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Fear of Success: Causes, And Tips To Overcome

10 min read
Last Updated on 23 April, 2024

Fear is an intuitive, strong, and basic human emotion. According to psychological studies, it involves a strong individual emotional reaction and a general physiological response. It makes us aware of the danger or the potential for injury, whether that risk is psychological or physical.

"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

What Is Fear Of Success?


Fear of success is the anticipation that we won't be able to maintain or we may suffer if we accomplish something new. Because whenever we concentrate on a goal, we discuss the advantages of reaching the objective. We discuss the fear of failure, but we seldom notice this fear or discuss with others what could occur after getting promoted to another stage.

The words "success anxiety" and "success phobia" can also describe the fear of success. Whatever you choose to name it, it has a detrimental effect on general life satisfaction.

It's not that you believe you can't be successful. The anxiety of potential change and your level of readiness are more important considerations. For example:

  • You may draw more attention but dislike the spotlight and are quiet and introverted.

  • Isolation on the social or emotional front may result from public achievement.

  • Your success can drive your peers away.

  • People can perceive you as boastful.

  • You worry about falling from the pedestal you never wanted to be in the first place.

  • Success might be different from what it seems to be.

  • Success may alter you, maybe in a negative way.

What Causes Fear Of Success?


It is crucial to remember that most individuals do not develop a fear of success. Instead, their apprehension is focused on the possible implications of accomplishment because success expectations are frequently built on the assumption that reaching your objectives requires making sacrifices or enduring losses. Understandably, individuals are scared of what success may eventually cost them.

1. Introvert Nature


Some people prefer not to be the focus of attention. People who are shy or socially nervous may be afraid of success because they do not want to be in the spotlight. They may be wary of the attention they will attract due to their accomplishment.

They may also avoid being praised or engage in backlash avoidance or other avoidance behaviors.

2. Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a psychological condition in which a person has a chronic internalized dread of being discovered as a phony and questions their abilities, talents, or accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their abilities, people experiencing this phenomenon think they do not deserve success or luck.

They feel they are fooling people because they believe they are not as intelligent as they appear to be. They fear success because they will be found out or will not be good enough. Fear of success might manifest as apprehension over being knocked from an imaginary pedestal.

This syndrome affects both men and women equally and frequently coexists with despair and anxiety.

3. Lack Of Self-Efficacy


Self-efficacy is the conviction to execute activities or reach goals. Feeling like you can't achieve your objectives might lead to a fear of success, which also ties into the imposter syndrome.

The individual does not feel they can reach the success goals they have set for themselves. Increasing sentiments of self-efficacy, or the belief that one can succeed, can help to minimize the fear of success.

4. Gender Stereotypes


Traditional gender norms might often cause a dread of achievement. In many countries, males are praised for their accomplishments, but women who achieve the same thing are socially stigmatized.

According to peer-reviewed studies, women are encouraged to be modest and conform to gender conventions rather than look self-promoted or aggressive. Some women are concerned that success would lead to attacks on their femininity or that they will be considered unlikable and undeserving.

Because of gender stereotypes or traditional gender roles, women are more prone to fear unfavorable reactions to achievement. Women are more prone to link success with bad outcomes, which may lead to success anxiety.

5. Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences stay with us for the rest of our lives, even if we aren't always conscious of them. It most likely took the wind out of your sails if you were teased or chastised for your accomplishments during childhood. You learned that it is better to avoid success than to face it. Childhood trauma is a trigger for a lifelong fear of success.

If you were never acknowledged or perceived enough as a youngster, you might develop into a perfectionist, which is a recipe for failure.

Childhood experiences are firmly imprinted in our neurological circuits. An individual may anticipate a poor consequence rooted in a past event.

6. Mental Health


Fear of success is not always associated with a specific mental health problem. However, it may coexist with illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health illness caused by watching or experiencing a scary incident. Flashbacks, nightmares, intense anxiety, and uncontrolled thoughts about the incident are all possible symptoms.

People suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry excessively about everyday events and circumstances. GAD is also known as Chronic anxiety neurosis.

7. Learning From Experiences


If someone succeeds and has terrible experiences, or if they watch someone else achieve poor outcomes, they may associate success with these negative outcomes and grow fearing it.

A negative consequence of prior accomplishment may make a person skeptical about future success. Perhaps collaborators ostracized the individual for "stealing the spotlight," and the person is fearful that future achievement would elicit the same reaction.

How To Overcome Fear Of Success?


A person's fear of success might be visible at times. Other times, it can be found beneath the surface, manifesting in patterns of thought and/or action repeated by the individual. It requires self-awareness to recognize your fear of success.

Below are the presented strategies by which the fear of success can be overcome:

1. Recognize And Accept


The initial step in overcoming the fear of success is the most difficult. It necessitates a great deal of honesty and insight.

When people have a fear of success, it is simple to find reasons for not achieving particular goals.

Because it is normal to create excuses, we must work hard to peel back on them and become honest about why we have not succeeded.

2. Traverse Through The Root Of The Issue


You've recognized your fear. Now examine your previous successes, back to your past years, to figure out how you got here.

