There’s Fear Behind Your Procrastination
But it may not be the one that you think.
I have to admit it: I’m a world-class procrastinator. As much as I understand that procrastinating only triggers my anxiety, I sometimes can’t help it. I’ve spent my life choosing to believe that, somehow, my brain is wired to work better under pressure, even when this habit brings me constant headaches. But, there’s something else behind my procrastination: fear. I fear that my work is not good enough. Every time I finish something, my instant reaction is to doubt it. What if there’s a mistake? What if someone else already thought about this, and I’m just making a fool of myself? What if what I’m saying is stupid? The list can continue for pages.
This fear has held me back many times. It is because of this fear that I have lost jobs, clients, and even friends. I’ve missed out on many great opportunities because of it. Until recently, I believed that I was afraid of not being good enough or failing. It’s perfectly normal, right? Most of us are afraid of failing.
A few weeks ago, while having a conversation with a close friend (who is, by the way, an excellent psychologist), she told me that my fear of failure was not real; that it was a crappy excuse that I continued to use because what I really feared was to be successful. At first, I dismissed her comment and told her she was absolutely wrong. Why wouldn’t I want to be successful? But the subject piked my interest, and I started looking for more information about it. What I learned was both shocking and eye-opening.
Fear of Success is Extremely Common
Some people are afraid of criticism; others fear losing their loved ones. There are some who fear that success will become a burden and force them to work non-stop in order to maintain status. As it turns out, there’s an underlying desire not to succeed every time most of us start something new. While we want the benefits of success, we don’t want the potential changes it may bring into our lives.
Women Fear Success More than Men
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Regardless of our professional path and conscious decisions, most of us still have an ingrained idea of what society expects from women. We fear we will be seen as too aggressive, too ambitious, or too self-absorbed. The media portrays successful women as heartless creatures, unworthy of love. Don’t believe me? Take, for example, the very famous “The Devil Wears Prada” movie (among many, many others). The message for women is that success comes with a cost. Successful women don’t have successful relationships, or they neglect their children. They can only think about themselves.
Fear of Success Does Not Eliminate Fear of Failure
One could think that if you fear success, at least you know you’re not a failure. But the human mind works in pretty mysterious ways, and both fears can easily coexist. The combination of them can be pretty paralyzing. In my mind, every time I finish something, I can hear a voice asking, “what if it doesn’t work?” and another one saying, “And what if it does?”. I’ve learned that those are normal questions, and I don’t have the answer for either of them. The only thing I can do is take my chances and hope for the best.
Fear Will Not Go Away
Fear is there to protect you from danger, and, as a natural human response, it will not go away. But once you can coexist with your fear, you will also be able to move past it. It’s okay to be afraid of failure or success (both of which are basically fear of the unknown). What’s not okay is to let your fear stop you.
Next time you find yourself procrastinating, analyze the reasons behind your behavior. While many people believe it’s just laziness, chances are there’s a lot more to it. If what stops you is fear, don’t try to make it disappear, but understand it. What is that fear protecting you from? Once you can consciously see that there’s no impending danger, fear will slowly lose intensity, and you will gain confidence. The only way to get there is repetition and consistent work.