Although it may seem odd, the fear of success can certainly hold people back from their life goals. Fearing your own success often comes with significant self-doubt, and it can affect your overall life satisfaction. Here's how to tell if you're struggling with this complex problem.
Signs You Might Fear Success
It seems natural to want to achieve success, so how would you know if you fear it? Could it be that you're just lazy or struggle with self-sabotaging behaviors? In most cases, the fear of success entails a combination of concerns. Here are some common signs to consider:
you avoid taking risks or trying new things (even if you think you might be good at them)
you struggle with procrastination
you chronically have negative self-talk
you struggle with anxiety
you often worry about the social or economic backlash associated with future success
you set low expectations for yourself
Why You Might Fear Achieving Success
Although many people have a fear of success, increasing your self-awareness of your patterns can help you better understand unpleasant emotions and self-sabotaging behaviors. Holding onto this fear can have short-term and long-term consequences, so it's important to understand the discomfort associated with achieving more success.
Most Success Comes With Significant Change
Success often coincides with change, and even positive change can feel uncomfortable, intimidating, or overwhelming. If change has been a source of turmoil for you in the past, it makes sense that you might fear the negative impact of novelty in the future.
It's worth noting that there's a sense of safety in keeping things familiar. Success may require leaving your comfort zone, and sometimes it feels better to stick with what's predictable than changing the status quo.
You Might Not Feel You Deserve Success
People with low self-worth, imposter syndrome, or other negative beliefs about themselves may not believe that they're allowed to actually relish in their success. They might feel guilty for standing out or having good things, particularly when it comes to material goods, career advancement, or relationships.
You might associate success with negative terms like greed or selfishness, and if you internalize those feelings, you might experience discomfort at any sign of accomplishment. This can also lead you to punish yourself, even when things are going well.
You Don't Want All The Pressure Success Might Bring
It's not a surprise that success often comes with either internal or external expectations. Once you've accomplished something, there can be this pressure to stay successful, and there's often this desire to surpass your level and continue conquering.
It's true that some people thrive with this kind of energy. They're inherently ambitious and enjoy taking on new challenges. But other people feel more anxiety when they're under pressure, especially if friends or family members are also compounding the problem.
You're Actually Afraid of Failure
Some people who think they fear success actually fear failure. This often has to do with thinking that all success is transient and will eventually lead to a negative outcome. Therefore, you might avoid success to avoid really committing to something or taking a big risk.
Almost everyone can relate to the fear of failure. It's scary to put yourself out there, not know the outcome, and take the risk. If you've had struggles with failure in the past, this fear can become even more magnified. You might believe you're genuinely doomed (even if you don't consciously realize you have this thought), and that can affect your confidence profoundly.
You Had Difficult Childhood Experiences Surrounding Success
How was success modeled to you when you were growing up? Were you raised in an environment where other people measured your worth based on your external output? Was there tremendous pressure to present or perform in a certain way?
If past experiences around success felt stressful, you may be carrying that burden into your adult life. You might be engaging in patterns of self-destructiveness as a way to protect yourself from getting hurt again (even if the self-destructiveness is also hurting you).
Working Through Your Fears and Improving Your Mental Health
Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorders, may contribute to negative thought patterns, which can maintain a strong fear of success. However, this problem can reinforce itself, causing you to feel stuck and resentful toward yourself and others.
It's normal to fear change and worry about the future. But it's important to strive to overcome your fear of success in order to live a more vibrant, meaningful life.
At Resurface Group, we understand the conscious and unconscious influences affecting your emotional well-being. We are here to support people in achieving the success they deserve, regardless of past expectations. No matter your current circumstances, the first step is seeking support.