Have you ever felt scared of being successful?
I know, weird question, right? I mean, who would be scared of the very thing they’re working towards?
It’s a real thing, because I am one of those people who learned they weren’t where they wanted to be because they’re scared of who they’d become once they became it!
And that of course led to something many of us are more familiar with—Imposter Syndrome. Yup, that part of you that’s all like “You have no clue what you’re talking about, you don’t belong here with these people! Who are you to take clients when you really have no experience or credentials like everyone else. No one will hire you once they find out.”
And yes, that’s me too.
All throughout my life I’ve felt like an imposter, or at best “not good enough”. Had I known there was a way to break through this BS, I’d have done it years ago!
However, learning things the hard way seems to be my life path. So that’s what I’ve done, and through that discovered some tips and tricks to instantly turning around those lame feelings of success anxiety and imposter syndrome.
I use these all the time and have found myself able to accept who I am and what I do with more grace and ease. It makes the hard tasks more rewarding, and has boosted my confidence and courage to a level I didn’t think I could handle (but I can, and so can you). Part of my mission is to empower others to be themselves and do big things in the world. If that’s you, read on.
Here we go. My top five tips to kick success anxiety and imposter syndrome to the curb and get on with it already:
Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Nervous and excited are the same thing
Physiologically, nervousness and excitement are pretty much the same thing, it’s just what we tell ourselves they are that makes the difference. Meaning, the body has the same response in both instances, but on the mental level it’s a whole different story.
When we tell ourselves we’re nervous, we often talk ourselves out of doing the thing we might have excitedly previously planned. Going down that fear spiral can send us into a state of such anxiety that we choose to remain small and scared, perhaps letting the opportunity pass us by. We feel meek and unprepared, feeling like a failure before it even begins.
By doing this, you are anchoring in the “truth” that fear outweighs any possible reward you may receive from taking a risk. The comfort and safety of who you currently are is derived from the comfort and safety of no risk-taking in the past, and you’re creating that same future if you don’t make any changes to that pattern.
However, in that same situation, should we tell ourselves we’re excited, the experience becomes joyful, fun, and positive. We ramp ourselves up for whatever it is, and have a kick-ass time. We come off the experience on a high with lots of energy and inspiration.
This is the other side of your fear—the fun. Our fears are illusions, and when we have that sense of adventure and curiosity about life, we break down those illusions and simply experience the present moment (more on this later). Looking for the excitement in new opportunities also creates the space for all the solutions to come in.
It’s all perspective and our human judgment that keeps us either in fear or having a good time and actually having that good time.
When we’re hearing the nagging voice of fear, we can turn around what we’re telling ourselves about how we’re judging the situation. Instead of saying “I’m so nervous” try saying “I’m so excited I get to do this, even if I’m scared”.
Claim Your Space
Speaking of turning around what you’re saying, stop comparing yourself to others. Your journey isn’t theirs, and you get to be YOU, not someone else.
Anytime you’re comparing yourself you’re putting your focus and need for validation outside yourself. The truth is, you don’t need the outside validation! It’s all a lie. You give your power away when you look for fulfillment from what’s on the outside.
You belong wherever you are.
Wherever you are is where you are meant to be. Otherwise you wouldn’t be there. You were brought to certain opportunities, people, and places for a reason. If you’ve ever read The Celestine Prophecy you know what I mean. There’s always a gift for you wherever you are, and you are also meant to share a gift when you are there. We often do this unconsciously, but when you know where to look, it’s quite a remarkable experience.
Reminding yourself that you belong wherever you are can be hard for some, but necessary to get out of any fear of success. Remember all the hard work you did to get where you are? That’s why you belong. Remember the dream that burns inside you that you refuse to let die? That’s why you belong. Remember that you’re forging a path to leave your legacy? Yeah, that’s why you belong.
Opening your heart to remembering that many other people also feel the same is another way to connect to that sense of belonging. You’re not the only one with imposter syndrome thinking they’re in the wrong place when they show up for a convention or speech.
Connect with that part of you and hold compassion for yourself as you grow into who you are meant to be. When you can do this for yourself, you do this for others, and create a sense of belonging together, simply as humans.
This space of belonging, community, is what we’re all looking for anyway, so don’t let the judgmental illusion of “status” take your focus away.
Face Your Fear. Fear is an illusion.
Humans judge everything. There are false illusions all over the place, fear being one and status another. We tend to get very hung up on status, creating fear among our peers simply because they may have a title of “power” that we don’t.
The mind takes us to the worst case scenario because this is how we used to survive. What are you going to do when you get attacked by a mountain lion out hunting for dinner at the same time as you? We may not be dealing with this worst-case, but we can often project some undesirable outcome onto our dreams to instill fear rather quickly, causing us to abandon the very thing we want.
One that comes around a lot is the artists or entrepreneurs who fear if they actually pursue their passions they will lose their money, home, family, and will end up living under a bridge, eating garbage, and sleeping next to a body that may or may not be alive.
And sure, that’s a legit fear.
But how likely is it that it’s going to happen (and happen that way)? It’s probably not, so you can stop worrying now. It’s just made up based on fears from the past. You can’t possibly know an outcome, so why spend your precious time focused on being afraid of something that’s highly unlikely?
I mean, if you want that outcome, go right ahead and keep that at the forefront of your mind. As we know, what you focus on expands, so should you stay rooted in that worst-case, you are asking for that reality.
Instead, let that be one possibility. Create some different ones for yourself. Some that have a happier ending please. See possibilities of actually succeeding (and not being afraid of it). Know that because you had the idea for something, there is a way for it to manifest. Visualize, journal, meditate, and feel into what might be on the other side of all that fear.
