Is the Fear of Success Real?

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Is the Fear of Success Real?

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Nearly everyone recognizes the idea of being afraid of failure. Some people are so intent about never failing that they always play life extremely safe, never really taking any risks. Other people love the idea of risk and don’t worry much about failing. They recognize the possibility of failure but only at a level that keeps them pushing towards the pursuit of their goal. They also accept the idea that sometimes failure does occur and they are prepared to manage it.


On the other hand, there are also people who fear success. Sometimes when the suggestion of a fear of success emerges, people struggle to form the connection with success and fear. Is the fear of success real?

Fear of Success

Like its opposite partner, the fear of failure, the fear of success comes in various levels and for various reasons. Based on research and my experiences working with people, especially in coaching roles, here are five of the most common factors associated with having a fear of success.

  1. Maintaining a higher standard. The fear is that you’ll be unable to keep things up at this level. Because the standard will have become so high you will forever have to work that much harder. It feels easier to stay where you are comfortable.
  2. I’m not worthy or don’t deserve it. Self-esteem and self-efficacy are the two most important building blocks for self-confidence. If you’ve been told many times that you’re not worthy, or you can’t do it, or that it’s impossible. You may believe you are not worthy or that you don’t deserve to achieve your goal or obtain a higher level of success.
  3. I’ll lose friends and create enemies. Envy from others can be a major setback for those who have achieved more success. People may resist the idea of becoming more successful because they fear losing friendships or creating enemies. 
  4. Success requires great risk or luck. Many people don’t like the feeling of risk and believe that they are never lucky. Luck and risks are very different, but some believe they are unlucky at everything because they “never win.” The idea is the more successful I become the more my fate rests in risk or luck, so I’m afraid to become more successful.
  5. I don’t like being in the spotlight. This fear is rooted in the idea that the spotlight makes the person uncomfortable, if you don’t like to draw attention to yourself or your achievements you may try avoid excelling at anything or everything.

Surprising to some, the fear of success is real. While it is often deeply rooted in other unrelated circumstances or situations the fear may be enough to make people consciously or subconsciously avoid any scenario that may position them for additional success.

Do you fear success?

– DEG 

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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September 30, 2016at 8:10 am

Sharing a positive energizing would be nice. Let your Light Shine! It is time.

Life 🙂

    Dennis Gilbert

    September 30, 2016at 1:15 pm

    My hope and intent is that this post is positive and helps people who struggle with certain fears to see the differences in situations or circumstances that may be holding them back. Thank you for your comment, I do appreciate you taking the time to interact. 🙂

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