Successfully Dealing With Your Fear of Success

Fear of Success

Fear of success is subtle – you might not even be aware of it. The fear of failure on the other hand – it’s more obvious; something you are more likely to admit. After all, nobody wants to fail?

We see others and their strengths, accomplishments, and successes, but you have no idea what their inner dialogue is like; no sense of the doubts lurking under the surface.

Having insecurities is part of being human. Even the most successful people wrestle with them. We all encounter experiences that seem to confirm that success is not in our future! In fact, you might not know it, but…

  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job as a TV anchor.
  • Tom Hanks has grappled with self-doubt throughout his career.
  • Matthew McConaughey suffered from intense fear.
  • Lady Gaga was dropped from her first record label.
  • Elvis Presley failed his music classes and was a social misfit.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
  • Maya Angelou survived a rough childhood that left her mute, and had two failed marriages.

You are not alone!

Facing situations that undermine your confidence and cast doubt on your ability to achieve success – that’s a normal part of life. In spite of the fear and insecurities they faced, each of the above individuals went on to be what you and I would consider a success.

Here’s the kicker: sometimes we overcome the fear of failure and the fear of success takes over. The fear of success is just as prevalent, just less talked about. Your insecurities and doubts about yourself are powerful. They fuel your fear of success.

Why in the world would you fear success? Here are just a few of the reasons you might fear success…

  • Being uncomfortable with the spotlight or being the center of attention
  • You don’t want to compromise who you are – you think success will change you
  • Unsure that you will be able to deliver or maintain success once you achieve it
  • Success feels like pressure!
  • People might think you are arrogant, prone to self-promotion, or bragging
  • Success might require you to make challenging changes
  • You aren’t worthy of success – guilt or shame might be playing a role
  • The work to get there might seem too hard or too uncomfortable
  • You fear outshining someone you treasure.
  • Success feels all consuming – it will leave you with very little free time.
  • It will compromise your life balance or life-satisfaction

And Because…

you are not 100% convinced that success is all it’s cracked up to be or what you really want, you engage in sabotaging behaviors like…

  • Setting small easily achieved goals and never tapping into your full potential
  • Procrastinating and/or being a perfectionist
  • Giving up – quitting prematurely
  • Engaging in destructive habits
  • Not seeking out the help you need (everyone needs help and support!)
  • Avoiding hard things
  • Working like crazy at the wrong tasks – tasks that won’t lead to success but keep you busy
  • Not taking the time to plan or reflect
  • Neglecting self-care
  • Being inconsistent or working half-heartedly
  • Not taking advantage of opportunities to learn and grow
  • Interacting with people who are negative or don’t challenge you to grow

The more you continue to practice sabotaging behaviors, the more your fears increase! It’s a self-defeating cycle!

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Failing might feel like being in the frying pan. And success might feel like the fire!

In order to flourish personally and professionally and move past your fear of success, here’s what you need to do:

1. Define Success

Making a bunch of money, being famous, having a million followers, and accumulating stuff – those are ways that the world views success. Even when you redefine success, the pull is powerful. But let’s be honest – just because you have money, power, or popularity doesn’t necessarily mean you will be happy and enjoy the life you really want!

Not only do you need to define what success is for you, you must find ways to remind yourself of your definition daily! I promise, the way the world views success will creep back in. You have to proactively resist.

Don’t underestimate the influence you have in your circle or the difference you are making in the lives of others!

2. Explore The Roots

Your beliefs are based on your experiences which made you feel a certain way. Those feelings have led to your choices, actions, and results which may reinforce your original thinking. You have to change that way of thinking and you must face your Fear Monster. And that can take time!

One way to explore your beliefs is to journal questions like these:

  • What are the beliefs around your insecurities, your Fear Monster, and your fears?
  • What experiences have strengthened those beliefs?
  • Who do the voices in your head belong to – who are the people who have contributed to your negative beliefs?
  • What’s your inner dialogue that fueling these beliefs?
  • How can you re-frame your beliefs?
  • What are some of the ways you react when these beliefs are triggered?
  • What are the patterns you are seeing?

Journaling is a process. Take the time to go back and read what you’ve written. Don’t beat yourself up, just observe and learn. Become more mindful.

Another powerful way to unravel your negative thinking is to work with a coach. Often times they are able to spot negative beliefs that you are invisible to you.

3. Visualize Success

The unknown is scary, and success may be a big unknown for you. Begin visualizing what you imagine it to look like – your version. What feelings creep in? What excites you? These are also great questions to explore through journaling or working with a coach.

4. Eliminate Negative Influences

I remember 30 years ago when I was contemplating the prospect of publishing my Bible curriculum for preschool & elementary age children. Several people vigorously discouraged me from moving forward -including someone I very much respected. Those opinions were discouraging, yet I felt like it was what God was urging me to do.

Thankfully, my husband and others were more than supportive! I chose to tune out and limit my exposure to the negative voices in my life. I invite you to do the same!

5. Maintain Your Boundaries

In order to steadily move forward and achieve your version of success, you will need to create and maintain your boundaries. Opportunities will come your way that will be tempting and will also dilute your focus and keep you from achieving what you were meant to do or be – success. Learn to say no. Those who are truly for you will honor and respect your boundaries.

6. Take Baby Steps

Success doesn’t happen in a single giant leap! Even those who appear to be an overnight success aren’t.

Start small: take baby steps. Intentionally develop the habits and confidence you need to achieve your goal. Every day you are strengthening the foundation for success, or you are weakening it. It takes practice. And every time you take another step outside your comfort zone you are gaining traction in the right direction and getting a little closer to success.

7. Keep Practicing

You never know how close you are to success! And you may never know the extent of your impact. Don’t give up. Keep practicing, growing, and leaning into who God created you to be. Leave the results to Him and focus on being faithful!

Where has the fear of success slipped in for you? Is the fear of failure really fear of success in disguise?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

2 Comments

  1. Ed McGuigan on May 5, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    When you wrote: “Opportunities will come your way that will be tempting and will also dilute your focus and keep you from achieving what you were meant to do or be – success;” it reminded me of a comment I read some time ago: “The reason many people fail in achieving their dreams is because they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment.”

    You’re writing great stuff — keep going!

  2. Marvae Eikanas on May 5, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing that quote! So true! Delayed gratification is necessary for true success. Engaging in pleasure now is to sacrifice what could be better!

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