Communication & Alignment

5 Ways to Overcome the Shame of Success

If you’d like to do better in your business… this article is for you.

If you’re doing great – and not sure exactly why or how long this “lucky streak” will last – this article is DEFINITELY for you.

There’s a dirty word in business, especially among some alpha-dog CEOs, high-flying entrepreneurs, and seasoned sales pros who, above all, feel that they should serve as shining examples of personal success and professional prosperity.

That word is shame.

It’s easy to feel shame when your sales numbers aren’t where you know they need to be. I’m not saying that it’s RIGHT – but it sure is easy.

5 Ways to Overcome the Shame of SuccessAnd yes, it’s painful, negative, and unpleasant to feel shame. But perhaps there’s an upside to that because it makes you feel uncomfortable to feel unsuccessful.

At least THAT part makes sense.

There’s another kind of shame that is more pernicious, dangerous and much more common than you might think.

It’s the shame of success.

It’s when you juuuuust start to break through… when your sales numbers juuuuust start to take off… when profits juuuuust start to flow abundantly.

You’re not only paying your bills, you’re paying off debt, you’re building up your savings, your rainy day fund is healthy, you are even… GASP… putting away some nice money for retirement and/or your kids’ college fund.

The it hits you… The Shame of Success. It’s a little voice in your head.

You know what I’m talking about. I’ll bet you even know what it’s saying to you.

Things like:

  • This won’t last – it’s just a lucky streak…
  • You’re one step away from being broke again…
  • Don’t count your eggs before they hatch…
  • You’re not that good…
  • You’re not that smart…
  • You can’t even handle this much work
  • You’re going to blow through all this cash and be back at Square 1…
  • Your customers will find you out…
  • Your friends won’t like your new level of success…
  • Better not tell anyone about this success, they’ll be jealous…
  • They’ll think you’re lying…
  • They’ll think you’re bragging…
  • They’ll feel bad that they’re not doing as well as you…

And on, and on, and on.

There are always two little voices in your head:

1. “The Voice of Judgment”- This is the voice that always tells you what’s wrong – what’s missing – why you’re not good enough, smart enough, capable enough. It’s the inner critic that can all too easily send you into a tailspin of second-guessing, self-doubt, self-loathing, and even short-term anxiety and long-term depression.

Please… stop the madness. Kill that voice. Catch yourself every time you hear it and tell it to go take a hike. Refocus. Recenter.

The second voice – just as “real” and just as available to you any time you choose to listen to it.

2. “The Voice of Objective Intelligence”- This voice is always positive, confident, encouraging, and affirming. It says things like:

  • You’ve tackled things like this before
  • In fact, you’re pretty great at it once you get focused
  • Breathe, relax, you’re in control
  • You got this one!
  • Nothing you can’t handle
  • Remember that big sale from last month? Let’s do that again!
  • Your clients and customers love you – this next prospect will, too
  • You’re really hitting your stride – great job on that big project
  • Wow – look at those numbers. You’re smokin’ in the money house!

As CEOs and business leaders, we spend WAY too much time listening to (and being needlessly held back by) The Voice of Judgment. And by the same token, we spend too little time tuning in to the Voice of Objective Intelligence that is – usually – more accurate and certainly more motivating and productive.

Strategies for killing the Voice of Judgment:

  1. Acknowledge that it exists (and by reading this article, you just did that!)
  2. Recognize it as soon as you start to hear it in your head so you can nip it in the bud.
  3. Sometimes it helps to develop a fun response for yourself – something like saying, “Thank you for sharing, now go away” or “Don’t need to hear any more from you –  buh-bye!” or “Not listening, nyah- nyah- nyah- nyah- nyah!”.
  4. As soon as you’ve dismissed the negative self-talk, listen in for the other voice – find the affirming, positive, motivating thoughts that are just as strong but usually buried under all your negative mind chatter.
  5. Some CEOs and entrepreneurs like to keep a list of affirmations or “Voice of Objective Intelligence” phrases on their smart phone or in their paper calendar for easy reference anytime, anyplace. Try this if you think it will work for you.

Remember once and for all – there is no shame in your success. 

If you have REAL friends, they’ll celebrate with you.

If you have friends who don’t, they’re not your real friends.

If misery loves company, it has company enough. 

And it’s time you quit that company.

You know who REALLY loves company?

  • Passion loves company
  • Achievers love company
  • Winners love company
  • Success loves company

There are already way too many people and circumstances that make you feel weak, unworthy, and unsuccessful… they do NOT need your help!

FACT: You TOTALLY deserve to be successful.

FACT: This is ABSOLUTELY your time to crush it.

FACT: YOU ROCK so hard, you don’t even know it.

FACT: You are insanely GREAT.

FACT: You ARE fabulously successful – so KEEP GOING!!!

In the immortal words of the great Zig Ziglar, “I’ll see you at the top!”

Category: Communication & Alignment Leadership


About the Author: David Newman

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