100% Jodi: Are You Afraid of Success or Are You Afraid of More Responsibility?

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Are you afraid of success or are you afraid of more responsibility?

In this episode we’re going to explore why success can be so elusive and why self-sabotage rears its ugly head in moments when success is within reach.

Hello, I’m Jodi Flynn and welcome to the Women Taking the Lead podcast. I’m an executive leadership coach, author, speaker, workshop facilitator. I have the joy to work with women leaders to hone the skills that will allow them to thrive in Senior Leadership. My clients and I bond over stories of perfectionism and people pleasing.

At the time of this recording, I am in Massachusetts with family. If all has gone well, when this episode is released, I’ll be settling in to my new home in Virginia. If you’re in the Norfolk area reach out to say hello. Post-pandemic coffee is on me!

Thanks to the beauty of technology, I’ve been able to continue to work with women all over the world as I’ve slowly made my way south.

I do individual coaching as well as workshops and team retreats. And, I am the current President of the board for The Maine Women’s Conference.

Now that I’m in Virginia, I’ll be spending my free time staying in touch with friends and family, creating new routines, and finding calm watching the Great British Baking Show.

I don’t remember when I first heard the expression “Fear of Success”, but I do remember being baffled hearing it.

Why would anyone fear success?

At that time, to me, success meant a great job with a fancy title, more money than I needed, being fit, being in a great relationship, etc.

That’s a pretty fantastic list. Most people want these things or some variation of them.

Where is the fear coming from?

As I started getting closer to actually having some of those things a light bulb went off.

That list of great things I wanted, they in and of themselves weren’t the problem. It was the thought of all the things that come with them that had me start pumping the break.

In a nutshell, it’s the added responsibility that causes us to cringe and hold back.

When we’re initially dreaming of having a better life, we rarely start fantasizing about all extra responsibility that comes with it.

We dream of living in a big house, but who is going to clean it?

We dream of a high-powered job, but who is going to make the tough decisions?

We dream of the amazing relationship. But who is going to have all those conversations? Who is going to put in the work to make sure the relationship is evolving?

I’ve seen many team members crave a leadership position so they can call the shots and have the authority. And once they’re in that position they realize they are responsible for managing people and doing performance evaluations.

If something goes wrong, as the leader they are held to account for what happened and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Remember that expression I talked about in the How to Face Your Leadership Challenges episode? It’s not my fault but it is my problem.

It’s a Package Deal

All of the great things we want come with added responsibility and accountability. That can be off-putting if you don’t think you’re up for the task.

I’m recalling a conversation I had with a client of mine. This conversation took place in a discovery call in which we were exploring if there was a good fit for coaching.

She shared with me that she was up for a promotion to a role. In this new role she would report directly to the CEO. It was a guarantee that she would be offered this new role when the time came.

I congratulated her and her immediate response was, “I don’t know if I want it.”

Wait. What?

It was a record scratch moment for me. In my head I’m thinking, what a wonderful situation to be in. Most of the people I know who are working toward a promotion have no idea if they get it or if someone else will get picked instead.

This didn’t make sense to me.

She followed up with, “I’m already sacrificing so much to keep my head above water now. If I accept that promotion, I’ll be dead in 3 years.”


It all became clear to me what was going on.

Change the Way You Operate

She was right. If she accepted that promotion it would suck the life out of her IF, and this is a big IF, she continued to operate the way she was at that time.

At that point I knew we were a perfect fit for coaching. This is exactly what I do for my clients.

In the work I do with my clients we get at the mindset that keeps them from setting boundaries, delegating, being good with good enough, having good confrontational conversations, and taking care of themselves.

If you don’t have the right mindset to do these things. you get caught in a trap of your own making. And that trap limits what you are capable of.

So, is it any surprise when an amazing opportunity for success comes along, you smell the additional responsibility and find an excuse not to take it?

If you are a perfectionist and/or a people pleaser you are likely constantly at battle wanting more for yourself and others and feeling like you won’t be able to live up to it.

I’ve seen too many women shrink back from great opportunities because they couldn’t conceive of operating differently so they let the opportunity pass with a, “it’s just not the right time.”

It’s so heartbreaking.

Perfectionism and People Pleasing

I’ll be very transparent about one area this can show up for me.

Being a business owner, I am often in a sales conversation. I can’t coach for a living if I don’t engage with someone about services and pricing. It’s a very natural, normal thing.

However, sometimes I’m talking with someone about coaching and I get hesitant. I experience self-doubt and I get shy about my prices.

When I analyze the “what happened” in retrospect, I can clearly see that my inner critic started yammering at me. Thoughts like, are you sure you can give them the results their looking for? What if you disappoint them? What if they feel like this was a waste of their money?

This still happens even though at this stage of my business I’ve had hundreds of satisfied customers.

Luckily, because I’ve worked successfully with so many people – and I’ve learned how to determine if a potential client and I are a good fit for coaching – this rarely happens anymore.

However, every now and again, I have an opportunity to expand the scope of my work and the proposal is larger than what I’m used to presenting, or I’m venturing into some new territory.

When that happens, I know, if I’m going to take on more responsibility and accountability, I need to delegate more, reaffirm my boundaries, take really good care of myself, etc.

When you think about the life you want to be living, what new responsibilities will you need to take on if you were to achieve that life? Is there anything that causes you to hesitate?

You deserve to have a life that works for you.

As always, I hope this was of value to you, and here’s to your success!

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