I have a great fear of my own pride. Or I should say I did until very recently. If you’re in any way an artist or a ‘creative’, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling that you know deep down that you were meant to produce something amazing, something inspired. But you wrestle with the prospect of creating something wonderful, of being worthy of such a task.
Can you? Should you? Why not? Yet something holds us back.
We often refer to this as a fear of success. Ever since I set out to start my own business and make money on my own terms, I’ve been seeking the solution to this fear, this deep unsettling question. In a few broad strokes here, I want to share some pieces that came together to unlock this for me.
One of the earliest pieces was the core thesis of Gay Hendricks’ book, The Big Leap. He proposes that we each have a natural upper limit to our happiness. It is a kind of set point, a ceiling to our ability to be happy and successful. Until we dismantle it he says we will sabotage ourselves in some way every time we get close to it. Once I heard his theory, I was convinced not only by his many stories, but by all the evidence I saw of this in my own life and the stories of others.
He identifies four main forms that the upper limit takes, four main categories of limiting beliefs. And while he does give a great list of strategies for recognizing when you are ‘upper limiting’ yourself, and reducing its effect, I finished the book greatly impressed but still seeking answers as to how to truly remove the ‘hidden barriers’ as he calls these core limiting beliefs.
One was the belief of being fundamentally unworthy of incredible happiness and success. Another was a concern around outshining others. They all add up to the belief that somehow ‘I’ must not enjoy true success or ‘expand to my full potential’ or something bad will happen. And that belief becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
How do we truly dismantle these beliefs and find the freedom to realize our potential and pursue abundance unapologetically?
My next clue was found in the form of a book by one of my newest favorite authors, Ryan Holiday. In Ego is the Enemy he explores in depth the role of the ego and our relationship with it. There is so much to say about this, I won’t get into it at the moment but suffice it to say that ego is a very real part of your brain that you must learn to observe, understand, and manage from an outside perspective, in order to find both long term success and just in general, inner peace.
It was comforting to find that I am not my ego, and although I lived a large portion of my life being dominated by the ego, I don’t have to continue on that path any longer.
A contributing idea to which we will also return later is the concept of ‘resistance’ as Steven Pressfield lays it out in his series of non-fiction books, The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do the Work, and The Artist’s Journey. If you consider yourself a creative or an artist, or any any kind of soul journey, these are required reading. They are relatively short, and equal parts impactful and entertaining. For their target audience I would dare say they are positively captivating. I have read the greater part of them multiple times.
In short, you must accept and anticipate that the creative journey causes resistance to show up to oppose it. And what I see in his description of this struggle is the wrestling we do to turn away from the way of the ego and embrace instead the call of our soul, of our true self, to embrace our true voice, to do the real work we were put here to do.
The final piece came in the chapter of Wayne Dyer’s book, The Power of Intention, where he talks about self respect coming from viewing yourself as a divine creation, as a ‘piece of God’.
The working of the ego ultimately causes self-rejection. We must choose a better path. I like how Dyer puts it:
“Know that the universe is filled with abundance and prosperity and is available to everyone, and you come down on the side of having that abundance show up for you as well. Your level of self-regard must come from your knowing within yourself that you have a sacred connection. Let nothing shake that divine foundation….self respect is your personal choice. It has nothing to do with what others may think of you. Your self-respect comes from the self and the self alone.”– Wayner Dyer, The Power of Intention, pg 139
The ego is preoccupied with the opinions of others. But we must reject that path and find our identity in a firmer foundation than our accomplishments or reputation.
I learned from Jen Sincero that I could take back ownership of my goals, my desires, and my dreams. I learned from Grant Cardone that I should go further, reject the victim mentality, and take ownership of everything in my life, regardless of the apparent source, and assume the attitude of full control over my circumstances.
Then I learned from Wayne Dyer, and a host of others, but he finally got through to me, that I can take control of my own view, opinion of, and attitude toward, myself. And that my regard for myself does not have to ebb and flow based on my most recent failure or success, but instead is rooted unwaveringly in my identity as a divine creation, intended to be here for a beautiful purpose.
Next time I’ll dive deeper into the concept of the ego, to explain how exposing its nature, and finding a right relationship with ourselves frees us from a fear of success.