You may be familiar with the fear of failure, but have you ever considered that you could be afraid of success? You might struggle with the fear of success, or “achievemephobia”, if you worry about the potential consequences that come with success: more exposure, more responsibility, more expectations, more pressure, the fear of maintaining it, and the worry that you still won’t be happy even if you do achieve that success. This fear of success can result in self-sabotage, leading to you unconsciously preventing yourself from reaching your full potential. In this episode, we’ll explore the signs you could be struggling with a fear of success, along with what you can do about it.
In this episode, you will learn:
- 8 signs you are struggling with the fear of success
- The root causes of your fear of success
- 6 actionable tips to stop the fear of success from holding you back
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You may be familiar with the fear of failure, but have you ever considered that you might be afraid of success? You might struggle with the fear of success, or achievemophobia, if you worry about the potential consequences that come with success. More exposure, more responsibility, more expectations, more pressure, the fear of maintaining it, and the worry that you still won’t be happy even if you do achieve that success. The fear of success can result in self sabotage, leading to you unconsciously preventing yourself from reaching your full potential. In this episode, we’ll explore the signs that you might be struggling with the fear of success, along with what you can do about it.
Welcome to Calmly Coping. I’m your host, Tati Garcia. I’m a licensed therapist and a high functioning anxiety coach. Calmly Coping is the podcast for people who struggle with anxiety and high functioning anxiety. Each Wednesday, you’ll hear informative episodes with actionable tips about decreasing anxiety, adopting a healthy mindset, and managing your time and energy so you can live a calm and balanced life.
Let’s get started.
Thank you so much for tuning in. So let’s define the fear of success. So the fear of success quote involves being afraid of achievement, often to the point that people will sabotage themselves. People can be afraid of achieving their goals, dreams, or reaching a high level of success. So how is the fear of success different from the fear of failure?
So I work with clients who struggle with the fear of failure and the fear of success, and many often have. both. So when we’re looking at the fear of failure, it’s worrying about the consequences of not succeeding, of failure, of what that will look like, of what that will mean. A fear that maybe that means that you aren’t good enough, or you shouldn’t have bothered trying, or there’s something wrong with you.
There can be feelings of inadequacy, shame, or disappointment that can come along with the fear of failure. Whereas the fear of success is like I said previously, it’s the fear of what will come as a result. Of achieving success. So what can happen if you are successful? What consequences can occur as a result and how that might affect you personally.
Maybe you fear that you might experience more pressure, that people might look at you in a different way, and I’m gonna talk more about that in a little bit. So there can definitely be overlap between the fear of failure and the fear of success. So, for example, a fear of failure could be, let’s say, if you have a presentation to give, you may fear that you vomit and you don’t do well, and then as a result, people might think about you negatively, they may judge you, you know, and the worst case scenario, it could mean that you have negative consequences that occur as a result related to your job or your education, depending on what the situation is.
Whereas if you have a fear of success, that could be that maybe you do well in giving the presentation and you get promoted and then as a result, with the promotion, there’s more responsibility, more pressure, there could be some imposter syndrome present, this fear or this worry that people are going to find out that you actually aren’t qualified enough, there could be a worry that people are then looking at you differently and will have less of an ability to relate to you because of that.
It could be also this worry that with more money comes more expectations or more responsibility. So that’s an example to help you to see the difference between fear of success and the fear of failure. So let’s talk about some specific signs that you may be struggling with the fear of success. So like I mentioned before, one of the signs of a fear of success could be imposter syndrome, feeling like you’re a fraud or a phony or like you’re not deserving of the success you have achieved or feeling like people are going to find out that you’re not qualified or you’re not meant to be where you are.
Another sign could be underestimating yourself. So this is downing yourself and downing your abilities. You might feel the need to prove yourself and your abilities to others and prove that you are good enough to be where you are or prove that you are qualified enough to be in the position that you’re in or to have achieved the level of success that you have.
If you make mistakes or do poorly, you might feel as though you need to explain that to others or justify that. You really do know what you’re talking about. Going along with that feeling of self doubt, you may struggle with lacking confidence in yourself. Another sign could be viewing yourself as less than or different than others who are successful.
Being in that place of comparison itis. and feeling like other people who have achieved success are different in some way. You could procrastinate and this can be that self sabotage that is coming up that is getting in the way of you working towards your goals because you’re so afraid of what could happen if you do achieve success or if you do put your all in and do your hardest work.
Or you could struggle with setting goals or not setting clear goals. And this can be another form of self sabotage that shows up because maybe you’re so afraid of thinking of that potential future success or what could come with that, so then you’re kind of staying stuck in a place of not focusing on the next step or having difficulty with identifying what that could look like for you.
Another sign of a fear of success could be perfectionism. So wanting to do things. perfectly the best way possible and this can go hand in hand with that procrastination where you’re in a place of paralysis by analysis because you’re overthinking things so much and putting so much pressure on yourself to do things perfectly that it’s oftentimes resulting in you taking more time to complete tasks or struggling with making mistakes or being really hard on yourself and others.
