Overcoming Your Fear of Success
Everyone has heard about the fear of failure, but most don’t think much about the opposite side of the same coin: The fear of success. People who fear success may feel as though they don’t deserve the recognition they have already achieved. They carry an overwhelming feeling of guilt or phoniness that is difficult to get over. But, just as with any other phobia that people have, the fear of success is a very real thing and it holds many people from dreaming and achieving their goals.
Fearing success seems strange to many people, but according to experts and psychologists, there are many legitimate reasons behind the emotion. People may be afraid to succeed because of perceived negative consequences, such as distance from family and friends, longer working hours or possibly making enemies. They fear gaining the greater responsibility that comes with success, because any mistake they make in the future could have much bigger repercussions.
Often, you can identify someone that fears success by their actions. These actions include:
- Working on several projects at once, but never seeming to focus too deeply on any of them
- Not completing projects (could be at work or at home)
- Often second-guessing themselves
- Talking about what they are going to do more than what they are actually doing at the moment
- Never thinking their work is good enough
- Apologizing for not being good enough
And the biggest reveal is when that person truly is on the verge of success, they sabotage it in some way. Do you know or work with someone like this who fears success? Does that person look back at you every morning in the bathroom mirror?
Fear of success can hold you back in your personal and professional development, but don’t worry … it can be overcome. Here are a few strategies you can use to address and conquer your fear:
- Face the possibilities realistically
As mentioned above, one of the biggest factors of fearing success is the worry over the consequences of success. Important relationships will change, no matter how positive the success could be. Take the time to sit down and thoughtfully consider how your relationships with your family, significant other, friends and colleagues will change if you reach your professional goals. Rationally evaluating the personal results of accomplishment will help you realize there may be very little to worry about.
- Learn to cope with stress better
People sometimes have a fear of success because if often means entering uncharted territory full of unknowns and greater stress. It’s perfectly natural to wonder if you’ll be able to handle the new pressures and demand. And if you fear success, there’s probably a part of you that would rather not take the risk. You should develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as an exercise routine or a hobby that can reduce your stress. Remember that you were creative and talented enough to achieve some level of success, so you probably have the creativity, brains and talent to learn new things, meet new challenges and achieve new goals. If you’re lucky, you’re never alone in your work. Spend time with family, friends and peers who support you in all your accomplishments.
- Never view yourself as a sell-out
Many professionals worry success will change them as a person. Be clear with yourself about your goals and why you want them. If you stay true to your intentions and remain ethical in your actions, any accusations of selling out will be unfounded. The downside is that there will probably always be someone who is jealous and unhappy with your success, or disagrees with you. Be prepared for this and remember your professional values and that it’s their problem, not yours.
- Rid yourself of bad habits
Think of behaviors that sabotage your success, such as procrastination, self-doubt or taking on too much work at once. Make a list of your most common problem behaviors and draw up a game plan for how to stop them. If you can find a mentor, discuss it with them and draw upon their expertise.
If you can do only one thing when it comes to dealing with your fear of success is to stop thinking about the changes you will go through in terms of subtraction, or what you will lose. Instead, think about it in terms of addition as in the new discoveries you will make or new facets to your personality that you will be adding to your work, your life and the world. It’s not a bad trade, honestly.