What Fear Of Success Means

Fear of Success

For a long time I was puzzled by the notion of “fearing success”.  I’d read about the concept, hear other speakers talk about it, but it never  sank in, and their definition didn’t make sense to me.

Why would anyone be afraid of success?  

It didn’t seem like this was a real issue to me.  Sure – I can understand fear of failure, fear of “being wrong”, fear of “being criticized”, but fear of success?  Who is afraid of that?

But over time, as I’ve set more and more goals –  trying and succeeding sometimes, trying and coming up short on others – I think that fear of success is a real concept, and I’ve given it my own definition.

It has everything to do with belief. 

Think for a minute about your life, and all the things that you have either attempted to accomplish, or wanted to accomplish but came up short, or haven’t yet pursued.

In every “endeavour” that we contemplate, there is a corresponding belief system, or mindset, that we bring into that endeavour.

What I mean is that even before we set out to achieve a goal, we have a certain belief that we hold as to whether or not that goal is actually achievable.

That is what fear of success is – the belief (even if it is in our subconscious) that we are not capable of achieving a particular goal. 

Compare it with the inverse: certainty.

Have you ever met someone who was absolutely certain that they were going to accomplish something (or better yet, have you ever been in a state of absolute certainty yourself).  Aren’t these types of people inspiring to be around?  They seem to emanate so much positive energy.  They are so influential.  They are so inspiring.  Certainty of belief is one of the most powerful persuasive methods.

Well here’s the thing – more often than not (in fact, most of the time) the person who is absolutely certain that they will achieve something, does in fact achieve it.  It becomes a self-fullfilling prophesy.  I’ve seen it over and over.  I’ve also experienced it many times in my life.  The times that I am certain are the times that I generally get what I want.

A person who operates with certainty in their belief system, as to their ability to achieve a goal, will likely achieve that goal.  This type of person does not fear success (at least in that particular engagement). 

So what about the person who fears success – it is obvious to me in their belief system.  If a person sets a goal, and then expresses doubt, in any way, as to their ability to achieve this goal – the person is fearing success.  This is what fear of success means.

I see it all the time.  Someone would “like” to have something, or it would be “nice” if they had something, but they are not certain about it.  There is doubt.  Sometimes the doubt is closely held, and not expressed, but you can always tell the difference between someone who is certain, and someone who doubts.

Fear of success is real.  At all times we’ve experienced it, and it affects our belief system – it affects our “certainty” about whether or not we will attain the goal.

We may not think we are ready.  We may not think that we are the type of person that gets what we want.  We may not feel like we deserve it. We may not feel like we have the resources, or the skill, or the time, or the connections, to get what we want.

That is fear of success 

How do you get rid of it.  Ah!  The magical question.  There is not an easy answer. Visualization can help.  Having small “victories” in our life (thereby increasing our confidence and also expanding our capacity to believe) can help as well.  Having a really positive social network around us, encouraging us can help.  But it’s not an easy, quick fix.

I think it is actually more difficult to correct than fear of failure.

Fear of failure is actually quite easy to overcome – just view failure as feedback.  You “objectify” the process.  You become an amateur scientist.  Bang!  Gone!  You want something.  You try to get it.  You don’t get it.  Ok – now analyze your actions (feedback), take new actions, and try again. Boom – failure isn’t such a bad thing.

But belief systems…..those aren’t easy to change.  Those have been crystallizing for years.  Those will take some effort.  But at least start, because fear of success is something that has the capacity to ransack any great dream.

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