Mixed Messages About Success: A Love-Hate Relationship

Mixed Messages About Success


We claim to want it, yet we sabotage success in countless ways:

     1. We procrastinate.
     2. We talk ideas to death instead of doing them.
     3. We never quite finish a project.

Success: Good or Bad?

Many of us stave off success because, deep down, we feel we're not worthy.

Then sometimes, almost in spite of ourselves, success arrives on our front porch. It's rather like having a baby: You know it's going to happen, you plan for it, dream of it -- and then suddenly it's there, real -- and you can't believe it.

Success can feel scary, almost like a shameful secret.

Success carries a whole new set of fears:

1. of being rejected by people,
2. of having our parade rained upon,
3. of having our success somehow invalidated or even ripped away from us overnight.

Success can feel good and bad at the same time.

 Get The Latest From InnerSelf

Mixed Messages While Growing Up

Where does this come from? Many of us get mixed messages about success while growing up.

We did in my family. On the one hand, we were urged to do our best, to do everything perfectly, to finish whatever we began. Those were the words we heard.

The actions we saw told us otherwise.

1. People who did well -- especially our more well-to-do relatives -- were constantly criticized.
2. My dad started big projects and seldom finished them.
3. Mom pointed out all the reasons something wouldn't work.

So while we were encouraged to succeed, we also were discouraged -- not because our parents wanted to confuse us, but because they'd internalized the same messages. Mom was taught in her youth not to try. Dad was extremely poor as a kid; being around people who were better off seemed to trigger feelings of inferiority.

We, too, became the poor relatives, ripping open with both excitement and shame the care packages of clothes handed down from our older cousins.

The Things We Learned

We learned it wasn't nice to talk about money, taking on the shame of our parents.

We also learned to be hypercritical of others, quick to find the flaw to elevate ourselves on the self-worth totem pole.

Through all of this, I defined people as either 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

I, of course, was a have-not, and therefore inferior to others. I not only wasn't capable of success, I didn't deserve to have it. I was a perpetual victim, always yearning and never having.

The Fear of the Consequences of Success

One of my dreams has been to write a book, and when I wrote and sold "Codependent for Sure!" my delight was tempered by fear.

If I flipped suddenly from have-not to have, would people withdraw their friendship?

Would they see me as something I wasn't and expect me to be impossibly perfect?

Could self-esteem or money or celebrity be snatched away overnight?

Did I really deserve success?

Moving From Faulty Thoughts to Truths

It's taken work to correct my faulty thinking about all this. Gradually, these truths emerged:

1. It's OK to make mistakes. Everyone does. That's how we learn: through a process of elimination.

2. Comparing ourselves to others isn't constructive. And knocking someone else down to feel better about ourselves produces only temporary self-esteem.

3. One -- or even ten -- rejections doesn't mean your idea (or you) is no good. Sometimes it's just a matter of timing.

4. Dividing people into categories of have and have-not is simplistic and inaccurate. Contrary to appearances, nobody 'has it made'. We all have our worries and insecurities.

5. We all deserve success -- especially when we've worked hard for it. Success has many definitions. We each must decide what it means to us. Peace of mind may not be flashy, but it's probably more important than driving a status-symbol car.

What is your dream of success? How are you getting in your way?

Excerpted with permission from Home Sweeter Home,
published by Beyond Words Publishing

Article Source:

Home Sweeter Home: Creating a Haven of Simplicity and Spirit
by Jann Mitchell.

Home Sweeter Home: Creating a Haven of Simplicity and Spirit by Jann MitchellWe search the world for spirituality and peace - only to discover that happiness and satisfaction are not found "out there" in the world but right here, in our houses and in our hearts. "There's no place like home" holds true whether we live in a castle or a condo, a mansion or a studio apartment. HOME SWEETER HOME offers creative insights and suggestions for making our home life more nurturing, spiritual, and rewarding for ourselves, our families, and our friends.

Info/Order this paperback book or download the Kindle edition.

About The Author

Jann Mitchell

Jann Mitchell is an award-winning feature writer and author. Her popular column, 'Relating,' in The Sunday Oregonian has run for eight years and is carried by the Newhouse News Service to newspapers around the country. Her work has been featured in national magazines and appears in A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Author Barbara De Angelis calls Jann Mitchell 'the most conscious journalist in America.' Jann is also a sought-after lecturer.

More books by this Author

{amazonWS:searchindex=Books;keywords=Jann Mitchell;maxresults=3}


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email



The Day Of Reckoning Has Come For The GOP
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
The Republican party is no longer a pro-America political party. It is an illegitimate pseudo-political party full of radicals and reactionaries whose stated goal is to disrupt, destabilize, and…
Why Donald Trump Could Be History's Biggest Loser
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
Updated July 2, 20020 - This whole coronavirus pandemic is costing a fortune, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 fortunes, all of unknown size. Oh yeah, and, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people will die…
Blue-Eyes vs Brown Eyes: How Racism is Taught
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
In this 1992 Oprah Show episode, award-winning anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott taught the audience a tough lesson about racism by demonstrating just how easy it is to learn prejudice.
A Change Is Gonna Come...
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
(May 30, 2020) As I watch the news on the events in Philadephia and other cities in the country, my heart aches for what is transpiring. I know that this is part of the greater change that is taking…
A Song Can Uplift the Heart and Soul
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I have several ways that I use to clear the darkness from my mind when I find it has crept in. One is gardening, or spending time in nature. The other is silence. Another way is reading. And one that…