Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Stuck and afraid

You guys. I think I’m afraid of success. 

I think it’s why I intentionally or unintentionally sabotage many of my efforts. It’s why I do almost nothing to improve or promote my blog. It’s most likely why I haven’t finished my fiction book or my nonfiction book. It’s probably why I haven’t done much to launch my author coaching business or let people know that I work as an acquisitions editor for a publishing company. It’s why I’m still struggling to lose weight. 

And it’s not so much because I’m afraid of the work that goes into doing all of that. I like work. I’m happier when I’m working and my schedule is full. My time management is better, my depression is at bay, and I’m just a general better person when I’m productive and working. But deep down, in the places I don’t talk about at parties, I’m terrified of what that hard work will produce. 

What am I terrified of, exactly? Here’s a sample:

  • Higher expectations placed on me by both myself and others
  • Haters. It’s not that I care what people think of me, per se, it’s more that I don’t have a thick enough skin or am Teflon enough not to take terrible comments personally. I’m already my own bully. I don’t need strangers doing it, too.
  • Fame. Not so much in the Beyonce sense but any sort of notoriety scares the shit out of me (you can see this post for why I don’t want to be famous)
  • Money. The thought of having excess money makes me nervous. Not 100% sure why.
  • The idea of success and having to define what success actually looks like. 
  • Thinking about myself differently because I’ve achieved some arbitrary goal. Who am I if not someone who fails? Having to redefine my whole identity freaks me the fuck out. 

I realize that my self-esteem and self-confidence issues factor into this fucked up way of thinking in big, big ways. But if I don’t accept it and continue to deny both the fact that I have those issues and that they’re impeding my ability to succeed at whatever goals I have then I’ll never make any progress. 

At the same time, I can’t keep using them as a crutch or fall back to justify or support why I’m not succeeding at things. 

It’s a big fucking mess. And the hardest part is wanting to fix it but not knowing how. 

So I’m asking you guys for help. 

If you’ve had similar thought patterns to me, how have you overcome them? If you feel like I do, what gets you through on the really bad days? How do you put your shit aside and just get it done? How did you stop being afraid? 

Because right now I’m stuck. And being stuck is even worse than my fear of success.


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P.S. Last Friday was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage. I wrote a post for Ever Upward and if you guys would be so kind to check it out, I’d appreciate it. 


  1. Nadine

    So I basically could have written this post word for word myself. Well, except for that fact that I am not afraid or nervous about more money lol. I wish I had some advice for you, but I myself have not overcome my fear of success. I hope someone leaves a mind blowing breakthrough comment for you so I can take the advice as well!
    Nadine recently posted…Cashew ChickenMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I figured I wasn’t alone which is why I put it out there. We can commiserate together.

  2. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    Wow, I can definitely identify with a lot of what you’re saying. Although I think I’m more afraid of failure than success. One thing that’s helped me when I’m anxious or afraid of something is separating what I can control or do something about, from what I can’t. That helps me focus on my action items and moving forward, and try to leave the rest behind.

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I am definitely not afraid to fail. I’ve done that more than I can count and I’m fine with it. It’s the other part that trips me up.

      I like the idea of focusing what I can do and trying to forget about the rest.

  3. Holly Grads

    This is me. I have done done a million things I wanted to because I was afraid of the outcome. Afraid of the good things. Then I regret not doing it, and feel bad for giving up.

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Yes. This. Exactly me, too.

  4. Brittany Pines

    No advice, but I completely get where you are coming from. Although as a previous commenter said, mine is an extreme fear of failure. I love my current job and really want to move up, but I’m so nervous and not sure how to make it happen.

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I suffer from success paralysis, too. Like, I know I want to do more but have no idea how to actually do it and then I get stuck in one place.

  5. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    I’ve had a lot of those thoughts…particularly the one about any level of fame/notoriety…I am a actually a very private person who blogs on a very public level. I am really protective of what I do not choose to share and it freaks me out to be “spotted in the wild” by someone who reads.

    What helps me when I struggle with anything is my belief that my path is laid out for me, and that my gut knows the right thing to do…and that if I choose the wrong thing, that has consequences too. I also believe we’re all put on this earth to shine, and that it’s borderline sinful to hide your light.

    I read this a lot:
    Our Greatest Fear โ€”Marianne Williamson

    it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

    It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
    talented and fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God.

    Your playing small does not serve the world.

    There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

    people won’t feel insecure around you.

