The Small, Secret Fear That Keeps You from Succeeding
September 15, 2016 by Cathy Brown
“We must not creep along when our souls cry out for us to soar.” ~ Helen Keller
I was looking through Oprah’s website the other day and came across this wonderful story about a balloon, written by Genevieve V. Georget. Such a simple fun balloon can serve as an analogy for the small, secret fear that keeps us from succeeding. The story goes something like this…
My daughter brought home a balloon the other day from a birthday party. As she was walking from the car to the house…she accidentally let go and off it went. It floated through the sky, above a tree line with a beautiful white ribbon tied to the end. The loss made her cry. The freedom made me smile.
I love balloons. And yet I don’t. I love how uplifted they make me feel. But whenever I see one…it’s tied to something…and it makes me sad. Balloons are always reaching…pulling toward the sky…hoping for a better view. But instead, they are tied to us…tied down by our fear of losing them in the horizon…tied down by our reluctance to let them go. So instead of watching them fill the sky with possibility…we hold on until they wither and deflate.
I’ve been starting to feel like those balloons. I feel like I’m reaching…pulling…wanting to soar. And yet, I feel tied. Tethered by a fear of letting go…a fear of whatever may be waiting above the trees…a fear of possibly reaching bold new heights, in my career, in my relationships, in my desire to be the truest version of myself.
Success, by any measure, will look different to all of us. But moving onward and upward can easily come with its own set of challenges, its own set of fears masquerading as caution. It has been alarming to discover that—given the right circumstances — it doesn’t take much to hold us back…to keep us tied too close to the ground. We all have our own addictions when it comes to fear; for some, it could be self-doubt…others, a fear of change, but my own personal drug of choice when it comes to the fear of success…is what other people might think.
The truth is while failure often brings out many of our own insecurities, success can often bring out other people’s insecurities. While this by-product of success has absolutely nothing to do with us, we often end up faced with a difficult choice as a result of it.
Do we give ourselves permission to soar…knowing that it might change some of our relationships at the same time? Or do we keep our feet safely on the ground…to ensure that everything we’ve known stays well within reach?
We all know that people matter. And going through life with them matters. But reaching your potential and pursuing your goals also matter. And many of us find it hard to know where one commitment ends and the other begins. That tug of war—the piece of string keeping the balloon tethered to the ground—is a strong force to be reckoned with. Because nobody wants to gain experience or opportunity at the expense of relationships.
We find ourselves torn between life as it is and life as it could be. We struggle to change while wanting everything to stay the same. We want to explore new heights while still having a safe place to land.
So, a lot of the time, it actually becomes easier to hold back than it does to let go and see where the winds might take us. And when we do so, we tend to trick ourselves into believing that someone else made the call.
But at the end of the day…the choice is yours. The choice was always yours.
Because you are the one holding the string…you are the one tying yourself down…you are the one afraid to let go.
And the reality of life is that as you float through the sky…high above the tree line…the sight of it will make some people cry at the loss…and others smile at the freedom.
But it’s still your choice to make.
Knowing this means that you are no longer just the balloon. You are no longer the entity waiting to be untied. It means that you are the ribbon…the knot…the clenched fist holding on for dear life. It means that you are the decision waiting to be made. To rise or to stay tethered. To reach up or to wither.
And that answer becomes the difference between simply holding on to the world…and soaring through it.
Are you ready to soar?