Overcome Your Fear of Success and Begin Living Your Potential


All too often as children, we hear from our elders things like, “I know you have it in you” and “you have so much potential.” A we move through our education, teachers provide constructive criticism phrased as, “if you only ___.” And in our careers, we are instructed to “push forward,” “put in the hours,” and “think of the bigger picture to grow to the next level.” All of these comments are well intended, however, to some, they can be grating and instill a fear of never living up to one’s potential or of letting people down.

For some people, these thoughts and feelings will motivate them, pushing them to work harder in order to meet expectations and secure approval; however, for others, they will have the opposite effect, instilling feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. These feelings grow and morphs, causing the person to, over time, begin fearing success. Of course, it isn’t necessarily success itself that they fear – they fear letting others down or not meeting expectations to the level they are “supposed” to reach. Rather than motivating them to work harder, the expectations and motivational feedback actually hold these individuals back from pushing forward.


Exploring the Fear of Success

The fear of success is often the culmination of other fears. For example, as a whole, the fear may be derived from a fear of letting someone down in their faith of you – a coach, parent, or teacher, for example. However, fear of success is not a fear that can fit in one generalization, as success can mean many different things.

For example, a fear of success may seep into the sufferer’s personal life in the way of fearing successful relationships. But why would someone fear a successful relationship? In this case, a fear of success may manifest as a result of a sub-fear of getting hurt or a later failure. It may be rooted in feelings of unworthiness or of being happy when someone else close to them is unable to be as successful.

In the career sense, it may be a result of not wanting to compete or hurt others on the course of their upward mobility or it could map back to a fear of not being able to sustain that professional success or of taking a risk to become successful.

There are countless ways that the fear of success may manifest and, often times, sufferers need to look past their upfront fear of success to find the underlying causes and fears.

Overcoming a Fear of Success

Overcoming a fear of success is often accomplished through self exploration. One on one therapy with verbal dialogue is often helpful, as a therapist or coach can guide the sufferer through exercises and their own feelings to explore roots of their fear they would not otherwise recognize. By engaging in verbal exploration, the fear sufferer is able to learn about themselves, explore the causes of their fear, and begin to build a path forward. Because fear holds people back from living to their potential and the feelings are so deeply rooted, therapy will often focus on building self confidence in addition to the exploration. Of course, everyone’s fear and everyone’s experiences are different, so the journey forward will also be unique – it is important to work with someone qualified and experienced in recognizing individual needs and building individualized approaches to conquering that fear and moving forward.

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