What if we trained ourselves to go to the best-case scenario instead of the worst?
Tweak Your Speak.
One of the best ways to bring yourself out of fear is by using a mantra or affirmation. Now, the reason that most of the time they don’t work is because they don’t resonate.
Often when we use mantras and affirmations we’re trying to convince ourselves to believe something we don’t (and aren’t gonna no matter how bad we want to).
Our beliefs are held so deeply and closely that we aren’t so ready to easily let go.
Let’s make our words really work for us, at a cellular level instead of a mind-driven “logical” level.
When a belief is ingrained in the body, it’s in the programming of the cell, so in order to change that we must start with the words we choose to think. By trying to tell yourself you’re happy when you’re really not, your body’s resistance is the belief that you can’t be happy. So no matter how loud you scream “I’m freaking happy, damnit!” you’re not going to change your state of being for any permanent amount of time.
However, if you use something like “I am willing to experience joy today”, there’s a whole different energy behind it. You’re telling your subconscious that even though you might not believe it right now, you’re open to the possibility of believing it in the future. It’s a safe (and somewhat trickster) way for your subconscious to adopt a new belief.
When you’re faced with fear, your affirmation or mantra could be “I am willing to do [this thing], even if I am scared”. It’s simply the willingness that starts to open up the space for things to change and fear to transmute to excitement and inspiration.
Using what I call “softener” words like willing, open, ready, and available, tricks the mind and body into creating new patterns. And since the brain and the body don’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, it becomes effortless to dissolve the old ways of thinking and forge ahead into the unknown with confidence and courage.
Shine Bright (Even if you’re scared)
There’s a reason why things come naturally to you and why you’re drawn to certain creative endeavors. Your gifts and talents are yours! Use them!!!
Remembering what you love to do leads you to where you need to be. It presents big (often scary big) opportunities for you to express your gifts and talents, and invites you to step in to the experience. However, the fear that pops up when it comes to embracing who we are sends many running for the hills.
We fear being ourselves for various reasons that are all valid. But when we give ourselves permission to be exactly who we are, every moment of every day, without judgment or doubt, then we are absolutely unstoppable.
Allowing your gifts and talents to shine through manifests those scary moments in time when you realize your dream is actually about to come true. This is the tipping point. The universe sends its final test, and it scares the living shit out of us. This is the exact place where you can shine and reap the rewards of staring fear in the face.
When we fully embrace who we are, using our gifts, honing our talents, and sharing them with the world, we are helping to break down the collective barrier of fear of who we are. We are courageously showing the world that we aren’t afraid to be ourselves and can spend our time here on Earth being filled with the things we love.
Embodying our passions gives us joy for what we do for work. It elicits our inner power and light to shine through. And the more you are who you are, the more is drawn to you to help express and amplify who you are.
Knowing that your fear is an illusion and that the things that come easily to you are meant to be expressed, you can dissolve the success anxiety and imposter syndrome by being willing to get paid to be you. And if that thought doesn’t sit well, this bonus tip is your ticket to freedom.
Bonus tip! Be present.
Be in your body. Be in the moment. You can’t be anywhere else.
Your body will always tell you what’s happening when you stop and listen. It will also tell you what you need, what to do, and reveal information to guide you. All you need to do is get out of your head and be present in the now. Feel your feet on the ground, the beat of your heart, the movement of your breath, and the space you take up.
This is my go-to trick that I use when fear, doubt, worry, nerves, anger—really any intense emotion—starts to creep in and hijack my state of being.
First of all, allow yourself to acknowledge and recognize what it is you’re feeling and fully feel it. There’s no point in denying how you feel as that refusal just imprints the experience in your cellular memory anyway, burying it for future reference.
And speaking of imprints, healing them is just a matter of acknowledgement and openness. When you’re experiencing fear or thinking of something that evokes fear (like the work it would take to realize your dreams) notice where it lives in your body.
Be present with whatever sensations want to come through. Stay out of the mind and let any thoughts pass by bringing the attention back into the body. Pinpoint where the sensation feels the most intense and simply stay with it. Time is the only aspect we can’t control, but eventually you will notice something energetically shift in the physical body.
Continue to notice how you feel, following the sensations if they move around. If nothing seems to be there now, bring back the thought or experience that was causing the fear and notice what happens in your body this time. Continue pinpointing and keeping your focus on the sensations and notice what happens. After however long it takes, there should be peace where the fear was.
Fear is a natural part of our life, but it doesn’t have to always be the one driving the bus. Our fear can ride along with us, but it’s best kept strapped in the backseat (or even better, the trunk). It’s ok to be scared to do new things, but it’s high time to stop letting this fear keep us from living our lives.
Some simple awareness and willingness to leap into the great unknown can help conquer the fears about how successful we can be without feeling like an imposter while doing it. It’s a matter of being open to making some new choices about who you get to be.
When in situations that bring up fear, ask yourself to be honest about what you’re really afraid of. Most of the time it isn’t the thing you’re afraid of (public speaking), it’s the feeling that might be associated with it (the embarrassment from that time in third grade when you forgot the words to your oral report and the class laughed at you).
A little awareness and honest acknowledgement can go a long way. Call it what it is and choose to take the steps to change the pattern. Heal the feeling, heal the fear. Get uncomfortable. Grow.
Now go out and change the world!
Katie Cavenagh is an energy alignment specialist, sound healer, and wordsmith. She is driven to spread conscious awareness by teaching others how to heal themselves. By accessing a deeper understanding of how we create our reality, Katie leads you to manifest a life you love living by aligning the five energies that drive your creative forces.