Overcoming creative anxiety: Eric Maisel on fear of success
Posted Mar 20 2010 1:16pm
Eric Maisel wrote some helpful ideas in an issue of his newsletter (Dec 20, 2009) about fear vs anxiety over success. He wrote:
Yesterday I addressed the Tri-Valley branch of the California Writers Club on the subject of “overcoming creative anxiety.” I described 24 sources of anxiety in the lives of creative people and 22 anxiety-management strategies.
In the question-and-answer period that followed, a fellow asked, “Can you tell us a little bit more about ‘the fear of success’?”
In fact, I had used the phrase ‘the anxiety of success’ in my talk; and it struck me that the phrases ‘the fear of success’ and ‘the anxiety of success’ were very different one from the other. Language is so interesting!
‘Fear of success’ is a future-looking idea: it is about your relationship to the success that might come your way one day. ‘Anxiety of success’ is a now-looking idea: it is about your relationship to the success you are currently experiencing.
Whereas ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ may be relatively interchangeable words in some sentences, ‘the fear of success’ and ‘the anxiety of success’ are not interchangeable.
Both are real and both are problematic; but they are different. It is the difference between an addict worrying that at some point in the future he may encounter a trigger that causes him to slip versus suddenly finding himself surrounded by temptation right now.
‘Fear of success’ can be dealt with cognitively: you notice how your thoughts are weakening your resolve and you replace those self-sabotaging thoughts with thoughts that serve you.
The anxiety that arises from actual success, on the other hand, must be dealt with behaviorally. You must do something with the new offers coming in, the fan mail, the interview requests, the invitations to excess and distraction.
Try not to fear success. It is true that success may bring with it some new anxieties, but what aspect of living doesn’t? Let’s raise a glass to a 2010 filled with our successes. May all the hard work that each of you is doing pay dividends in 2010. If we all cross our fingers for each other, that will amount to thousands of crossed fingers!
P.S. Don’t forget to take a look at my class on overcoming creative anxiety at dailyom.com. Start it when you like and pay what you want.