    We were born to make manifest the glory of
    God that is within us.

    It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine,
    we unconsciously give other people
    permission to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our own fear,
    Our presence automatically liberates others.

    โ€”Marianne Williamson
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…My go-to chicken marinade for the grillMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I think I need to put this in fancy font and print it out. It’s a nice compliment to Dream Big, which is one I’ve had since college.

  6. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    I can relate to the thing you said about higher expectations. I think I still have that fear with my new job because I have a bit of imposter syndrome, like they will find out any day who I really am…someone totally NOT capable of doing this job. Then they will be pissed because they paid me well. How do I overcome this (because the feeling pops up often)? Just don’t mind failing. I think I’ve failed so many times I realized while I get bruises, I don’t break. That’s what works for me.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Adventures in Gardening, Biking, Finances, and Kicking Ass!My Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I have a ridiculous case of imposter syndrome. I’m confident it hinders me from moving forward as well.

  7. Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    I don’t think that I’d have thick enough skin to handle the comments from all of the internet trolls either. I don’t know if there’s really anything you can do that will make taking the jump any easier, but sometimes you just have to do it!
    Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders recently posted…A Fredericksburg Weekend In NumbersMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I guess where I get stuck is jumping but never telling anyone I’ve jumped.

  8. Rebecca Jo

    I actually love you put to words how I feel.
    I started doing photography on the side & have gotten a lot of success with it – but I’ve pulled back because the success is freaking me out & putting pressure on me I’m not sure I want… but I see so much potential…
    I’m just saying – I get what you mean. I’m thinking its just pushing yourself outside your limits that breaks it… but what do I know? I’m in the same boat at you ๐Ÿ™‚
    Rebecca Jo recently posted…All about the support.. of the knees… & the worst week of working out EVER! {Training Tuesday}My Profile

  9. Mackenzie

    I can empathize and relate to a lot of what you’ve shared with us Jana. I know that I suffer from low self-esteem and when you couple that with the whole “women having problems trumpeting their own accomplishments “, well you get me ๐Ÿ™ I don’t have any advice to share, but I want you to know that I think you are an amazing writer Jana and I can’t wait to trumpet YOUR future success! XO, my friend ๐Ÿ™‚
    Mackenzie recently posted…Would You Spend $1400 On This??My Profile

  10. Ali A

    It’s so easy to get comfortable; I relate to that, BIG time. Stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to do more and be better requires all this extra effort and opens you up to rejection, scrutiny and all kinds of other stuff I just don’t normally have to deal with living in my little bubble.

    I think it’s totally normal to feel this way but I also think you’re talented and amazing enough to expand your horizons and just do MORE!

  11. lisacng @ expandng.com

    I tend to not set big goals because I don’t want to even try. Except that idea of creating an e-book with photo tips, that’s my biggest idea in forever. Guess if I had “success” with it, I’d go with the flow. Not try to envision success or failure. That’s not even advice. Sorry! I’m not good at giving advice.
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…Yoga with the kidsMy Profile

  12. Tanya @ A Mindful Migration

    Ummmm … are you living inside my head? If so, I’m sorry that it is cluttered, often sleepy and full of made-up cat songs (true fact). ๐Ÿ™‚ Because yeah, I could relate to every single thought. I want to succeed so badly and feel I have the potential in my bones, but when success is on the horizon for something I’m truly vested in, I screw up. Intentionally. I want to put myself out there, but my skin is definitely not teflon and people are so happily cruel. I know they are really miserable IRL but still … it hurts.

    I don’t have the answers but wish I did. For me, the support of my friends, like you, has helped tremendously. And also acknowledging these truths because putting them out there and can lessen their hold on you. I also know that I’m tired of living small, being afraid and unsure. So I’m doing things that I have been resistant to doing in the past, such as really digging in to why I self-sabotage. And recognizing my tendency to make-up stories and believe them. OMG, they didn’t respond to email I sent within 30 seconds – they must hate me and I suck. This has been an actual story I tell myself. I have to be very mindful because I will make-up shit and hold it as truth.

