Fearing Success

“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, and 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 will not 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 is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Okay, so I have a confession to make. I know that this quote has inspired a lot of people, but I’ve always found it’s message to be a bit self-important. It’s like, “Hey, don’t be afraid of your awesomeness!” (As an aside, if it were written by millennials today, it might read, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that our greatness will go unnoticed by others.”)

But I do think that there is some truth to it.

I’ve noticed in my own life how easy it is to fear success. That’s a weird concept, isn’t it? Usually we think about fearing failure, but it works both ways. In fact, I think that for me, the two are connected.

I fear success sometimes because I fear the pressure of needing to live up to it. I’m afraid that if I achieve it, I won’t be able to sustain it.

Reportedly, Jay Leno – one of the most “successful” celebrities out there – lives in perpetual fear of losing it all. I mean, he literally thinks it could all be ripped away from him at any moment and he’d be on the streets without a dime to his name. What a way to live.  Apparently, he’s driven to succeed by a fear of failure.

But what do we do when we’re afraid to succeed in the first place? I’ve found that in my own life, I can easily self-sabotage. I do things that keep me from living up to my potential because they protect me from being exposed.

And let’s face it; success does expose us. The world doesn’t notice ordinary. It doesn’t award under-achievement.

It’s when we put ourselves out there and begin making our unique contribution to the planet that others start paying attention; sometimes to praise, sometimes to criticize. Are we okay with that?

As a Christ follower, I’ve found comfort in the following truth:

When we succeed, God doesn’t ask us to match or exceed our last best. He simply asks us to give him and others our next best.

God is not some brutal task-master trying to eek out every last drop of productivity from us. He’s more like the world’s best coach, wanting us to perform at our highest level because he loves and believes in us so much.

Fear can keep us from our potential. It can hold us back from being all God created us to be. I, for one, don’t want to live that way. How about you?

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