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Fear of Success — What It Is, Why It Occurs, and How To Overcome It for Good

Published: November 8, 2021    

Updated: December 2, 2021

November 8, 2021    

Fear of Success — What It Is, Why It Occurs, and How To Overcome It for Good

Failing is easy. People fail all the time. In fact, most successes in life— whether it’s taking your first steps as a baby or acing your math test—were preceded by a string of failed attempts. That is not to say that fear of failure is not a real thing, however, but some of us can find it easier to forget about failure and move on.

However, you’d be surprised to discover that many individuals experience a fear of success rather than failure.

Here's one reason you may experience a fear of success: you work hard to achieve a certain goal—it can take you days, months, or even years, and even if you manage to get to your goal, it doesn't end there. New possibilities present themselves, as well as choices you need to make, expectations from yourself and others, and increased pressure.

Success is also not as common as failure, so people may see it as an isolating experience. 

The fear of success is very real and can be overwhelming for the person going through it.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What the fear of success is.
  • Why we fear success.
  • How it can affect your life.
  • How to overcome the fear of success.

What Is the Fear of Success?

The fear of success (also known as “achievemephobia”) is when you self-sabotage your chances of succeeding. For example, some of us are afraid of success because we fear the changes it brings.

The logic is this: humans are creatures of habit and prefer to live by routine. Sure, it’s okay to not plan everything on some days, but on the whole, we naturally gravitate toward a system or some sort of pattern. Therefore, we tend to dislike random and unsystematic days as they can cause us to be unproductive and put us under pressure. 

The same is true when it comes to achieving our personal goals. Although we rationally know that success is a good thing and we would like to succeed in our lives, unknowingly, we often oppose the changes that success introduces to our current routine and lifestyle. 

Marisa Peer, a multi-award-winning therapist and best-selling author, has worked with clients all around the world for over 30 years. She says, “Your mind is hardwired to resist what is unfamiliar and to return to what is familiar.” This can mean that as you move closer to achieving your personal goals, such as getting a senior position at work, losing weight, or graduating from college, you may find yourself beginning to fear the outcomes of succeeding in these goals.

For example:

Getting a senior position at work: This means you’ll be responsible for people working under you. This can feel like a major responsibility as many will be reporting to and counting on you, and you may not be mentally ready for that.

Losing weight: Say you have a goal to lose 20 pounds, and to achieve that, you have to maintain a strict diet and exercise a lot more than usual. This can bring changes to your routine. These changes can be discouraging, and so you’re inclined to backslide and return to your old eating habits.

Graduating from college: Getting your degree comes with a lot of stakes and expectations—you’re expected to either study further or get a job and be “responsible.” This will also mean that you have to forgo your old routine and adopt a new one, which can be overwhelming, especially if it was a major change. 

If you can relate to some of the examples above, there’s a high chance you may be afraid of success.

Remember, as humans, we are creatures of routine, and psychologically, we prefer staying in our comfort zones (what we already know)—even if it isn’t good for us. Therefore, we perceive any change as inherently bad.

However, change can often lead to growth, and although it may be overwhelming, it is very necessary. 

So if you want to grow, whether in your career or personal life, or you’d like to shed any limiting beliefs like your fear of success, you must learn how to embrace change.

How To Identify the Fear of Success?

The fear of success is not always easy to identify as it can manifest in both subtle and obvious ways.

However, there are signs that you can look for on your path to overcoming the fear of success.

Fear of success symptoms and signs:

  • Fear of the social and emotional isolation that success might bring. 
  • Fearing negative feedback, assuming people might perceive you in a negative light. 
  • Being afraid of the spotlight and attention.
  • Apprehension about moving forward in your success and leaving friends and family behind.
  • Anxiety about the responsibilities brought on by success.
  • Believing that success will change you for the worse.
  • Thinking that your success will be unsustainable and short-lived.

These symptoms can also manifest in your character and make you prone to unhealthy self-sabotaging behaviors that prevent you from succeeding.

Some self-handicapping behaviors exhibited by people with the fear of success include procrastination, perfectionism, and giving up easily.

