What To Do When You Fear Success (Perhaps Even More Than Failure)

by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Finance Columnist

Published in Finance and Lifestyle on 31st May, 2019

The fear of failure is something we all experience. Nobody wants to reach for something they are passionate about when they could end up hitting rock bottom. It's a normal fear, and one that many people go through as they try to navigate the various aspects of their lives.

However, have you ever considered the possibility of being afraid of success? While success may look rosy, it can also be quite an intimidating concept in a number of ways. If you're concerned that you might be afraid of success, then you're in the right place!

do you fear success

What Does It Mean To Fear Success?

It might seem like a strange concept, being afraid of success. However, success can result in a number of changes to our lives that are brand new. Things like fans, higher levels of expectations, and our own self confidence can become problems when we're considering reaching for lofty goals.

If you find that you're someone who procrastinates a lot, sticks in your comfort zone even though you want growth, or who just doesn't put as much effort into your goals as you're capable of, a fear of success may be the reason. Here, we'll discuss what that fear looks like and what you can do about it.

Signs You May Fear Success

Often, we may be aware that we have certain thoughts or engage in certain behaviors, like procrastination for example, but we may not fully understand why. Take a look at the following signs and consider whether or not you might be intimidated by the possibility of success.

Criticism Is Frightening

Nobody really likes criticism, but when the fear of meanies and trolls keeps you from even trying to accomplish your goals, it can become a huge problem. We all know that whenever someone gains some kind of notoriety, there are going to be jerks among the fans who bring down the mood.

There's no denying that it doesn't feel great when people don't like what you're putting out into the world, but in most cases those people are far outweighed by those who love what you offer. In addition to that, you can take the criticism that is more constructive and use it to turn jerks into fans.

Worrying About Success Corrupting You

When we hear about celebrities or watch reality TV we may sometimes come across figures that we do not want to become. Those who spend thousands of dollars on shallow luxuries, throw fits at the slightest inconvenience and demand to be treated like royalty aren't often the most appealing of role models.

dont fear success

Consequently, we may be afraid that if we manage to reach such a level of success, we won't be any different. Maybe you do like a little luxury, and you're afraid that will lead to you becoming a brat as soon as that luxury is encroached upon in any way.

The Fear Of Change

The fear of change isn't an uncommon one. Most people have a tendency to prefer to stay where they are comfortable, but unfortunately that just isn't where growth happens. When we stay put, we become complacent, stop reaching for goals and eventually end up unsatisfied with our lives.

Surprisingly enough, it's when you don't actively create change that changes start happening to you rather than at your will. Life is going to take a course regardless of what you're doing, and you can either choose to run with it or allow it to take control of your life away from you.

What If It Isn't What You Want?

Once you step into the spotlight, it may feel like it's going to be hard to get out of it. For example, maybe you want to write novels but aren't sure if you want the fame that comes with writing something that becomes popular.

This isn't necessarily an empty concern. It is worth considering whether or not you're okay with that level of notoriety. However, there's a difference between thinking it over once and constantly bombarding yourself with the fear of popularity. Make sure to keep it in check.

The Fear Of Not Having The Skills

Another common fear related to success is that we're afraid we'll get to the top of the ladder, only to find that you don't have the skills needed to meet the expectations of others. Often, we forget that it was our skills that got us to the level we happen to be at, and instead worry that we'll end up somewhere we don't really belong.

The feeling of being an imposter is one that many worry about. However, it's typically a feeling that is unfounded. We don't actually often end up in high places when we haven't done anything to earn the spotlight.

Loss Of Time

This is a fear that tends to be related to the fear of change. We become afraid that we'll be too busy maintaining our high-level job to enjoy the things we do in our day-to-day lives. What if you no longer have time to spend with your family and friends? To play video games? To relax with your significant other?

what to do to not fear success

When we're afraid of where the success may take us, it's hard to put the effort into getting there. After all, it's so much easier to stay in our comfort zones where we can do those things, or are at least used to the amount of time we have available for fun activities.

Considering The Fear Of Losing Control

Change is a frightening thing to us because we fear that we will lose control, creating any number of results that effect us in negative ways. Naturally, we all want to have control over where our lives are going.

If you get on the track to success, then you'll likely have to step out of your comfort zone, where you have the most control. In truth, you may need to relinquish a small amount of control in order to have the experience. However, you often hold onto more of your control than you might expect.

