Is Your Fear Of Success Holding You Back? – Nicola O’Hanlon

I often get asked by clients, friends and acquaintances how to get to where they want to be in life. All of us have aspirations for our future. Self-help books and gurus tell us to dream big – if you can dream it you can be/do it.

And we all know about the Law of Attraction. It suggests that positive thinking and affirmation manifests our dreams and desires into real and tangible things. I’m betting that you’ve embarked on at least one attempt at positive affirmation and made at least one vision board containing all the things you want for your life.

Perhaps that’s worked for you?

If it has, it means that you have overcome or never had an issue with the two biggest blocks in the human psyche when it comes to attaining what we want.

Fear of success and feeling deserving.

I sat with a client recently who couldn’t figure out why she kept falling at the last post when trying to achieve her desire to create her own business. She is a bright, vivacious, intelligent girl with a great business idea and seems to be doing all the right things to get where she wants to be.

We sat and talked about the steps she had taken in her career. All the boxes were ticked regarding her training, experience and attitude. Then we went a little bit deeper. I suggested to her that something she felt about herself; her self-worth, self-esteem and ideas about what she deserved, was what was sabotaging her dream.

She looked at me blankly trying to figure out what I meant. “I know I can do this” she said. I told her I had no doubt that she could achieve anything she wanted to, but that knowing something and having that knowledge align with our true feelings about ourselves is where the biggest obstacle is.

Then we had a breakthrough. Something inside her clicked and she made the connection. She told me about her life growing up in a home where scarcity prevailed. There was never enough money for even the basic necessities which in turn caused stress for her parents which manifested in substance abuse.

She was bullied in school because of her perceived social status and even the teachers treated her differently than the children who came from more affluent homes. She talked about how all her adult life she has strived to do better and be better. “Really, who am I to be successful or wealthy” she said looking at the floor shaking her head.

“My family think I’m wasting my time” she said tearfully. “I’m in limbo, too afraid to succeed and too afraid not to.”

Right at that moment, she took the biggest step in her career and personal development so far.

She immediately understood the point I made about thought and feeling being aligned, and understood exactly what she needed to do to succeed in all areas of her life. She needed to value herself for more than outside attributes or lack of, and start valuing herself for the amazing person that she is right this minute.

This story will be relateable for many of us. I know I certainly spent many years devaluing myself because of what I hadn’t achieved or what I didn’t own. And believe me when I tell you, there will be many people who will judge you because of those things.

Well screw them! You absolutely do not need that type of person around you and you absolutely do not need to be judging yourself that way either. Illusion, Illusion, Illusion. That’s all it is.

I had to take a very deep dive into my soul to understand what was holding me back and be introduced to my own unique abilities and talents. These are the things that cannot be taken from you ever! When I started to feel secure in these facts, and not where I was on the illusionary (there’s that word again) social ladder, I began to move forward at a fast a furious pace.

I ask you; where did you learn that you were less than and not deserving? Why did you stop trusting  your own abilities and talents? Really, the who’s and why’s of these questions are not so important. What’s really important is that after acknowledging them, you take the time to reverse them.

I stopped comparing myself, made my own rules, valued my own thought process, acknowledged my true feelings on a super deep level and hey presto…..success…..on my terms.

Okay, so not so much hey presto, but more bravery and curiosity about whether doing something different than I normally did, which was berate and get angry with myself, would work. Um so, yes! It worked.

What you communicate subconsciously to the world is what comes back to you……but that’s for another essay!

Nicola O'Hanlon

About Nicola O'Hanlon

Meet our Editor-In-Chief, Nicola O'Hanlon. She created this website, along with the help of the InTheRooms team in September 2015. Her work has been published in several recovery magazines, including Recovery Today, In Recovery Magazine,, Psychology Today and Reach Out Recovery to name but a few. She has also had her work published in two Feminist anthologies and a book of personal recovery stories. Born and raised in Wexford, Ireland she still lives there with her two children, Christopher and Jessica. Her background is in healing through Massage Therapy, Reflexology and Sechiem Energy Healer. She has combined her professional and life experience and now coaches women on how to empower themselves. She runs the Womens Wisdom Healing Circle meeting, on every Sunday (Noon est 5pm UK & Ireland), which is a non program specific gathering of women seeking support, encouragement and healing. Already an expert on how not to live life she is a constant seeker of new and better ways of being. Nature is her Higher Power and she believes in magic, crystals and blames the phases of the moon for her multiple personalities.
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  1. Thank you for this article on the message of believing in yourself. It is so helpful to understand that many of us deal with these messages, deep down within us! It has been a constant battle ground for me.

    I think for me, I didn’t fear success, but not deserving was there for sure. However, deserving of good things in life was muffled much of the time. Part of the time I felt quite entitled. Very confusing and I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. Without help I couldn’t make new pathways to follow out of the woods and into the light.

    As I learned in later years in recovery, I was not enough translated to not deserving. I love the messages you refer to above in the positive reinforcements of personal development. Getting to the underlying messages from childhood often can be our blocks. Asking the right questions to guide people in finding their own answers within and moving into being authenticate, is the most rewarding part of recovery.
    Love and Light, Kathleen 🙂

  2. Thanks so much, Nicky! Really loved this article. xo

  3. Oh wow Nicky, we are so aligned in our thinking, quite freaky!

    People need to understand that they are the only ones in the way of their own success and the more teachers the better, as there are a lot of people to heal in this world!

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