Let’s take a look at each of these characteristics a little deeper.

Procrastination

Procrastination has often been linked to “achievemephobia,” also referred to as the fear of winning. People who are afraid of success tend to deliberately postpone tasks until the last moment, hindering their chances of succeeding.

All of us have engaged in harmless procrastination. It’s quite common to put off tasks like writing an essay or studying for a test. However, it can be destructive for you to put off working on your emotions.

If you have a fear of success, there’s a high chance that you are refusing to acknowledge and confront your feelings and emotions. When you bottle up your emotions, they start to weigh you down and can lead to outbursts of anger or sadness. This could have a lasting impact on your mental wellbeing and can impair your ability to succeed.

According to world-renowned therapist and founder of Rapid Transformation Therapy® (RTT®) Marisa Peer, what lies beneath procrastination is the fear of not being good enough—Marisa often refers to it as the most common fear in the world.

Marisa says,It’s important to recognize that the mind does what it’s told, it is wired to protect us from situations that bring us fear.”

In the case of having a fear of success, our minds believe that achieving our goal would bring about change. Since our minds are averse to change, they will do whatever they can to prevent that change from occurring by engaging in other tasks.

There’s a very simple system that Marisa has devised to stop procrastination. She refers to it as, “Lie, cheat, and steal.” 

Say you have to prepare for a test, but you keep putting it off...

So you lie to your mind and tell yourself that you have chosen to study for the test. 

You cheat fear and procrastination by actually studying.

And you steal back the confidence that you were born with by performing well.

Perfectionism

Perfectionists tend to set extremely high standards and expectations for themselves, to the point where achieving those expectations can be unattainable. 

For instance, you might have a project due in a week, and you want to do your best and get an A, so you continue to work on your project until you make everything perfect—but your idea of what’s perfect is so unrealistic that it’s impossible for you to achieve it.

Therefore, you may end up turning in the project after the due date, or even turning in an incomplete project, ultimately sabotaging your chances at success.

Quitting easily

People with a fear of success are afraid of facing the consequences that can come from achieving it. They assume that upon succeeding, their achievements will only bring emptiness and negative change to their life, and, therefore, they give up right at the brink of their success.

You might perceive that your future will be negative, assuming that your success will be short-lived. Therefore, you quit right before achieving your goals to protect yourself from the negativity. 

Identifying the fear of success is a long process, each symptom and behavioral pattern needs to be analyzed over a period of time. However, knowing the causes of fear of success will aid in your journey to overcoming it.

What Causes Fear of Success?

There are several causes behind the fear of success. Some of them include:

Imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is an internal experience where even though you have succeeded in accomplishing your goals, you feel that you are not good enough.

You might begin to feel like a failure or a fraud. You feel undeserving of your achievements and may also believe that success will invite increased societal expectations and pressure, leading to other people finding out that you were never good enough in the first place. 

Childhood trauma

Deep-rooted fears such as “achievemephobia” usually manifest due to negative experiences from childhood

For example, if you were bullied for getting good grades in school, you are more likely to grow up associating the feeling of success with the negative experience.

Mental health conditions

Although there is no specific mental health condition that is associated with the fear of success, pre-existing conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can also intensify such fears. 

The fear of success is also very common in people with low self-esteem and self-confidence

Learning to believe in yourself can go a long way. Celebrity therapist Marisa Peer has devised a program to help you overcome anxiety and permanently eradicate all of its symptoms.

Fear of backlash

Also known as “backlash avoidance,” this is when an individual turns down opportunities due to fears of societal repercussions. 

They fear that other people believe they are undeserving of success. We can observe this in women who adhere to the traditional gender norms by steering clear of self-promotion. It’s also possible that avoiding self-promoting behavior is linked to equating achievement with unfavorable outcomes.

How Can Fear of Success Affect Your Life?

The fear of success, if left unaddressed, can have a severe negative impact on your life. It can reduce your self-esteem and lower your overall life satisfaction, among other things. Learn more about the different ways it can affect your life.

