacles until the very end. “Life sucks and then you die” has become a common phrase.
Sadly enough, I think “fear of success” ties with “fear of the unknown.” What would happen if the universe defied the odds and granted a non-Happily Ever After person everything they wished for? I worry about this unlikely version of the future because I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for it. What will I do with myself when my knees heal and I can go wherever I want? What if I’m not happy with the dream job I thought I wanted? What if I eventually publish a book and no one cares?
Or – and this is the really neurotic or that drove me to write this post – another area of my life could crumble, taking away any enjoyment from the achieved goal. I have this annoying fear that as soon as my knees heal, there will be another medical issue that needs to be addressed. Bad knees have been such a big part of my life that it’s hard to imagine being “normal.” I’m still doing everything I can to get better, because I realize it’s an irrational fear, but sometimes I worry about the next problem that will come along. It could be even worse and I’ll wish I only had to cope with bad knees.
I think I’m just a worrier who doesn’t know how to envision an anxiety-free future. Maybe I should take some comfort in that. I’ve always worried, I worry now, and future me will deal with irrational fears the same as I do today. Maybe “Happily Ever After” is more of a metaphor for inner peace. Success in a general sense can be intimidating, but isn’t it just another big change in life’s sequence of events? If we’ve managed to get this far without losing our minds, maybe it’s true that the only real fear is fear itself.