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Chapter 4. It's All in Your Head > It Has to Be Perfect - Pg. 38

It's All in Your Head 38 My first reaction was, "How bogus! Why would anyone be afraid of success, especially someone who has made a point of positioning herself or himself on the road to success? Who wouldn't want fame, fortune, and glory?" About 50 psychology classes and a little life experience later, I came to realize that the term does make sense. It's not that some people don't want to succeed. They are just afraid of how their lives may change if they do achieve success. Fear of success happens because we have thoughts such as the following: Fearful thought:If I accomplish this task or reach this goal, people's expectations of me will increase greatly and then I'll have to do even better the next time, or at least keep up the same standards. Example:If the boss praises my sales figures this month, I'll have to perform just as well, if not even better, in all the months that follow. The procrastinator's escape route:Put off making the phone call that's necessary to close a deal until it's too late and the sale has already gone to a competitor. Fearful thought:If I accomplish this task or reach this goal, I'll then have to go on to the next set of goals or tasks, and I'm not sure I have the stamina, ability, or desire to keep going. Example:If I am successful at cleaning out the garage, then I'll have to move on to the attic, the kitchen cabinets, the closets, and who knows what else. The procrastinator's escape route:Don't clean out the garage and instead say that you'll do it next spring when it will be "the right time" to do all the cleaning and organizing chores. Fearful thought:If I accomplish this task or reach this goal, my life will change in ways that I can't handle or might not want to handle. Example:If I am successful at getting onto television talk shows to promote the unique small business I've just started, I might have to travel more than I want to, or I might not have lost 10 pounds by then and will look fat on television. The procrastinator's escape route:Don't get around to writing the press release necessary for publicizing your business and keep putting off making a call to the TV producer a friend referred you to. Fearful thought:If I accomplish this task or reach this goal, I will become a different person. Example:If I am elected to city council, my friends and family might not treat me like the old me anymore. They may be threatened or jealous and think of me as a different person. I might not even recognize myself anymore. I'm just not the successful type. That wouldn't be me. The procrastinator's escape route:Don't run for office so there's no chance of winning, even though friends and family are telling you that you should enter the race and that you have a good chance of winning. As you can see, having a fear of success doesn't mean that you wouldn't want to be successful. It just means that you aren't comfortable with what would be expected of you or how your identity might change if you did achieve success. To avoid that discomfort, you might engage in selfdefeating behaviors such as those described in the preceding examples. It Has to Be Perfect Striving for excellence is a good thing. Striving to be perfect is not. What's the difference? Perfec- tionists are extreme and obsessive in their thinking. They become preoccupied with being perfect and are often controlling in their efforts to reach perfection. There's nothing wrong with wanting to give 100 percent effort to a project or having high standards for how you carry it out. There is something wrong with thinking that everything you do must be done flawlessly.