The fear of success is when we worry that after accomplishing something new, we won't be able to maintain it or that it may bring negative consequences. Often, we are not aware of this fear as we tend to highlight the benefits of reaching our goals while downplaying the potential challenges. It's uncommon for us to discuss what could happen after reaching the next level with others.
There are many factors that can contribute to a fear of success, including past failures or traumas, societal or familial expectations, and a lack of self-confidence or belief in one's abilities. In some cases, people may also fear success because they worry that it will change their relationships with others or cause them to lose touch with their values or sense of self.
◙ Fear of the unknown: Success often involves change and uncertainty, and some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of stepping out of their comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory.
◙ Fear of failure: Ironically, fear of success can sometimes be linked to a fear of failure. If someone has experienced failure in the past, they may worry that success will only lead to higher expectations and more pressure to perform, ultimately setting them up for another potential failure.
◙ Imposter syndrome: Some people may feel like they don't deserve success, and that their achievements are simply due to luck or timing rather than their own abilities. This can lead to a fear of being exposed as a fraud and losing the success they have achieved.
◙ Lack of self-confidence: People who lack self-confidence may fear success because they don't feel like they have the skills or abilities to handle the increased responsibility and attention that comes with it.
◙ Fear of judgment: Success can also lead to increased scrutiny and criticism from others, which can be intimidating and cause some people to shy away from pursuing their goals.
It's worth noting that these reasons are not mutually exclusive, and there may be other factors at play as well. If you or someone you know is struggling with a fear of success, it may be helpful to speak with a therapist or counselor who can provide additional support and guidance.
I have everything to have success in my career. Why do I block myself from achieving it?
► Limiting beliefs: You may have negative beliefs about yourself or your abilities that are holding you back. For example, you may believe that you're not smart enough, experienced enough, or talented enough to succeed, even if this is not objectively true.
► Perfectionism: Perfectionism can be both a blessing and a curse. While it can drive you to do your best work, it can also lead to a fear of making mistakes and a reluctance to take risks. This can prevent you from taking action towards your goals, as you may feel like you're not ready or that your work isn't good enough yet.
► Lack of clarity: Sometimes, we may know what we want in a general sense but lack clarity on the specific steps we need to take to get there. This can lead to feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty, which can cause us to procrastinate or avoid taking action altogether.
► Self-sabotage: Finally, it's possible that you may be engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors without even realizing it. For example, you may be procrastinating, avoiding opportunities for growth, or sabotaging your relationships with colleagues or mentors.
If you're experiencing any of these challenges, it may be helpful to work with a therapist or coach who can help you identify and overcome your barriers to success. They can help you develop strategies to manage your fears and limiting beliefs, gain clarity on your goals, and develop more effective habits and behaviors.
The biggest problem for many people is that their fear of success is largely unconscious. They just don't realize that they've been holding themselves back from doing something great.
If you experience the practical scenarios, you might have a fear of success on some level:
You feel guilty about any success you have, no matter how small, because your friends, family, or co-workers haven't had the same success.
You don't tell others about your accomplishments.
You avoid or procrastinate on big projects, especially projects that could lead to recognition.
You frequently compromise your own goals or agenda to avoid conflict in a group, or even conflict within your family.
You self-sabotage your work or dreams by convincing yourself that you're not good enough to achieve them.
You feel, subconsciously, that you don't deserve to enjoy success in your life.
You believe that if you do achieve success, you won't be able to sustain it. Eventually you'll fail, and end up back in a worse place than where you started. So you think, "why bother?"
Causes of Fear of Success
Fear of success has several possible causes:
We fear what success will bring – for example, loneliness, new enemies, being isolated from our family, longer working hours, or being asked for favors or money.
We're afraid that the higher we climb in life, the further we're going to fall when we make a mistake.
We fear the added work, responsibilities, or criticism that we'll face.
We fear that our relationships will suffer if we become successful. Our friends and family will react with jealousy and cynicism, and we'll lose the ones we love.
We fear that accomplishing our goals, and realizing that we have the power to be successful, may actually cause an intense regret that we didn't act sooner.
You can use several different strategies to overcome your fear of success. The good news is that the more you face your fears, bring them to the surface, and analyze them rationally, the more you're likely to weaken those fears – and dramatically reduce your reluctance to achieve your goals.
Take a realistic look at what will happen if you succeed with your goal. Don't look at what you hope will happen, or what you fear will happen. Instead, look at what is likely to happen.
It's important not to give a quick answer to this. Take at least 15 minutes to examine the issues, and write down your answers to questions like these:
How will my friends and family react if I accomplish this goal?
How will my life change?
What's the worst that could happen if I achieve this goal?
What's the best that could happen?
Why do I feel that I don't deserve to accomplish this goal?
How motivated am I to work toward this goal?
What am I currently doing to sabotage, or hurt, my own efforts?
How can I stop those self-sabotaging behaviors?
Another useful technique is to address your fears directly, and then develop a backup plan that will overcome your concern.
For instance, suppose you don't push yourself to achieve a promotion, and the biggest reason is because you secretly fear that the additional income and recognition would jeopardize your family relationships and your integrity. You're worried that you would be so busy working to maintain your success that you'd never see your family, and you might be forced to make choices that would destroy your integrity.