So now let’s talk about why you’re afraid of success. What could be underlying those signs and symptoms that you are afraid of achievement and doing well? So it could be because it’s outside of your comfort zone, outside of what’s familiar for you. So we often get into these states where even something that is uncomfortable, even something that is different than what we actually want for ourselves can be familiar.
And we can get in this these states where our bodies, our nervous systems, our minds become familiar with our circumstances. And even if that is uncomfortable and even it’s a place where we really don’t want to be. Because of that familiarity, our body and our mind want to stay in that place. And so this can be a result also from childhood or just past experience that maybe you have had difficult circumstances or potentially experience some sort of trauma or chaotic upbringing, or it could just be that you are comfortable with being in the place that you are and getting outside of that place seems so uncomfortable and so unfamiliar that it’s hard for you to make that change.
Our bodies and our minds automatically want to keep us in a place that feels familiar and Because that is associated with safety. So making any sort of change, even if it’s for the better, can feel really difficult and really uncomfortable. And as a result, there can be a lot of resistance that goes along with that, resulting in that unconscious self sabotage, trying to keep us in the same place.
Because Even if it’s a better place, even if it’s moving forward can feel scary. You could feel like you don’t deserve success. Maybe you have some unconscious limiting beliefs under the surface that you are worried that you’re not good enough to achieve success can also be coming from that place of comparison.
It is that I described. earlier that you feel like other people are better than you. And so other people have done more work or they’re different in some way that they deserve success more than you do. When in reality, of course, that’s not true. You are worthy and deserving of success, but sometimes we can have past experiences or insecurities within us that make us unconsciously believe these things.
Even though consciously we know that they aren’t true and these limiting beliefs can hold us back. You might worry what others will think of you if you do achieve success or if you have achieved success. Will you leave these people behind? Will they be jealous of you? Will they think that you have changed?
Will they think that you no longer care about them? So there can be a lot of beliefs that we carry about the way that people will view us differently from having achieved some level of success or something that is important to us. It could also be a fear of being seen or a fear of increased exposure.
So this can be either seeing, being seen in the social media world, being seen within your own community, within your own career, or within your school, or whatever the environment or circumstance is for you. There can be this fear of if more people see you, if you’re more visible, if you are putting yourself out there more than that can equate sometimes to an increased fear of judgment, especially if you’re somebody who already struggles with fearing judgment from others, wanting to be liked by others.
And as a result, you may worry that the more that people can see you, the more visible you are, then the more opportunity there is for people to judge you. And that can then result in this fear of putting yourself out there. there because you don’t want to be perceived negatively. You don’t want people to kind of put that microscope on you and see your potential flaws.
There can also be this worry that what if this doesn’t last? What if you achieve success and it’s only short lived and then you get back to where you were and you feel disappointed in yourself? And you feel worse than you did before you even achieved it in the first place. And this can oftentimes be a worry that people have.
Or what if it still doesn’t make you happy? What if you achieve everything that you wanted and it still isn’t resulting in you feeling accomplished and feeling happy? So there’s a quote by Jim Carrey that goes, I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.
And a lot of times, As humans, we all think that we just need to achieve this, we just need to get this title, or make this certain amount of money, or have this certain type of schedule, and then it will make us happy. And of course, the things that we achieve externally, the way our lives look, the means that we have, can help with making our lives easier and allowing us to care for ourselves.
But that is not the only things. Oftentimes, happiness really comes from within, in the way that we think about ourselves. our level of self worth, the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, and the way that we view ourselves, and the way that we speak to ourselves. And so, achieving success is not the only answer.
It’s not the only solution for happiness. Oftentimes, it can be that dual experience of working on yourself from within, along with working towards the goals that are important to that can result in fulfillment. So another reason why you might struggle with the fear of success is maybe past experience.
So maybe you were told by adults or important people in your life growing up that you’ll never succeed or you’re not good enough or you were picked on or bullied when you were younger. This can result in those unconscious limiting beliefs that I shared before that might make you feel like you’re not deserving or worthy of success.
You could also be afraid of success because of that increase in responsibility, expectations, and pressure that you believe comes along with success. So now that we’ve talked about those basics, let’s explore what you can do if you’re struggling with the fear of success. So first, and one of the most important things, is to increase awareness of this fear.
It’s that saying that you need to name it in order to tame it. So write down what you are afraid of.
And I want you to be specific, identify what are those fears that are going through your mind that you may kind of have an awareness of somewhat, or maybe going on in the background, but you haven’t really acknowledged them or taken them out of the shadows of your mind, write them down, but you and really look at them and explore them.
Maybe just do a journal entry exploring more about what comes up when you think about achieving the goals that you have. Or if you’re already in a place of success, what are the fears and worries that go along with your current situation and when maybe difficult things come up for you? And whenever possible, get to the root of this fear.
So identify, okay, what are you afraid of? And then kind of continue to ask yourself to dive a few layers down underneath that fear. So maybe it is, I’m afraid that I’m going to get more responsibilities when I achieve success. Okay, so what does that responsibility look like specifically? What makes you afraid of these responsibilities?
