I'm afraid of success

By Tammie Bennett.

I’ve always been a big dreamer. Two weeks after starting karate lessons, I started looking up tournaments, dreaming of my black belt. Less than a month after the first time I ever used Adobe Illustrator, I dreamed of being a surface pattern designer and entered a contest. Dreaming big and believing I can accomplish my goals has never been my issue. My issue is, what if I succeed? I have big dreams for my art and design work, and I have full faith that I can make those dreams happen, but some days I’ll find myself doing anything but working on getting closer to making those dreams happen.

Why do I procrastinate? Why do I put off doing the very things that could lead to my success? If I succeed in that big dream, what’s next? Will I be able to handle the changes? What will those changes be? I think this comes from a fear of the unknown – that would make sense since I’m the oldest of six children and a wee bit of a control freak.

I like knowing what comes next. And I like being the one calling the shots. When I’ve reached a successful point, will I be let down? Will I feel empty? I’ve heard lots of stories of people who suffer a little depression after achieving some sort of success or accomplishing a big goal. I’ve heard of people who have trained for a marathon only to become a little depressed after they finish it; authors becoming depressed after they send off the novel they’ve been working on for years. Maybe it’s because we’ve put so much of ourselves into this work and in that process, we’ve had a sense of direction, we’ve had a path and hope along the way. And then the path ends and we feel a little bit lost. I don’t want that to happen to me.

I’m scared that once I accomplish my goals, they will no longer be my goals. I tend to have a short attention span, going from one goal to another as soon as I accomplish it. I went to law school, graduated with honors and passed the bar exam only to realize I’d rather stay at home with my son. I ran a successful fitness business for mothers and when I reached a high point after two years, I realized it wasn’t my passion and I sold the business. What if I reach success in my art and design business and then decide I want to do something else with my days instead? What about all that time and money I’ve invested in my art and design career? Will it have been for naught?

I’m scared that once I am successful, I might have a hard time keeping up that high level of productivity and creativity. I’ll have a whole host of fans and clients that could potentially be let down. I’ll have more responsibilities and expectations. Will I be able to keep coming up with new and fresh art? What if I become uninspired? Or worse yet, what if I no longer inspire the people I used to inspire?

Once I’m successful, does that mean I’ll have less time to do the other things that are important to me? Will I still have quality time with my kids and my husband? Will I have time for my exercise and other activities that refresh me and keep me going? Will I be so busy traveling and doing the business side of things that I won’t have time to paint?

I’m taking a new approach this year. I’m going after those big dreams without letting the fear of success hold me back. I’m realizing that it will all be okay. I can learn to let my control freak ease up a little bit on the reins, and embrace the not-knowing. That’s a fun part of life – not knowing what’s around the next bend. I may indeed feel a little empty after I’ve realized a big dream or goal, but I can take a few days to read a book, snuggle on the couch by the fire, look at Pinterest. What’s wrong with taking a few days to absorb all that’s happened before moving on? And what if I DO decide to change careers or do something other than art? The time and money won’t have been a waste. It will have been a tremendous learning experience; a character building time of my life.

I have to go after my dreams trusting that I will always have it in me to keep creating, to stay inspired. And I am the one who makes choices about how I spend my time. If I deem something important to me, I will carve out the time to make it happen. This will be the year when I am no longer letting a fear of success get in the way of my success.


Tammie Bennett is a married mother of three who loves creating patterns, reading, the color hot pink, striped knee socks, running on trails, lip gloss, making up dance moves and making art. She’s working on a way to do it all every day.

This Fear Confession was originally published on Happy Muses, January 22, 2013.

Read all