Is Fear of Failure and/or Success Holding You Back?
It's difficult to distinguish what holds us back sometimes. Fears and beliefs twist our perception of the world and ourselves in ways we didn't/couldn't anticipate. We may be sabotaging ourselves without really knowing that we are or why.
Fear of Failure is one of the most prevalent fears that humans have. It's pretty obvious why we may have that fear. It's terrifying to think that we can put so much effort into our books and ultimately fail. But you can also be afraid to succeed.
Do you hold yourself back on purpose? Do you sabotage your efforts? Do you know exactly what you need to do, but are afraid to do it?
Do you feel like you're not ready to succeed or that you don't deserve to?
Do you have Imposter Syndrome and believe that everyone else knows what they're doing?
Are you afraid that once you succeed, you won't know what to do?
It's strange to think that we may be afraid of success, but that's ultimately what these questions point out. We may not feel like we deserve success because we haven't worked hard enough for it, because we don't know enough and if we succeed, we'll be found out as imposters and ostracized.
We may be afraid of doing interviews with influencers and guest posting because we feel like we have nothing to say that hasn't already been said, or that will prove we're not experts.
We may be afraid that if we do well, we'll be noticed and a giant spotlight will shine on us and expose our hiding place: the place where we can safely live in denial, pretend that we're doing the work, and maybe even blame the system for being difficult (This does happen. I've seen it done. I've even done it myself).
If that sounds like you, you shouldn't be ashamed. It's okay to not feel ready. It's okay to feel like an imposter.
Honestly, it's a complicated business. We write our hearts out and then attach our books to our dreams and use this to fuel us. It begins as an incredibly emotional act. But then we have to turn all that emotion off in order to sell our books and put ourselves out there to be noticed and loved.
But it's so difficult to turn off our emotions enough to do this.
Rejection is real. It follows us around, clouding our minds the next time we try. Negative reviews, hearing 'no' from an agent or nothing at all, even getting feedback from a beta reader can stick in our minds and suffocate us when we go to write the next book.
If we never succeed, we'll never get rejected, right?
If we never try, we can't fail...
We may not make any of the shots we don't take, but we'll never miss them either.
It's so easy to sit back and do nothing. It's easy to blame the system (which is messed up anyway and therefore creates an easy target). It's even easy to say, "Well, I tried and nothing happened."
And yet, this toxic fear can eat us up.
So how do we counteract this thinking?
1. You have to decide that you want it. You have to determine that it is more important and dear to you than fearing what comes when you fail or succeed.
It's 100% okay if you decide that it isn't more important than your fears. This is something that creatives feel guilty for and really shouldn't. Let me tell you my personal relationship with this and why I believe it in my core.
As a creative person, I do a lot of different types of art, but just because I do those types of art, doesn't mean they burn up my soul with the need to do them. Thus, I just don't see the need to try to monetize them. Also, I've failed at several art endeavors in the past, sketches, paintings, jewelry, etc. I tried Esty stores, websites, ads, Pinterest. And in the end, I'd just spent a lot of money to try and fail.
If the art isn't so deep a part of you that you need to do it, it is okay to just keep it as a hobby and not try to succeed at it from a monetary standpoint. Don't let people try to convince you that you have to try and make money from your passion. It's great if you do, but that decision needs to be yours or you'll run out of steam trying to please someone else.
If you decide that you want it more than you're afraid of failing and/or succeeding, move on to step 2.
2. You have to be willing to leave your emotions out of your business decisions. Running a business is an emotional endeavor. I won't deny that. But personally, when I let my emotions overpower my reason is when I get into trouble. (Usually this ends with my face in a tub of ice cream and me vowing never to try again...)
Business is just business. It's not out to destroy us. It's not out to help us. It just exists. Rejection can be for many reasons and doesn't mean we're bad writers. Sometimes it means we need to try a different avenue. Sometimes it means we need to change the way we approach the market.
Have you heard the story of the author who kept every rejection he got and taped them to a wall? Eventually he was published, but when he speaks about it now, he recognizes that those rejections had a point. He may have learned from them if he'd been in the right headspace.
We've all heard about JK Rowling's Harry Potter series being rejected. If she'd taken that personally, would she have tried again? Maybe...maybe not?
The point is that fear won't help us, and as authors, we need to be willing to put aside our emotions (as hard as that may be) and do the things that we know will move our business forward.
3. You have to learn the industry so you know what paths work and what paths don't.
This is time consuming, difficult, and causes a lot of pain for a lot of writers because there is so much information that is misleading and wrong. Tactics and strategies can change instantaneously. Social Media platforms change visibility. Amazon changes the algorithm. What works for some authors doesn't work for others.
Exhausting, frustrating, and emotionally overwhelming... Luckily, I can help with that. Check out my article "3 Steps to Effective Book Marketing for tips" and follow authorprenuers like Tim Grahl, Jeff Goins, and Joanna Penn. That'll give you a great start ;)
Bottom line: whether you're afraid of success and/or failure, you can learn to get past those fears that hold you back. It's okay to be human and take your time. But remember that you are capable and that you get to decide for yourself what you want out of life, out of your books, and out of yourself.
You got this!