So asking yourself more clarifying questions in order to get down deeper into what’s underneath that rather than just the surface level of what’s coming up for you initially. Next, I want you to reflect back on the past. And because I’m sure you’ve achieved some level of success or achievement no matter how small.
You know, achieving this, is it as scary as you thought it would be? As you anticipated that it would have been? Have you been able to adjust to it? Have you been able to learn from it? Were all of your friendships or relationships ruined as a result of what you have achieved? Using past experience as a lesson.
For what could come in the future can be helpful to help you to realize that things often don’t turn out as bad as you think they might. Oftentimes we are thinking of the worst case scenario when it comes to fear and the worst case scenario often isn’t likely. So use this as a way or as a framework for you to look into the future and see what could be based on the past.
Next, I want you to set clear and realistic goals for yourself. So one of the signs of the fear of success that I identified before was not setting goals or not having clear goals. So I want you to be specific, make these time limited and measurable goals, because oftentimes success can feel scary and elusive because it’s often just in our minds, and we’re not clear as to what that actually looks like.
Success looks different for everybody, and achieving your goals is going to look and feel different for everybody. So set a. you know, for example, a five year goal for yourself and then work your way backwards so that you can have clarity as to what you need to do to achieve that goal. When we can become more clear with our goals, then it can become less of this elusive enigmatic idea of I want to be successful.
And it can be more clear, like, you know, I want to make X amount of dollars per year, working X hours per week, for example. Another thing that can help is to get support and mentorship. So getting support from somebody who is where you want to be can be invaluable because this can help you to see that it is possible.
This can help you to learn from another person who has achieved what you potentially want to achieve. In addition, it can also help to get the support from a therapist or from a coach who specializes. in helping you to work past blocks, whether it is fear, anxiety, and other things that may be getting in your way of achieving what you want.
These are services that I specialize in helping clients with, so if you’re interested in learning more about working with me, you can check out the description to learn more about what that could look like. Next, I want you to celebrate your achievements, savor those experiences and be with those emotions of achieving the things that you want.
So maybe something great has happened for you and oftentimes it can be easy to just experience that and then move on to the next thing. Okay, what do I want to work towards next? And we kind of just gloss over those moments of achievement. I really want you to sit with and be with those emotions and be with that experience.
Be kind to yourself. Celebrate yourself. Tell yourself words of congratulation. Fully savor with it so that you can get your body and your nervous system comfortable with what it feels like to succeed. This is a form of acclimating yourself and exposing yourself to those feelings and sensations that will come along with success and helping you to get out of that place like I was speaking before of being uncomfortable with that change.
You are allowing your body to feel comfortable with the emotions and with the potential discomfort that could come along with it and teaching yourself that whether it’s comfortable, whether it’s uncomfortable, you can tolerate it and it can feel good and allow yourself to get comfortable with what it feels like to succeed without minimizing it, without saying like, Oh, that was no big deal, or I’ve done better before, or it could have been better really celebrated, you know, rather than saying, Oh, I only got one new client or I only made one new sale, I only got one positive feedback, say, Wow, I got I got one new client, I got one new sale, I got this amazing positive feedback.
So rather than minimizing it, really celebrate and embrace that. Because the way that you speak to yourself and the language that you use really makes a difference in the way that you feel. And additionally, one thing that can really help if you’re struggling with the fear of success can be accountability and support groups.
So this can be engaging with somebody to help to keep you accountable, especially if you find that self sabotage or procrastination is getting you stuck. Having that external form of accountability can really help to push you forward to take the action steps that are necessary in order for you to work towards the goals that you have for yourself.
And joining a support group can help give you a sense of community to help you stay motivated. If you’re interested in a support group or community, have a community with high achieving individuals who get support with self improvement, work life balance, and confidence to help catapult their personal and professional success, the calm and ambitious community that I will leave a link to below so you can learn more about.
But regardless of what form you use to get community and support and accountability, it could be a colleague at work, it could be a supervisor, it could be a mentor or a family member. This can be really helpful in helping you to overcome that fear of success. And like any fear, it may not be something that goes away 100%, and that’s okay.
Just having that awareness of how it can show up at different levels of you pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can go a long way in helping you to prevent those self sabotaging behaviors. And above all else, be kind to yourself because you’re doing better than you give yourself credit for.
So, let’s continue the conversation, leave me a comment below if you are watching on YouTube or if you are listening on Spotify, letting me know how the fear of success shows up for you. And while you wait for next week’s episode, check out this episode that pairs well with this episode on how to achieve success without stress and anxiety.
You can also check out my other episodes on achieving calm, creating work life balance, and helping you feel more confident from within. Thank you so much for tuning in today, and until next time, be calm. Thanks so much for listening. If you like what you heard, please share this episode with a friend and please subscribe and leave me a review on iTunes.
Also, remember to check me out online at CalmlyCoping. com and connect with me on Instagram at TatianaGLPC. All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.
Till next time, I’m Tati, and this has been Calmly Coping.
Until next time…