Recently, I sent out a survey to my community of 50,000+ subscribers – many of whom are deeply longing to launch themselves and their ventures to the highest level, and make a big impact in the world. I asked my community to share about the types of programs they’d like to see and what holds them back from investing in a career success program. (By the way, this is a very useful exercise that all businesses, entrepreneurs and service providers should undertake – openly ask your community what they want and need, and listen to their feedback.)
I received some very helpful input, all about what they want, why they joined my programs or didn’t, and where they are in the lives, businesses and careers. And much of what they shared revealed deeper information about their fears.
After reading these survey comments and my community’s wishes and dreams, it became more clear than ever that what holds so many women back from taking even one small step forward is their deep-seated fears about what high-level success will bring, and what they will have to face about themselves to get it.
The top 6 limiting fears that hold women back from embracing change, and making their biggest visions a reality are:
“I’m not worthy of success.”
The top challenge I see among people who want so much more in life but aren’t getting it is, deep down, they believe they don’t really deserve it. Most often, someone (like their mother or father, or an important authority figure) told them they’re not smart, talented, courageous, strong or persistent enough to make great things happen in their lives. They’ve heard they’re lazy, childish, stupid, or lacking some key trait the authority figure was sure they needed. And they’ve bought into this nonsense, and can’t shake it. They think that success is only for the “worthy.” They don’t understand that great success is available and possible for anyone who is ready to do the committed inner and outer work necessary to be of great help in the world.
Tip: Every single person on this planet is worthy of success. It wasn’t handed out in small doses to a few select individuals when we were born. You can have the success you want, but not until you understand that it’s your actions, mindset and your commitment that need revision, not the world outside yourself.
“I’m not good/smart enough.”
Another crushing fear is that “I don’t have the goods (compared to others) to have fantastic success.” Folks with this fear look around at the competition and think, “Oh brother…They have so much more to offer than I do.” Or “They are much farther ahead in terms of talent, smarts, education, credentials, and ability than I am.” The reality is that the top competition might be 10 (or 100) steps ahead of you, but unless you’re OK with the idea that you have some learning to do, and start doing something about it, you’ll never get out of the starting gate.
Tip: Don’t run from the fact that you need to grow and learn. Embrace it, and do something important today to expand your toolbox.
“My life will spin out of control.”
I’ve seen evidence of this fear countless times among women – especially women who have young children and women who wish to have families. They fear that great success will take over their lives, wreak havoc on their personal time, and make it impossible to live the life they want. In my coaching work, I address these fears by helping my clients understand what’s required to prioritize their non-negotiables and live from that knowledge. After all, you can’t “unring” a bell, meaning once you figure out what you need to have and do in your life to build a great one on your terms, you’ll start to erect the appropriate the boundaries and build the chops you need to make those priorities a reality.
Tip: Your life won’t spin out of control if you don’t let it. Make a list of your top priorities in life – both short-term and long-term – and start enforcing your boundaries (saying “no” to those people and projects that impinge on them) so that your success will not suck all the time, joy and purpose out of your life.
“People will find out what I don’t know.”
This impostor fear (that you’re not who you are pretending to be) is highly active in so many women. I see women incredibly fearful about coming out in the world because they’re scared people will poke serious holes in what they think, believe, and do. They’re afraid to develop their thought leadership, to write that blog, develop that workshop or book (and say what they really want to say), because they fear others will tear it down and label them hacks, wannabees and “fakers.”
Tip: It’s a fact – the more you stretch, the more people will try to tear you down. As you spread your wings wider and farther, you’ll inevitably bump into more challenge and disagreement. That’s part of the territory. The question is, “How much do you really want this? “ If you want greater success, you need to stop yourself from feeling emotionally devastated when people attack you and your work. And you need to stop feeling elated when people say you’re great. Either edge of that sword – being wedded to praise or destroyed by criticism – will hold you back.
“Scary things will happen to me when the world knows about me.”
My friends, clients and colleagues have shared with me that, deep down, they’re afraid of a hostile world, and of what will come when they are more successful. They’re afraid that strangers will know too much about their lives, hurt them, or invade their privacy in a harmful way. They also see how hateful the internet can be, and how anonymous commentators take others down with cruelty and vitriol a thousand times a day for what they’re putting out in the world.
Tip: If you want “safe,” you’ll have to learn to be happy living and operating in a very small, controlled sphere. If you want tremendous success, you’ll need to get comfortable with the unknown, and in trusting that the Universe is basically friendly, if you are committed to doing your part to make it that way.
“I’ll blow it badly and won’t recover.”
Finally, this fear – that you’ll make some very serious public mistakes that you can’t recover from – is the most limiting. We’ve all heard that you have to embrace failure and make it your friend if you want success at the highest level. But I’ve seen that people who are “perfectionist overfunctioners” – doing more than is healthy, more than is appropriate, and more than is necessary and needing an “A+” in all of it — actually can’t overcome this fear without help. They have very fragile egos. They live in fear that they’ll blow it, because when they slip up and make mistakes, they allow their mistakes to shatter and defeat them. (This fear of failure is often developed in childhood, exacerbated by overly-demanding and overbearing parents who don’t know how to parent effectively.)
Tip: If you simply can’t live with failure of any kind, please don’t kid yourself. You’re not confident and controlled – you’re afraid. (I know because I used to be just that.) The best way to get over that fear is to start making mistakes, and learn to love yourself in the face of them . Stretch out of your comfort zone and agree to allow yourself to mess up, and high-five yourself when you do.
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized career success coach, writer, trainer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough:The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose, and Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. and the Amazing Career Project, focused on helping professional women build successful, rewarding careers of significance. A Forbes, Huffington Post and LinkedIn contributor and top media source on women’s career and workplace issues, she has appeared in over 100 leading newspapers and magazines and on national radio and television. For more information, visit www.kathycaprino.com and connect with Kathy on: Twitter, FB, LinkedIn.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.