by TaKeshia Brooks
Success means different things to different people. It is something to which we all aspire. Or is it?
Do some of us intentionally ruin opportunities to reach our goals? Do we find ways to fall just short of obtaining short-term or even long-term goals?
Believe it or not, some people may just do so. Such actions may actually be a part of a fear of success.
Fear of success can take on many forms. According to the authors of Coping.org, fear of success can be a “lack of belief in your own ability to sustain your progress” or “fear that you will find no happiness in your accomplishments.” It can also be caused by several other factors.
“I think the fear of success is when you have insecurities about who you are and what you feel you are capable of doing,” says Shirley Labbe, the assistant director of the Counseling Center at Xavier University of Louisiana. “Instead of challenging your fears, you give in to them.”
Several Xavier students shared their thought on the fear of success also. Detroit, Mich., native Robin Dillard says that she thinks fear of success is the fear that one will not succeed. “I think it’s the fear of becoming too big,” says the junior political science major. “It’s the fear of not being able to handle the responsibility of success.”
Junior English major Zakiya Farris has a similar thought. “I think it’s fear of reaching a point or doing something that you feel you can’t handle,” she stated.
“I think it’s being afraid of taking risks and going to the next level in a business sense,” says Marvelous Miles, a junior mass communication major. “As a result you don’t put forth enough effort.”
Senior English major Raquel Franklin thinks that fear of success is being afraid to disappoint people or being afraid of losing their success. “Usually people who are successful are afraid they can’t maintain it,” she said.
All of these are very valid analyses. However, fear of success has additional implications when applied to African-American college students. The subject becomes even more complicated for African-American females.
“I think it affects [African Americans] in a way of not being sure of who they are and why they’re doing what they’re doing,” says Labbe. “They may settle for things that they feel are acceptable, putting their dreams on hold of fulfilling their goals because of that fear of trying and making mistakes.”
“If they make a mistake, they feel that they’re not good enough, but normally when you make a mistake, it tends to make you want to do better.”
Labbe also has seen the ways fear of success particularly affects African-American female college students. “I’ve noticed that academically intelligent African-American females tend not to want to be smarter because it looks like a put down in front of a guy,” she says. “We mask who we are because we want our men to outshine us.”
Miles looks at the effects of fear of success from a societal context. “It keeps us at entry-level jobs,” she says. “We become content with making a certain amount of money rather than tapping to the next level.”
She feels that African-American women are more susceptible to fear of success because men make more money and dominate the workforce.
“African-American women may be reluctant to go in male-dominated fields and acquire certain status levels,” she says. Farris, on the other hand, does not think fear of success affects African-American female college students more than African-American males. “I don’t think it’s true, especially when you see all the African-American women in school, which is considered a success,” she says. “Perhaps it is [something to it] because African-American women have two strikes against them.”
“You feel pressured, especially here at Xavier,” says Franklin. “I’ve heard people say, ‘If I make good...