    You know I’m in your corner and cheering for you, my friend. You have a great, distinctive voice and passion, which shines through in everything you write. You are enough and can do this. I’m excited to see what you achieve, big and small.
    Tanya @ A Mindful Migration recently posted…Ch-Ch-Changes Coming to A Mindful MigrationMy Profile

  13. kristen

    love this post jana. i know what you mean about money. for me, i am a little scared of lots of money (not that i will ever have lots of money) because i am afraid of relying on it or not appreciating it, i guess. i like working hard for my money, i like paying for things and buying things with that money. if i had more money than things i wanted to do or purchase, would i still appreciate those things? you know? it probably doesn’t make much sense. i also know what you mean about fame/haters etc. i think a lot of us feel this way, afraid of success because the risk of failing is there as well, and it might get worse with more success. like someone struggling to be an actor that never gets their big break, they know it and maybe their family and friends, but say someone like leonardo dicaprio started making adam sandler type movies and fell off the face of the planet, basicallly everyone in the world is aware of his failure. anyway. rambling.
    for me, when i have thoughts/feelings like these, i think to myself: i define my failure and success, i define my path. so what if it didn’t work out the way i wanted, new plan. i can’t learn from my mistakes if i don’t make them. etc etc. my number one goal in life is to be happy, as long as i meet that goal, i’m good. i define happy, so i define how i get there.
    i also think you are super awesome and deserve all the success.
    kristen recently posted…How I rate books on GoodreadsMy Profile

  14. Jenn

    Thanks for being so transparent Jana. I definitely can relate to some of the things you listed above. I thing rather than a fear of success, it’s a fear of failure that I struggle with. The fear that I’ll give my best and it may still not be enough. As far as advice, one quote I heard that I recently recited to myself was this: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Life is going to move forward and I don’t want to allow fear to rob me of all the things that could be mine! The same goes for you ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. alyssa

    So I think I am afraid of success too. but I’m still not sure why. Some of the things you mentioned as your reasons felt familiar, but don’t feel like things I think about when I think about “what could happen.” I’ve had some really good ideas (I think so, at least) and have failed to follow through on so many things that could be huge life-changers, for the better, and I don’t know why. I’ve talked myself out of business after business, of product after product, after project after project, and backing out doesn’t give me any sense of peace about anything. I’m not sure what it is. But thank you for the way this post has now implored me to really think about it.
    alyssa recently posted…Mind, Mala, and SpiritMy Profile

  16. Kimmi

    This is how I feel literally all the time. I wish I knew how to get unstuck as well. I really enjoyed your post about your one year anniversary. My three-month just passed last week and I feel like it’s never going to get any easier.
    Kimmi recently posted…Weekend Recap 4/18My Profile

  17. Erin

    I could comment about our shared self-sabotaging ways, but instead I’ll answer your call for help.

    Facing haters – I’m in the midst of this right now. I am working on a letter to the editor of my hometown newspaper to address the inappropriate teacher/student topic. In doing so, I am sharing my story…to my hometown…open for all to judge.

    I think how I am actually, finally doing this is by focusing on others. I hope if I share my story, maybe, just maybe it might help someone else in a similar situation. Or someone who has a loved one in a similar situation. Or a community dealing with a similar situation. I am keeping my focus on others, and trying not to let the focus shift to myself.

    Focus on the others, and not yourself. Focus on how some levels of success (or accomplishment, or monetary gains) may set a good example for your beautiful child. Focus on how it may better your husband’s life. Focus on the help and awareness you may bring to mental health with your non-fiction book. Focus on the achievements that authors will feel if you help them achieve the dream of being published.

    Then, hopefully, while all of those “others” are reaping the benefits of your success…you will start feeling those benefits as well.
    Erin recently posted…A Real ConfessionMy Profile

  18. Kelli

    I have something I want to do right now and I’m afraid to start. I blame it on the $200ish investment I might loose, but I know in the grand scheme of life $200 isn’t the real problem.

    I’m scared too! I’m not scared of success but of failure, so maybe we both need to suck it up and make that leap. As I tell people when they start taking their job way to seriously it’s just a job the worst thing that can happen is you won’t have it tomorrow but you’re not going to die or anything. We’re not going to die if we succeed or fail, we’re just going to adjust and keep going because that’s what we’re good at right?

    So maybe we should follow my advice, Why is it always hardest to follow your own advice?
    Kelli recently posted…Confessions and Random ThoughtsMy Profile

  19. Kristen

    So many times I read your posts and think, “I feel like she’s gotten inside my head.” This is one of those posts.

    I think I would say that I fear failure more than success, but it’s the same basic thought process.

