How to Overcome Your Fear of Success: 7 Steps

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What is this feeling? You have thought about your dream job forever… worked your way up. You've gone through an interview or two and feel like you are close enough to reach out and grab that brass ring.  But as you approach the third and final interview, doubt enters your mind.

Do you really want this job? After all, you are familiar and comfortable with the job you have. It's gotten you to a great place in life. You can count on it.  So, you call and cancel your third interview. Your anxiety subsides a bit… making you think you made the correct choice. What just happened?

More than likely, you will come up with a few different excuses that seem to explain your decision; however, none of them are likely to be the deep underlying reason.  This is especially true if this is a scenario you have gone through before. Some people may say you are afraid of failing, but you know you can handle the position.

What is actually happening is that you are afraid of succeeding. You have a fear of success, not failure.

The fear of failure and the fear of success may appear similar, but there is a difference. Knowing what this fear is and how to overcome the fear of success will help you realize the dreams you have worked hard to accomplish. Let's take a look.

What is the Fear of Success?

Fear of failure causes anxiety because you beat yourself up over what you did not achieve. On the other hand, fear of success comes from fear of how others will react to your success or fear of what you may become if you succeed. Often, the fear of success is rooted in social anxiety. You may also fear that you won't be able to handle the responsibilities that come with success.

Fear of success can take many forms. Some of the most common are:

  • Setting low goals that won't get you close to the ultimate achievement
  • Procrastination that sees you putting off taking the steps you need to take
  • Perfectionism that causes you to miss out because you consistently want to perfect what you are doing now
  • Quitting just short of success. You are almost there, and then decide you don't want something.
  • Self-destructiveness. This includes alcohol, drugs, allowing your temper to get in the way. You consistently sabotage yourself.

Some people who fear success express feelings, such as:

Now that we understand what the fear of success looks like, let's take a look at what possibly caused this fear.

What Causes the Fear of Success?

Most people who have a fear of success can trace their fear of success to childhood. If you came from a family where your successes were belittled or ignored, you came to feel that they weren't important.

Or maybe you felt that your success created anger or disinterest in those around you and you learned to keep any success quiet for fear of ridicule.  

Maybe you were accused of showing off when you did well.

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Most people who have a fear of success can trace their fear of success to childhood.

So, rather than face a negative reaction, you just told yourself that success isn't something to strive for.

Alongside this belief is the fear that you will be considered unlovable or undeserving if you succeed. Many women with the fear of success believe their femininity will become questioned. You also may be afraid of losing the support of loved ones.  In some cases, people fear they may change and become someone that is unlikable and shunned by others.

This fear of not knowing how others will react is part of what keeps you from trying.

Imposter syndrome is yet another reason people fear success. Some people feel their success was an accident and that, at any moment, they will be called out as fake and unworthy of their success. You may feel scared that you won't be able to live up to the expectations of those around you or that you will need to keep reaching higher and higher goals to please people and you don't know if you are able to do that.

Finally, a small percentage of those who fear success are dealing with some type of mental health issue. Often, those with PTSD or generalized anxiety disorder are unsure of stepping outside of their comfort zone. Finding success is a whole new arena and it is safer to stay where you are familiar. Fear of success is not a symptom of these disorders, but it often accompanies them.

If any of these fit the bill for you… the good news is now you know what you are dealing with and have the opportunity to overcome this fear! 

How to Overcome Fear of Success

When learning how to overcome the fear of success, you need to understand that it will take time and won't change overnight… but it will happen if you are consistent with your efforts. Let's take a look.

1. Find the origin of the issue.

Ask yourself what you are afraid will happen if you succeed. Be honest with your answers and look deep. Now, ask yourself how realistic it is that this will happen. Finally, what could you do to cope if the thing you fear did happen?

2. Note your pitfalls.

Keep a list of everything you do that stops you from succeeding. As you learn to notice these actions or thoughts, write them down. When you find yourself sabotaging your own success, stop and take a deep breath and a short break. Now, what can you do to counteract that negative action?

3. Rechannel negative self-talk.

If your fear of success comes from believing you aren't worthy or that you won't be able to handle the responsibilities that come with success, start working on your self-esteem. Take classes that help you see yourself more clearly.  For every negative thought you have about yourself, think of two positive thoughts. In time, the positive will come more easily.

4. Remove negative influences.

If there are people in your life that help play into your fear of success, sit and talk with them. If they refuse to see how their actions harm you, walk away. You want to surround yourself with people who believe in you. 

5. Learn to set boundaries.

Begin by learning to say no to things that don't work toward a positive image of yourself and what you want in life. Don't overextend yourself by working constantly for others to the point that there is no room for you. Your life must be balanced and you must see your needs as just as important as the needs of others.

6. Take small steps.

Learn to set smaller goals that will help you find your way out of your comfort zone little by little. You don't learn to swim by jumping into the ocean; you start out in a shallow pool. Find one thing that looks like something fun but is a bit frightening for you and give it a try. Reward yourself for success and note how good it feels to succeed. Make each step into the unknown a bit bigger. In time, you will look back and be amazed at how far you have come.

7. Enjoy the journey.

You need to keep in mind that success isn't simply a destination; the journey is the most important part. Take time to savor each step of that journey. 

Final Thoughts How to Overcome Your Fear of Success

When you learn how to overcome fear of success, you will see yourself reaching your highest potential. While there may be steps backward from time to time, you will no longer see them as a reason to avoid continuing the journey.

Instead, these stumbles along the way should simply be viewed as detours that add interest to the trip. You deserve every bit of success you seek out to find!

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How to Overcome Your Fear of Success: 7 Steps