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The stress behind striving for success

We often talk about the stress surrounding failure; what if the money I’m investing into this project is a waste and doesn’t result in engagement? What if I don’t finish my collection on time? What if my dreams of becoming a graphic designer burn to the ground….you get the picture.

What receives less focus however, is the stress that surrounds success. You’re probably thinking ‘oh right boohoo receiving a ton of well paid dream jobs sounds super stressful’ and for those – much like myself – who haven’t yet tasted success on this level, this is a totally reasonable quarry to question.

Nevertheless, with success comes change and oftentimes for artists bigger budgets and pay lead to smaller autonomy and less independence as the team grows. Not to mention that the more we pursue a goal, the more we can drive up anxiety, especially when success equals an increase in responsibility and scrutiny. Unconsciously you may be fearful of more responsibilities, being in the spotlight, your life changing, your relationships being impacted or life becoming more complicated. This can create an internal conflict where part of you strongly wants to be successful but part of you is stopping you achieving the success you desire. 

But sure, fear of success can absolutely be self-sabotaging for while you might want something, the part of yourself that’s fearful of actually achieving it can unconsciously encourage disruptive behaviours.

Fear of success often leads to what I like to refer to as getting lost in the sauce. You’re so overwhelmed by your emotions that you end up procrastinating, avoiding necessary goal setting (by way of a clouded mind) and quitting prematurely in some cases. Imposteur syndrome (a very overused term but relevant here) also plays a huge factor in these feelings. Many of us from backgrounds that haven’t seen much commercial or professional success question our place and don’t know how to handle it. If anything, for those of us from working class immigrant backgrounds we are told that to be successful is often greedy and egotistical and in a world which expects us to share our success online this can be a challenge to grapple with. 

In order to overcome the stress and anxieties that surround success, first show yourself compassion and then realise that fear isn’t a bad thing. Diving into our preconceived ideas about success can help shift our perspective too. If we did grow up around negative ideas surrounding success, explore those feelings – what it means to us now, as well as when we were younger.

Lastly, get comfortable with the idea of success. For women, working class people and people of colour in particular (people like my mum tick all three of these boxes and the feelings of being an outsider don’t get addressed enough in most successful places of work), imposter syndrome and self-doubt can take its toll and make us feel undeserving of our achievements.

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