June 28, 2024

Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Embrace the Fear of Success and Achieve Your Goals

Photo of Justine Friedman, Registered Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor
Justine Friedman
Registered Clinical Dietitian and Mindset Mentor

Have you ever come tantalizingly close to achieving a goal, only to find your plans derailed at the last minute? The thrill of almost reaching the finish line can quickly turn into frustration, especially when you realize that the obstacles in your path might be self-inflicted. Self-sabotage is a perplexing phenomenon that leaves many wondering why they would undermine their own success. While fear of failure is a concept most people understand, the fear of success can be even more insidious, preventing us from achieving what is in our best interests.

Understanding the Anatomy of Fear

To comprehend the fear of success, we need to delve into the anatomy of fear itself. In sports psychology, there is a phenomenon known as “big match temperament” (BMT), which refers to whether a sports team or individual can perform under pressure and succeed. As a passionate South African cricket supporter, I have often experienced the agony of watching our team, the Proteas, falter at the brink of success. One particularly heart-wrenching example is the 1999 World Cup semi-final, where a single run stood between victory and defeat. Despite a remarkable comeback, the team fell short in the most unthinkable way, leaving every South African deflated.

Similarly, in tennis, watching a favorite player serve for the match only to double fault and lose is equally gut-wrenching. These scenarios exemplify how coming close to success and then failing can create a psychological hurdle that is hard to overcome. The emotional flashbacks of previous defeats can cause a negative cycle, making it difficult to break free from repeated poor performances.

The Fear of Success in Personal Context

Witnessing others lose self-belief from the sidelines is often easier than recognizing it in our own lives. This past Shabbat, I was reading Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt’’l’s commentary on Parshat Shelach Lecha. He discussed the fear of success in relation to the spies sent by Moshe to scout the land of Israel. Despite witnessing miracles and receiving the Torah, only two of the twelve spies returned with a positive report. The other ten, though accurate in their descriptions, gave negative recommendations, fearing the transition from the comfort of the desert, where all their needs were provided for, to the uncertainty of self-sufficiency in the promised land.

This example highlights that part of the fear of success is the shift required from one state to another. Transitioning from a comfort zone to a new situation can be daunting. Whether it’s moving to a new place, starting a new job, or changing lifestyle habits, the fear of the unknown and the discomfort of change can lead to self-sabotage.

Self-Sabotage and Weight Loss Motivation

In my field of interest, particularly in wellness and weight loss motivation, self-sabotage is a common theme. Many clients harbor beliefs about themselves that keep them in their comfort zones, even if they are unhappy. Dreaming of a goal becomes part of their identity, and achieving that dream forces them to confront new realities and expectations. This can lead to anxiety about the future and fear of living up to new standards.

For instance, in weight loss motivation, clients often sabotage their progress due to fear of change. Achieving a significant goal might alter relationships and self-perceptions. Success can evoke resentment from others, leading to uncomfortable dynamics. Internally, there may be anxiety about new responsibilities and the pressure to maintain the success. This fear of being in the spotlight and feeling unworthy of achievements can result in imposter syndrome, where individuals doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as frauds.

The Comfort of Familiar Failure

As counterintuitive as it sounds, failing can sometimes provide a sense of relief. When we try and fail, we return to the familiarity of our comfort zones. This known territory, though disappointing, is less intimidating than the unknown territory of success. The fear of success often lies in the uncharted territory it brings, requiring us to adapt and confront new challenges.

Embracing Change and Success

Change is inevitable, and resisting it only prolongs discomfort. The past 18 months have shown us how quickly life can change, and our ability to adapt is crucial. By getting comfortable with being in a state of flux, we can better handle transitions. Just as holding our breath is unnatural and unsustainable, resisting change is futile.

Recognizing patterns of self-sabotage is the first step toward overcoming them. Life pushes us out of our comfort zones, and taking proactive steps toward success can be empowering. A well-thought-out strategy, along with a mentor’s guidance, can significantly reduce the overwhelm associated with big goals. Breaking down goals into manageable steps makes the process less daunting and increases the likelihood of success.

Small Steps to Big Success

Consider the analogy of boiling a frog. If placed in cold water and slowly heated, the frog adjusts to the gradual temperature change and stays in longer. Similarly, approaching goals in small increments helps us adjust without feeling overwhelmed. By taking one step at a time, we can build momentum and gradually transition from one state to another, making each new state more comfortable.

Success is within reach when we allow ourselves to step out of our comfort zones. It’s like climbing a ladder, where each step is a small victory, building confidence for the next. This incremental approach applies to all areas of life, from health and wellness to business and relationships. The more we practice stepping out of our comfort zones, the stronger our resilience becomes.

The Benefits of Embracing Success

What do you stand to gain by stepping out of your comfort zone? Everything. By committing to this process, you open up the possibility of becoming the best version of yourself. Success validates your efforts and aspirations, proving that you are capable of achieving your goals.

I challenge you to take that brave step toward success. Whether it’s a wellness goal, a career milestone, or a personal achievement, approach it with small, manageable steps. With each step, you’ll build confidence, adapt to new situations, and ultimately reach your desired goals.

For more information on how I can help you achieve your unique goals, contact me at justine@justinefriedman.com. Together, we can overcome self-sabotage, embrace success, and realize your full potential.

Photo of Justine Friedman, Registered Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor
Justine Friedman
Registered Clinical Dietitian and Mindset Mentor
Justine is a seasoned Clinical Dietician with over two decades of experience in private practice. Holding a Bachelor of Science from WITS and an Honorary Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from UCT, she is both South African qualified and Israeli licensed. Justine's journey into nutrition was deeply personal, stemming from her own battles with weight management, emotional eating, and adapting her diet post-40 to meet the changing needs of her body. This personal connection to her field fuels her mission to empower clients to forge a harmonious relationship with food and their bodies. Understanding the complexity of diet, hormones, gut health, and eating habits, Justine brings empathy and expertise to her practice. She is dedicated to helping individuals overcome the cycle of dieting and self-sabotage by fostering a profound understanding of their own bodies. Justine's approach is grounded in the belief that knowledge is power—by understanding your body, you can work with it, not against it, to achieve lasting health and wellness.