    I’m afraid that if I really put myself out there, no one will appreciate or like what I’ve done. This is very true for blogging (which is why I also don’t really promote my blog and why literally less than 5 people I know in real life even know I have one), but also true for my fiction writing. I’ve been stuck on some story ideas for years now, and instead of working through them and producing something (anything), I busy myself with other shit because I worry that it’s not going to be good enough … So why bother?

    I worry about haters too. Right now I have a tiny blog that most people don’t even know exists. Sometimes I want more readers/engagement, and sometimes I just think about how lucky I am that I don’t have a bunch of people snarking on everything I share and what I look like. (Well, hopefully not. I actually have no idea, but I’m guessing I’m not “big” enough for something like that.) People can be huge assholes and, like you, I don’t think my skin is thick enough to handle that kind of shit.

    I didn’t mean to make this all about blogging (because it’s about so much more), but those were some examples that immediately came to mind that I knew you could relate to.

    Honestly, the only thing that’s really helped me over the last couple of years is creating goals for myself. Even if the goal is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things (like reading 5 books in a month or trying some new recipes), it makes me feel good to cross it off the list. And, if I can’t cross it off, it forces me to look at what went wrong and how I might be able to accomplish my future goals. It’s definitely a “baby steps” mentality, but I’m hoping that eventually I’ll start branching out to include more “real” things on my goal lists (like working on my creative writing, for example). It may not make me fear failure any less, but at least I’ll know I’m trying.
    Kristen recently posted…Tasty Tuesday: Roasted Chickpea TacosMy Profile

  20. Revanche

    For the first time, it feels like, I think this has become my problem. In part, I don’t have half the time and energy to push forward the way I once did and there’s a subconscious part of me that knows I’m not talented. I’ve only succeeded in my career because I work harder than anyone else, not because I’m smarter, or more skilled, or anything like that. Now that I feel about half the person I was, my confidence is shaken.

    Then add to that, I finally know what it’s like to have something to lose. I came from basically nothing. My family was being held together by cobwebs and I was working a hundred hours a week to keep the lights on and get out of the red. I was already in the Fail zone, so anything I could change was good. I was at zero, aiming for ten cost no more and no less than aiming for 2 or 4.

    Now, I’m in a better place between my chosen family and current profession and suddenly not failing out of this medium position is as important as succeeding. And suddenly I’m even more risk averse than ever.

    I was trying to walk it off today, or walk until I had some answers about why that was, it wasn’t til I read this tonight that it came together.

    My current solution is this: accept that success can be as scary or scarier than failure. Really accept that. And then give it a try on one thing until I finish it. Meanwhile, make contact with a mentor to advise you when you need wisdom, and a peer, more than one person, to buddy up with like some of us used to do on Twitter with writing sprints. Pick a common thing you can work together on, or even just a common need and hold each other accountable. I find that I work best with a partner in many things and especially when it comes to goals that aren’t my regular job-related. If you want a writing buddy, I’m happy to volunteer. I have three writing projects I have either started or keep thinking about and can’t get enough words on paper worth squat. And my blog is in need of more focus and attention. So there too, if you want someone to talk things over with just to get action started, let me know.
    Revanche recently posted…My kid and Team Puppy: Notes from Year 1.2My Profile

  21. Christina

    I really love this post and appreciate your honesty!! I don’t think I have a fear of success, but I have a really, really hard time with change, which is how I know I’ll never be successful. I do a good job of getting over a hurdle and resting there for a long time. I had a nervous breakdown before getting married. Another one before deciding to have kids and staying at home. And I know it’ll be tough for me going back to work. Not because I’m not confident in my abilities, but because it will rock my world along with my husband and kids. Aaaahhh!
    Christina recently posted…Things I’m Bad AtMy Profile

  22. ellesees.net

    i’m scared of the haters too. i can barely handle what i get now. i can barely handle feeling shunned by the blogging community–it feels like that. it’s so clique-y. i see so many here that all read each other’s blogs but not mine. it sucks.

    but you are awesome, and we are our own worst enemy sometimes. here’s to hoping you aren’t stuck and afraid for just a bit today. and then maybe a bit more tomorrow. and more after that!!!
    ellesees.net recently posted…Ultimate Subscription Box TagMy Profile

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  24. Anya

    I’m new to your blog and love this post. I could’ve written it myself although I’m not doing anything in particular that could potentially bring about success. Maybe this is why I don’t try to look for whatever that thing is. I don’t want to change. Changing is hard work and for me it’s easier to remain in this state.


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