Fear of success may not sound like a legitimate concern to some. I mean, wouldn’t we all want to win the lottery and retire to a private island? Or what about the Olympic athletes that dream of winning a gold medal? Yet, to many people, it is a very real barrier to achievement.
But surprisingly, it’s not the wealth or accomplishment that is so scary. Instead, the fear centers on what success might ultimately cost. Whether the concern revolves around losing friends or privacy, here are the top ten reasons people have a fear of success:
Fear of losing yourself
Many of us fear that being successful or earning a lot of money will inflate our ego and turn us into different people. You feel that success might change you, but not for the better. Money is simply a tool. No matter how successful you become, you control how you act and what you believe.
Fear of backlash
Sometimes people have a fear of success because of the potential social or relationship repercussions. According to one research study, this phenomenon is called “backlash avoidance.” For instance, women may avoid self-promotion because they fear it doesn’t align with traditional gender roles. Studies have found that women tend to associate success with greater negative consequences. Therefore, people tend to conform to these expected norms because they fear social or economic backlash.
Fear of not being good enough
Sometimes people who experience success are afraid that they are not as good as other people in their field. They may fear that they won’t live up to expectations or that others will discover that they aren’t up for the challenge. This experience is most commonly referred to as imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome involves feelings of self-doubt that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. While others praise your talents, you write off your triumphs to timing and good luck.
Fear of criticism
Many of us have an intolerable fear that we will be rejected if we put ourselves out there in any way. Unfortunately, this fear holds us back and can lead to denying ourselves critical opportunities that might otherwise lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Fear of the spotlight
People who are shy or socially awkward may be afraid of succeeding because they do not want to be in the spotlight. This anxiety has become even more pervasive with the proliferation of social media. According to a recent survey of almost 1,500 teens and young adults, Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing. While it allows for self-expression, it was also associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.” Yet, while not everyone is meant for the spotlight, that doesn’t mean you should hold yourself back or be afraid to thrive.
Fear of change
One of the most common reasons we allow our fear of success to hold us back is an overwhelming fear of change. As humans, we thrive on routine, and we tend to fear anything unknown. The problem with that, however, is that change is the only constant. If you try something and fail, you will most likely go back to what you knew. But if you try something and succeed, you suddenly head into uncharted territory.
Fear of losing friends
When we succeed, we grow. And in some cases, that means moving on. The result is potentially outgrowing friends. One thing to remember is that ending a friendship can happen for several reasons. And it’s not always a bad thing. If what you have is not a true friendship, letting go means you are only losing an unhealthy relationship. Once you let go of meaningless connections, you’ll be able to focus on the essential things in life.
Fear of working non-stop
If you had the career or business you really wanted, how would the way you use your time change? Most likely, you’ll have to work more hours, at least in the beginning. Does that mean you’ll still be able to put the kids to bed or watch your favorite Netflix shows? No one wants to work non-stop. That’s why it’s so important to set healthy boundaries. Author and researcher Brené Brown says it best: “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can’t base our own worthiness on others’ approval. Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say, enough!
Fear of heightened expectations
Another reason people are afraid of success is that it creates new standards and expectations, and people get stressed about how to manage them. When you are successful, you raise the bar. Others begin to expect more from you and hold you accountable for higher performance levels than you were delivering before. The fear of success is about fearing pressure and refusing accountability.
Fear feelings of excitement
Excitement and nervousness share many of the same physical reactions. So, it is easy to misinterpret feelings of excitement as anxiety. This can cause people to avoid situations that trigger such emotions. According to Dr. Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., the author of Heal the Body. Heal the Mind, when we suffer a traumatic event, our body associates the fear we experience with the same feelings we get while excited. So, once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid the types of situations that trigger memories of fear. Because of this, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, which leads them to avoid success.
Fear of success is a very real struggle for many. But it’s not insurmountable. The key is to understand its origin and work through your emotions. That way, it won’t hold you back from getting what you really want.