The fear of success



Success means a different thing to each of us. It might be a healthy and happy family, a distinguished sports career, ambitious professional or financial objectives. Most of us claim we want to be successful. Most of us think they do. What does it look like in reality though?

The truth is that, despite what we say, we frequently do not really want to reach the top. You might ask why, might say it is illogical, or stupid. And yes, it does sound counter-intuitive, but here’s the thing: many of us are (subconsciously) afraid of being successful.

We are scared of reaching our full potential. We do not always do as much as we could and as a consequence, we settle for less. When faced with the sign in our subconscious mind saying ‘enough’, we often stop without a moment of reflection.

On one hand, we sabotage ourselves from progressing, but on the other, we do take action. It feels like a fair-play. But is it really?

You might be wondering why people do this. There are a few reasons behind this complex phenomenon.

You are paralysed by the responsibility which comes with success.

Whatever the area of life, we are obliged to take the responsibility for our actions and face the consequences which come with it. Needless to say, the more power we have and the more decisions we make, the bigger the outcome and the bigger its significance.

Success is more complex than failure. By entering the uncharted territory you must be aware that you expose yourself to pressure and high demands. What may you find on top? Getting up early, making important decisions, speaking up for yourself, negotiating your rights, travelling from one place to another, paying attention, listening, and developing relentlessly. The success as we frequently see it is just the tip of the iceberg, but there’s way more to it than what can be seen above the sea level. Once we realize that, our motivation might drop.

You are scared to be different.

Quite obviously, those who reach the top are characterized by certain features and stand out in the crowd because of them. Our habits, routines, and beliefs shape who we are and quite frequently become the means of our journey towards a better, more meaningful life. People who aim high do more of the important stuff, which helps them to grow and inevitably makes them move in a completely different direction than the rest of the society. They take the path less travelled by, which makes all the difference.

It is not without consequences though. By being different, we risk being left out and rejected by our peers. We might end up feeling lonely and lost, disoriented by not being able to fit in, exposed to jealous stares from those who won’t take action in order to change their own lives.

You assume that you will fail.

Many of us do not even try to accomplish our dreams, we don’t even take the first step. We’ll never get a guarantee of success. Why should you even bother trying? Dreaming big is not as easy as we think. The greater the vision, the more spectacular the failure and, as we already know, the best way to deal with a failure is to avoid it at all costs.

Is the problem daunting you? Would you like to overcome the irrational fear which jeopardizes your actions? Do not focus on the failure, but rather on the dream. Pay close attention to the simple, everyday decisions. Bear in mind the significance of the next right step and do not overthink or analyse the what-ifs. There’s nothing wrong about being different and if you are surrounded by the right people and treat them well, they will follow wherever you go.

If you advance, you might lose. If you don’t take the first step though, you have already lost. The choice is yours.   


Dig deeper:

You’ll find the words in bold here

Fiszki: THE FEAR OF SUCCESS | Quizlet

It’s only our suggestion. Select your own words to study.

Suggested video: How you can use impostor syndrome to your benefit  (13 min)


Author: Ola L. from Talkersi

Edited by: Magda O. from Talkersi

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