Are you afraid of success? It may be a strange question to consider, but the fear of success may be a more common obstacle than we realize. Let’s explore two areas where, paradoxically our fear of success may keep us from achieving goals: business and relationships. There are many things we want in our occupations. More money, better hours, more prestige, less stress, more flexibility, better relationships with coworkers, and often to simply complete the task at hand in a way that will please our supervisor or colleagues.
The consequences of professional failure can feel dire. Lost income, lost respect, increased stress and disappointing ourselves or others. Often our fear of failure can keep us from taking risks and growing. Could the same be true for our fear of success? The fears associated with failure are more obvious than the fears associated with success, but the fear of success can be every bit as detrimental. Exploring the following questions and answers can help us clarify how our fear of success may be impeding our growth.
If I am successful with this what will happen next? Am I prepared? Equipped? Trained? Can I handle it? Professional success may lead to increased responsibility and stress.
What if success is a disappointment? We can strive for years for a promotion, accomplishment, or recognition. What if it doesn’t feel as good as we hoped it would while daydreaming?
Once my task has been completed will I still be useful to my company/team/boss? If our sense of identity is attached to completing a specific task we may doubt our value once the task is complete.
How might our fear of success in relationships keep us stuck?
If I am successful in this area will my significant other hold me to that standard all the time? Do I want that? Perhaps the fear that we won’t consistently be successful keeps us from being successful at all.
Will we have anything to talk about if we aren’t arguing about this issue? Perhaps the struggle defines your relationship.
What will happen if things keep going well in this relationship? More vulnerability? Marriage? Do I want that? Does she or he want that? Intimacy and deepening relationships can bring both joy and terror.
Next time you’re feeling stuck it may be worth asking what you are afraid of. You may discover that success is far more frightening than failure. What purpose does your fear of success serve? What does it protect you from? What does it keep you from exploring or considering? How does it keep you from growing? These may be difficult questions to answer, but the answers may lead to meaningful insights. Perhaps the most compelling reason we fear success: