“Wait, you’re scared to be… successful?”

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My career coach at Bryant University looked at me with pity. It was the spring of my junior year and I was back on campus after a semester abroad. I had just let it slip that I was afraid of being successful, which at Bryant can be equated with a deadly disease. As I tried to explain myself, I realized all I could say was that I was afraid of being in a position to succeed. Trading my comfortable summer job at a restaurant for the hustle and bustle of Boston intimidated me. As crazy as it sounds, when applying for internships I was more relieved than disappointed when a company passed on my application. When companies would request interviews, however, I was sent into a tizzy of worry. What if they hired me? What if I couldn’t conduct myself appropriately in a corporate setting? What if my success caused others to judge me?

As you can imagine, this mindset produced terrible results. I did not showcase my personality or capabilities during interviews, and probably missed great opportunities due to my fear of actually getting a job. My career coach ever so delicately reminded me that the recruiting season was coming to a close and it was down to the wire. I realized I had to find a company to intern with, and fast if I wanted to get anywhere in my career. In hindsight, I realize my career wouldn’t be over if I didn’t have an internship my junior year of college. But that’s beside point. When I applied to my final internship, I gave the process all I had. I put all the negative thoughts behind me and had a phenomenal phone screen and follow-up interview. I was extended an offer, yet my downswing of stress began again. While I was relieved that I could relax for the rest of the semester, I started to panic as the same old thoughts crept into my head. What if I didn’t want to be in the spotlight? What if they realize they made a mistake in hiring me? Even worse, what if I shine during the internship and they begin to expect more out of me than I can produce? All of these questions were flying around in my head during the rest of the semester, up until about halfway through my internship.

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At this point, I could tell you a long story about unreliable commuter rails, smelly subways and very awkward moments of me not knowing how to act around COOs in the beginning of my internship, but I’ll spare you these details and move right on to my pivotal moment. About halfway through the summer, I was on the train journaling about my day when I realized my fear of success stemmed from the unknown that comes with actually being successful. Recently, I was introduced to a quote by Marianne Williamson that describes my experience to a tee. It reads, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” Journaling on that 419 train, I realized that I truly am powerful beyond measure. I can do anything that I work hard for and should be proud of the accomplishments I have made to get here. I needed to stop convincing myself that success would bring negativity and recognize the light I bring. The realization brought closure to my once negative mindset and I am tremendously proud of the transformation I underwent.

Even though I can reflect on my experiences in a positive light, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back and organizing my roller coaster of emotions, I realized I conquered my fear of success by taking a handful of simple steps. I can describe them as follows:

  1. Create your own definition of what success means to you
  2. Question what about that definition scares you
  3. Determine how this fear has led to your self-sabotage
  4. Train yourself to manifest this fear as excitement
  5. Use this new excitement to give 110% effort in your quest for success

Just because I came to this realization doesn’t mean my journey is over. I still use these steps to encourage my development and keep my anxiety at bay. Whether it is setting up a meeting with my mentor, or applying to a job that may be out of my league, I always try to transform my fear into excitement. I look at past stressors as an opportunity to better myself. Instead of waiting until you’re wedged between two people on a 100-degree train to recognize that success shouldn’t be something to fear, I encourage you to self-reflect, fear no fear, and embrace and bask in the bright light that is within all of us.

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