Why Women Fear Success and Why We Shouldn’t
I feel like we need a big pow-wow on this topic.
Research shows that while women fear becoming bag ladies, they also fear success. Specifically, women are afraid that success will alienate them, according to the 2013 Allianz Women, Money, and Power Study. The thinking is that if they earn too much, they won’t be liked. And what ‘s more, the single ladies fear they won’t be attractive to men.
This isn’t part of the study, but we also fear that more success will lead to a more chaotic life than we already have; more will be demanded of us, we’ll be pulled in more directions, and we’ll lose our already precious free time and energy. (Women tend to think through the consequences more than men do; men will often just power forward).
But if you’re not careful, your fears can keep you down in a big way.
According to Nathaniel Branden, author of the classic The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, we can be just as frightened of our assets, our genius, our ambitions, and our excitement, as we are our shortcomings, and we will unconsciously sabotage ourselves at the crossroads or height of success.
So let’s debunk these fears now.
FEAR OF LOSING YOUR FREE TIME OR ENERGY: The fact is, you are in control of your time and energy no matter how successful you get. If you don’t do this now, it’s a good time to start practicing establishing boundaries and honoring them (and not worrying about who doesn’t like it). Before you say ‘yes’ to someone you’d rather say ‘no’ to, or to something that’s not important to you, remember you’re not only betraying yourself with that yes (sounds harsh, but it’s true; and it can mentally and physically affect you), but remember too that others will not hesitate to say no to you if it means protecting their time with their family or business or what’s important to them. We worry about saying no, but we need to worry more about saying yes. Yeses are valuable; don’t give them out freely. Remember that protecting your time and energy is completely in your power no matter how successful you get (I know one super-successful woman who says that unless it’s a life-and-death emergency, and not just someone else’s idea of an emergency, her personal agenda comes first). Another thing to remember is that as you get more successful in your business or career, you will have more capital to pay for technology and support that frees up more of your time and energy.
FEAR OF NOT BEING ATTRACTIVE TO MEN: This seems like a no-brainer. Do you want to attract a man who wants to suppress who you are, or one who wants you to thrive? You don’t need to do anything here but be yourself fully and unabashedly. You will attract exactly the right men and repel exactly the wrong ones. (Also, check out Farnoosh Torabi’s book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women).
FEAR OF NOT BEING LIKED: Consider that 66% of Americans are unsatisfied with their lives and feel unfulfilled (according to a 2013 Harris Poll). Couple that with the negatively-biased culture we live in (we have about 70,000 thoughts a day and at least 85% are negative, research shows), where negativity is accepted and expected and enjoys company. It starts to make sense why you’d fear not being liked for trying to be your best. A positive, happy, successful person—and by success, I mean your personal version of success—is almost an anomaly; they make up only a small percentage of the population. And you want to be one of them.
We can blame some of this on our biology. We’re wired to pay more attention to negatives than positives (which for early humans was helpful for survival).
But here’s the thing: You are here to be your most valuable self, and to express your gifts and talents fully. To do that you must allow yourself to shine and not shrink back, regardless of who won’t like you or who will drop out of your life. This isn’t easy for women—I’ve had trouble with this, and still do at times. But the kind of people who wouldn’t like you because you’re doing cool things or living a fulfilling life aren’t the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. We need to surround ourselves with like-minded people who inspire, nurture and support us (while we give the same back).
It helps to remember that the people who wouldn’t like you for being happy or successful made a choice not to pursue that life. Pursuing a richer, more successful life is everyone’s right. Neuroscience now shows that your mindset governs your circumstances. If you change your mindset to knowing anything is possible, set goals, have high expectations, create a strategy, visualize your goals happening, and get out there and actively make them happen, you will re-wire your brain and change the circumstances of your life. We all have what it takes, we are all worthy of and can have a richer life, but only some people will go after it.
We’re not doing ourselves or anyone else any favors by fearing having the wrong people like us, saying ‘yes’ to the wrong things or attracting the wrong men.
This world needs us to be at our best.
We need to start being honest and joyful about our success and honor and celebrate ourselves and each other. That’s empowered thinking. That’s where we all need to be.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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