Negative Thoughts That Get In Our Way

Our fears tend to be fueled by negative thoughts that cycle around our brains for a number of reasons. Some of those thoughts can include:

  • FThe thought that customers, fans or clients may reject you.
  • Believing that your skills aren't really enough to reach success.
  • FThe fear of judgment from those who discover your work.
  • NThinking that you don't really deserve success.
  • Being afraid of a higher level of attention from others.

While these thoughts can certainly be scary, you can fight back against them. Practicing kind self-talk is a great way to put these kinds of thought processes to rest.

What You Can Do

Fear doesn't have to keep you from reaching your goals. Using these tips, you can get where you need to go without triggering too much of that fear. Additionally, you can find that over time, you gain the confidence needed to reach a little bit farther.


Use Small Goals

Small goals are much less intimidating than larger ones, and they can keep you working towards your larger goals without having to worry about changing your entire life around. Often, making large leaps can exacerbate that fear of both success and failure, which leads to backing away from the goals.

Think about what you want to accomplish, then consider how you can break down that goal into things you can do weekly or daily. Accomplishing the smaller tasks can help you to feel more confident and it keeps you headed in the right direction.

Forget The Rules

Some of us have crafted certain "rules" that we need to follow when it comes to our goals. Sometimes, this can relate to the idea of perfectionism. For example, maybe you feel that you can't put something out in front of the eyes of others unless it's perfect, original, completely unique, etc.

Otherwise, you may think that you need to do things in a certain way. For example, maybe you have an idea that you need to write 1,000 words in your novel every day. Then one day, you just don't feel like you can do 1,000 words.

If you stick to that number goal, it's likely you'll end up writing nothing because of that all-or-nothing thinking. Instead, keep in mind that it's okay to just do what you can. Maybe you can't do 1,000 words, but you can get through 500, or 200, or even 100. Even a single word is one more than you would have had otherwise.

Just Try It Out

Maybe it's the fear of committing to a goal that keeps you from putting the effort in. This isn't an uncommon thing. Maybe you want to write a memoir, but the task just seems so huge and time consuming. You may decide to do something and them lose your motivation for it almost immediately.

try success

In these cases, it can help to take on a new mindset of just trying things out. Tell yourself that you're just going to try out writing a piece of a memoir and see how it feels. Maybe the next day, you'll try it again. Or maybe you'll try something new. Taking this approach can make the process less intimidating.

Picture The Success

Imagine how you'll feel when you've met one of your goals. Think about what your life would be like if you paid off your credit card debt, or ran a successful blog, or got your degree. Picture all of the benefits you may receive from meeting that goal. Often, it's a pretty rosy picture indeed.

While you definitely want to keep in mind that hard work will be needed to get there, it can be very motivating to think about how you'll feel when you've finished. If you're a fan of meditation, then meditating on the concept can also help to solidify your goals and aid you in gaining the self discipline needed to achieve them.

Keep Changes Small

Much like large goals, large changes can intimidate us. Think about a goal like losing weight. Many of us know that intense diets don't work for the long term. The reason for this is because they require people to make huge, unsustainable changes that may result in quick weight loss, but it certainly doesn't last.

quit your job

What does last are small changes made over time that allow people to move into healthier habits in a gentle way. You can apply the same thought process to any goal. If you overwork yourself right away, it's going to be a struggle to maintain the habit. Start as small as you need and work from there.

Remember That It's Your Life

Your goals should largely be for you. Goals designed to please others or earn money without any real passion are going to wear on you. Think about what you want in your life, or who you want to be, and then find the paths that will get you where you want to go.

This also applies to going at your own speed. Don't try to yank yourself in different directions, or push yourself beyond what you can handle. The idea is to build a more fulfilling life for yourself to enjoy, not to punish yourself for past mistakes.

Consider The Value Of The Changes

Change can be incredibly hard, especially when that change means developing good habits. It can be hard to keep yourself motivated to put the effort in. Because of this, it helps to have an arsenal of different methods you can use to keep yourself moving forward.

One is reminding yourself of the value those changes will provide. For instance, eating healthy can be hard and it isn't always fun. However, it keeps you feeling great and helps to avoid the development of some serious illnesses down the line. Overall, you'll find that the good habits pay off.

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