Fear of success can be a tricky topic. It feels counter-intuitive, but at the same time we sometimes can’t argue with the evidence. I’ll break it down and show you how to get started overcoming the fear of success.
Recognizing and Overcoming the Fear of Success
In working with clients, and as I have absolutely experienced in my own life, fear of success is a very real, though quite confusing dynamic.
The challenge is, we innately know that success is something to be desired not feared and we don’t know how to reconcile that with the very real fear or aversion we feel.
If this has been a challenge for you, I’m going to share my experience and insight along with a few tips for overcoming fear of success in your own life.
Where does fear of success come from?
I see two major sources for fear of success. If neither of these really resonates with you I’d love to learn more about your experience. Please email me at email@example.com.
Now, in both cases it’s important to recognize that it’s not necessarily success we fear, but something we’ve linked or associated with success or something.
The first case is what I call “The Setup”. If you’ve experienced a time in your life when success led to as injury, then a link could have been established that to avoid future injury you have to prevent the success that leads to it.
A devastating, but common example of this is childhood sexual abuse. If the abuse was preceded by special treatment or the sense that things were going really well (success) which turned to devastating injury it might not be unexpected that the victim would be come skeptical or fearful any time things started going well in life. Obviously the situation is different, but emotionally we try to avoid threat by being aware of the precursors, in this case a traumatic event could cause an avoidance pattern to kick in any time we start to think things are going well. In this context, avoiding success can start to make a lot of sense, even if we continue to apply that strategy in situations that don’t carry the same physical risk of harm.
Another, more benign example might be lessons learned from an economic collapse. If you had achieved a level of business success only to find it crashing down around you, forcing you to lay off people you care about, make personal sacrifices, and carry around the shame of failure, you might emotionally link the pain of failure with the success that set it up. Here again there may be some motivation to avoid allowing yourself to end up in a similar situation.
The other path to fear of success is the fight with our subconscious. Family stories or scripts about success, wealth, and money can exert frustrating influence over current actions. Mismatches between self-image and external results will frequently result in actions that pull you “back where you belong”. And the risk of finding out that you’re – as you suspect – really not good enough can be too much to bear.
As much as we’d like to simply dismiss these beliefs as absurd or not applicable, my experience is that it’s more complicated.
Why? Because…Fear of success is a feeling problem, not a thinking problem. Click To Tweet
How to get over fear of success.
If you’re like me, how long it takes to let go of fear of success probably depends on how stubborn you are. But here are a couple tips.
- You have to unravel the underlying issues. As we identified it doesn’t really make sense that your fear is of success itself, so what does success mean to you? What does it imply? What does it lead to?
Pulling apart the bits we want (success) from the bits we don’t want (possible injury) is the key to letting go of the fear of success.
- Success is a big word – break it down. Ambition, desire, strength and joy are all components of success. Can you get more specific on which of them you struggle with? This may provide some insight or a more clear path to healing.
- Plant the seeds and build on small wins. I recently did a video on cultivating the seeds of change which applies here. If you want more success in your life, look for the areas where you have success now. Cultivate those seeds of happiness, desire, joy, and success and allow them to grow.
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P.S. If you liked the tips provided in this episode you might also get value from my free report, 3 Steps to Increasing the Value of Your Time.