Dealing with the Fear of Success


People often hear that a significant barrier to change is the fear of failure.  Though this can be a contributing factor,the fear of success can be more debilitating. As many people are aware, the stress is experienced when faced with any kind of change in life. For far too many, the belief that being successful is a change that is too difficult for them to deal with easily.

This is especially difficult if they view themselves in a negative light?  Examples include  thinking they’re not good enough or talented enough or fall short as compared to others. If these messages are constantly repeated, they get wired into their conscious and unconscious minds.  So if there is an opportunity to succeed, it is not unusual for them to experience fear, anxiety and/or obsessive negative thoughts about themselves, thus sabotaging their succeeding. Viewing themselves as “less than” may be a defense against facing an unknown, even if it may be potentially positive.

Specifically viewing yourself as less than being capable of experiencing success in certain areas, can result in you’re settling for merely being merely good enough.  This can manifest itself in various ways.  It could be in setting goals that fall short of achievement, creating “to do ” lists that are not fully accomplished, professing incredible ideas and plans that are rarely fulfilled. Self sabotaging yourself, blocks you from “grabbing onto the brass ring”. Success, with a particular endeavor, becomes too big to think about without being stressed out.

One can often tie in fear of success with loss.  There are different types of loses feared.  If you are successful you may fear losing a close relationship because you’re seen as different from before. You may fear losing your immaturity and dependency on others in some way rather than standing on your own.  You may fear others being dependent more on you if you are successful. You may fear that being successful, you would be puffed up, resulting in others now being jealous of you.

What are some of the things you can do to change this dysfunctional way of thinking?  You can begin to deal with your fear of success by asking yourself some of the following questions.

• What am I avoiding by such behavior?

• Who do I get to punish or get back at by my behavior?

• What emotion am I not willing to release? For many it may be anger or rage which is forbidden to be  expressed.

• What kind of thoughts about myself am I holding onto with this behavior?

• Do I implicitly inflence other people’s behavior and expectations by my behavior?

Once you go through this honest self appraisal, you need to entertain the idea that you were put on this earth to be successful.  This is in spite of what may have been drummed into your head since childhood. This may in turn influence  what you think of your capabilities when faced with a new. challenge.  Feeling “less than”  may not be what you want for yourself but it is something you’re use to and automatically take on. So, when faced with a possibly successful endeavor, tell and visualize to yourself that you are already successful and have what it takes to be the master of your own destiny.

Intellectually at least, act as if you are already successful in life on your terms and not on others’ terms.  As you consistently visualize yourself as  a successful person, after a while you will begin to believe it. This does not mean initially the fears, anxieties and depression will automatically go away.  However, when attempting to visualize your success, you need to push through your fears knowing that you are better than you think you are.

Success doesn’t happen all at once but is a journey.  More than likely, you will start that journey with trepidation. However, counteract any obsessive negative thoughts by remembering to take time out to experience things that bring you joy and are fun. Maintain a daily journal, writing down, at the end of the day, all the positive experiences you had that day. Remember not to take those everyday positive things you do for granted.

Regardless of your setbacks, push through your fears and anxiety attacks. If you continue, even if it is one small step forward and two big steps backward, once successful, the successful outcome is all that you will remember.

Success is not an end all, be all. It is merely part of your journey through this life.  Therefore, remember the significance of having balance in your life.  This means spending time with positive friends and relatives, enjoying a hobby, personal interest or  outside activity. It means identifying and following a passion, eating right and exercising and cultivating your spiritual growth.

Daily read the following quote by Marianne Williamson. It may help you think about what truly is important in this world and your place in it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Finally, on your journey, you may be overwhelmed by fear, anxiety and depression,. Then it important to be open to outside help along the way by taking proper medication, obtaining professional counseling services and/or become involved a structured activity such as yoga, tai chi or meditation.

As always, feel free in contacting me, Ray Shocki PhD, LCSW, LMFT, at with any questions comments or suggestions.