Consider previous triumphs and what transpired as a result. Like,

  • Was it something that happened as a youngster or as an adult?

  • What message did your previous experiences leave you with?

  • What would your life be like if you never chase your dream of success?

  • What are the recurring themes and patterns?

You may start counteracting success-related tendencies in your thoughts and behaviors by identifying them.

Once you've identified your negative ideas and self-talk, think about how you may reframe them to generate and strengthen beliefs.

Working with a coach might help you create an alternate reaction when you become caught up in your thoughts.

3. Begin Journaling


We may unleash our deepest thoughts and feelings onto paper via journaling. Through this, we may sort out our internal conflict between wanting success and generating excuses for not having it.

No one needs to read the writing, not even you, if you choose to write it once and never look at it again.

However, journaling allows us to securely and finally be honest about the fear of success that has been holding us back from attaining our goals and desires.

Journaling can assist you in keeping track of and connecting intimately with your thoughts and reactions to the world.

Write in your journal:

  • What is your imagination of a well-lived life?

  • What are your most fervent hopes and worries about realizing that vision?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining success—your life vision? How do you think you'd react to both?

Journaling may help you connect with your emotions and track your development.

Consider how success anxiety manifests itself. Make a note of all the ways you've been undermining your success. Writing everything down can help you remember everything. When you recognize these tendencies, you may begin to combat them.

4. Keep Negativity Aside


The fear of success is an overpowering situation brought on by various underlying causes. This accumulation results in the dread of success due to our fear of success's negative ramifications rather than its positive ones.

Negative thought patterns act as warning lights promoting dread and self-doubt. You can heavily reduce the amount of negativity in your life if you avoid negative individuals. Practice daily gratitude, and write down all the happy occurrences in your life. You can also practice mindfulness, and you will notice how your bad attitude begins to fade.

Instead of trusting what your worry tells you, you should strive to remain positive. Examine your negative beliefs.

As the traditional proverb states, "He, who fears to suffer, suffers from fear."

5. Take Care Of Stress And Anxiety


Managing stress can lead to future success among university and high school students. Take care of your well-being to reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise, consume nutritious foods, relax, sleep, and spend time with friends and family.

Navigate the environment with a conscious awareness of how you react to your surroundings. Deep breathing can help you navigate a challenging mood or prevent a bad, reflexive reaction when you are anxious. Concentrating on your mental peace and physical well-being can allow you to go through life more mindfully.

Your concerns might be exacerbated by stress and worry. Here are some lifestyle changes that may be beneficial:

a. Eat Healthily

Aim for a well-balanced diet that includes all essential elements. You should not avoid meals.

b. Avoid Certain Foods

Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and highly processed foods.

c. Relax

Make time every day to relax by reading, soaking in the shower, or doing whatever helps you unwind.

d. Exercise

Daily physical exercise is vital for general health. Join a gym or find an exercise companion to help you remain on track.

e. Volunteer

Helping others is an excellent method to divert your attention away from your anxieties.

6. Make A Library For Inspiration

Sometimes, when we lose faith in ourselves, we need a little encouragement to get us back on track. There are several methods to gain inspiration, yet we often overlook them when we need them.

Make a quote library, store articles and success stories that have inspired you, create a library of motivating movies and videos, or create an album of your fun and joyful experiences. Use this library when you are feeling self-conscious.

7. Talk To People


Share a few chuckles, speak things over, and keep your support network close at hand.

With the assistance of others, you may overcome your fear of success. If you can, talk to individuals who have accomplished what you desire, and if you can't, find out what they have said about their achievements.

Others have been where you are, and you may learn from their experiences to help you deal with yours. Discuss your concerns with your friends and loved ones, and seek their emotional support on this trip. It can help you overcome your concerns about achievement and find someone to debunk the misconceptions holding you back.

8. Stay In The Present

Consider your potential fear of success and how it has manifested for you in the past and now.

Sometimes our anxieties are related to events that may or may not occur in the future. It also happens because of anticipation of future success. Allow yourself to dwell in the current moment. You will deal with these occurrences if they occur.

You may prepare if you need to, but there is no reason to get overwhelmed by fears about the future. Maintain your focus on the present moment, doing whatever you can to better your circumstances and bring success closer.

9. Seek Professional Therapy


Feeling overwhelmed and unable to get control? Get medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You can also consider visiting a mental health professional or therapist to help you cope with your fear of achievement. You might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you learn to see achievement in a new light and develop new methods of dealing with fear.

Read : 11 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques For Employees At Work


Fear of success entails being terrified of success, frequently to the extent that individuals may undergo destructive behavior. While success is typically regarded as good, there are several reasons why individuals may be afraid of performing too well.

Fear of success, like many other mental patterns, can seriously impede our ability to achieve our objectives and live up to expectations. But we are not afraid of true success. It is the other aspects that cause us concern.

I hope you found this blog useful and learned much about the fear of success.

I wish you the best of luck in anything you do.

This article is written by Ritushree R Singh, who is a content writer and marketer at Vantage Circle. Besides having a curious heart with an avid taste for music, she relishes traveling to new places and exploring different cultures whenever possible. To get in touch, reach out to

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