Let’s get that question I know is on your mind out of the way first, shall we?
We’re familiar with the term “Baby Boomer” – according to Dictionary.com, it refers to people born between 1946 and 1965. When you segment that number range further and look at Beresford Research’s table and definition, the Boomer II designation includes those people born between 1955 and 1964.
For this article, I’m specifically speaking to and about Women born during the Boomer II period.
Psychology Today defines the fear of success as the fear of succeeding or accomplishing your set goals and the tendency to shun success.
In the early days, the fear of success was thought to be primarily felt by women because attempting to succeed placed a woman in a conflict between “normally accepted” social values and the values that experts believed grew out of the pursuit of success.
The “normally accepted” societal values told women to focus on the home and to focus less on their personal need for success. It has long been observed that both men and women experience the fear of success, but the pressure to pay more attention to home life is most often targeted at women.
The fear of success syndrome is also known as the Horner effect or the Jonah complex. [Proposed by Matina Horner in 1969]
While success theoretically doesn’t sound like something we should fear, the fear of success is real and can prevent many women from reaching their personal and career potential. It’s important to point out here that research has observed that, in most cases, what Boomer II women fear isn’t success itself but the potential price for their success and the potential negative outcomes that success brings.
Personality Aspects that Indicate a Fear of Success in Boomer II Women
There are a few personality aspects that indicate the presence of a fear of success, and you should look out for them if you suspect that you have a fear of success.
Aspect 1: Lack of Goals and Motivation
Boomer II Women who have an established fear of success ensure that they never take any real, productive steps toward achieving success. They do this by permanently crippling themselves with a lack of goals and, making it worse, not allowing themselves to feel the motivation to achieve them.
Motivation is essential for accomplishing the goals you set – and a lack of motivation contributes to a lack of enthusiasm for pursuing your goals. Contributing factors can include the following:
- Spreading yourself too thin (or the belief that you’re doing that)
- Doubting yourself and your abilities to complete the tasks you take on
- Low energy levels and a “blue” mood
These and other factors can aggravate the challenge of always having low expectations – describing yourself as feeling “aimless” or “being adrift” and describing your state of being as “unmotivated” – lacking the drive or ambition to set and pursue meaningful goals.
Aspect 2: Giving Up Easily or Prematurely
Giving up easily or prematurely is another indicator of the presence of a fear of success.
While knowing when to let go of an unproductive pursuit is essential and considered a vital skill, people with a fear of success put in just a little effort and then “give up.”
People with a fear of success might put in 80% of the required effort to achieve success and then give up just when they sense that they are about to achieve it.
The last 20% of effort and the prospect of winning seems to be too much for them, and this discomfort manifests in an abandonment of all their previous work.
“Letting up on the gas” at the last minute causes a failure to reach the overall goal and results in feelings of unworthiness. It’s worth taking some time to think about why success makes you apprehensive or uncertain.
It could be related to a lack of self-confidence, trying not to be “noticed” or “stand out,” or feeling unworthy of being the “stand out.”
Aspect 3: Conscious or Unconscious Procrastination
Procrastination is another clear sign that you have a fear of success – whether you recognize it as a delaying tactic or not.
Conscious procrastination takes the form of avoiding important tasks, though we know it’s likely to end up with a negative consequence.
Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, states that: “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”
When you unconsciously procrastinate, you will spend time and effort on trivial activities rather than focusing on essential, important tasks that will get you across the finish line.
Dr. Sirois further asserts that procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task in front of you.
Putting off tasks that will help you succeed until the last possible moment is one way of not doing your best to succeed, and if it’s a repeated habit, it’s worth examining and taking action to correct it.
Aspect 4: Self-Handicapping
Apart from procrastination and a tendency to give up on the verge of achieving success, a person who fears success will intentionally place impediments in their path to succeeding or doing well.
These impediments or hindrances can range from severe self-destructive behaviors to minor acts of self-sabotage.
Other signs that you may suffer from the fear of success include:
- Fearing the changes that will occur once you’re successful and attracting the spotlight that success often brings.
- Being bothered about the people you’ll leave behind if you’re successful and having to move forward to bigger and better things.
This might mean a new department, a new office, and a new set of friends/colleagues in the workspace.
- Dreading the extra responsibilities that come with being more successful or attaining a new status.
- A fear of how complicated things might get when you’re tasked with more important responsibilities because of your success. This can be self-doubt or an innate worry that you won’t be able to cope with the new tasks.
According to research, while some people might be aware of these self-damaging behaviors, most people suffering from a fear of success lack insight into the genuine reason for their procrastination, lack of goals, or other self-sabotaging habits.
Talking to a therapist is an effective way of spotting and correcting these fear-based habits holding you back from achieving success.
You can also focus your meditation, affirmation, or journaling practice on first acknowledging, then taking positive action to relieve and get rid of fear-based habits.
Remember that negative habits don’t change overnight – give yourself the grace and space to establish a new, more courageous, and positive outlook to start combatting your prior programming.
Committing to a period of 30 to 60 days of consistent practice, paying attention to when fear-based habits appear, and using in-the-moment affirmations to change your thought patterns can make a world of difference.