Reduces self-esteem

If you feel undeserving of success, you likely have low-self esteem. As a result, you often fail to associate your achievement with your talent, skill, and efforts. 

There is a solution to overcome this feeling of worthlessness. As Marisa Peer says, “The most effective way to boost self-esteem is to praise yourself.” 

Marisa has also developed a cutting-edge and award-winning program called I Am Enough, which builds your self-esteem.

Difficulty achieving goals

People with “achievemephobia” find it challenging to maintain behaviors that increase productivity as they lack motivation. 

If you are feeling like you’re having difficulty achieving your goals, it’s okay. Just know that this state of mind is not permanent, and you have the power to change how you feel. 

“The most powerful potential on the planet comes from your mind.”—Marisa Peer 

Lowers life-satisfaction 

There's a negative correlation between fear of success and overall life satisfaction. Areas of life satisfaction may include work, family, money, health, leisure, and the surrounding environment. All these things can be areas of growth. 

If you fear success, you may lack an inner drive and ambition to want to make a better life for yourself, lowering your life satisfaction. 

When your life satisfaction is quite low, no matter how much effort you put into creating a better surrounding environment—wealth, family, work—it will always feel unsatisfactory, and it will eventually kill any ounce of motivation you may have had and will hinder your potential to succeed.

How To Overcome the Fear of Success

We’ve explained the fear of success and the different ways it can manifest. 

Even though this “fear of winning” can implicitly show itself in your character, it’s important that you don’t let your fears define you and you have the confidence that you can overcome anything you put your mind to.

"In order to overcome your resistance to change, you've got to make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar."—Marisa Peer

There are some simple strategies that Marisa Peer, through her three decades’ worth of experience, has discovered and taught her clients in order for them to overcome the fear of success.

Acknowledge the emotion

The first step in overcoming a fear of success is acknowledging the fear itself. Therefore, you will need to validate the existence of the fear and also understand its origins. 

Take some personal time off to contemplate and trace your past experiences with success, how you reacted to it, and what caused your reaction. This can help you get some insight into why you have been potentially sabotaging your path to success.

Develop a positive mindset 

Developing a positive mental attitude is essential to overcome the fear of success. 

As acclaimed speaker and therapist Marisa Peer says, “Your every thought and word form a blueprint that your mind and body work to make your reality.”

If you find yourself having too many negative thoughts, just write them all down on a piece of paper. Identify the negative thought and replace it with a positive word.

For instance, you can replace thoughts like, “I CANNOT do this,” and, “I am INCAPABLE of this,” with, “I CAN do this,” and, “I AM CAPABLE of doing anything I want to do.”

Manage stress and anxiety

Often, one of the common causes for most fears—be it the fear of love, fear of rejection, or fear of failure—stems from stress and anxiety.

The same is also true for fear of success. Therefore, it is imperative to adopt lifestyle strategies that reduce the impacts of stress and anxiety. 

Techniques that combat anxiety and stress include:

Seek professional help

After a period of adopting these practices, you will gradually start to notice the changes in your behavior. 

However, there is a quicker and more effective way to overcome your fear of success.

Marisa Peer has curated the perfect self-hypnosis audio programs to strengthen your willpower, stop procrastination, and overcome anxiety. 

The audios are designed to reprogram our conscious and subconscious minds—this is where the root of most of our beliefs, fears, and phobias reside. Marisa’s hypnosis audios can positively change our lives by working on our lack of motivation and determination. 

By listening to Marisa Peer’s hypnosis audios, you can learn to understand the origins of the fear, discover techniques to combat low self-esteem, stress, and anxiety, and eradicate self-sabotaging behaviors for good. 

You will begin to feel confident in your achievements and even put an end to your imposter syndrome.
Through Marisa’s All Access Pass, you can finally overcome your paralyzing fear of success and regain the confidence you were born with.

Author: Marisa Peer
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Marisa shares her 30 years of experience as a multi-award-winning therapist to celebrities, top athletes, and even royalty. She is the founder and creator of RTT®, the cutting-edge method and hybrid solution-based treatment that can deliver extraordinary transformations.
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