Success Phobia: What Is The Fear Of Success And How To Overcome It

What Is Success Phobia And How to Overcome The Fear of Success

Are you afraid of success? Do you feel crippled with fear at the thought of achieving your goals? Then you just might be suffering from the fear of success, also known as success phobia.

In the vast tapestry of human emotions, fear has long held the spotlight as an adversary to be overcome.

We’re no strangers to the chilling grip of fear, that paralyzing force that can suffocate our dreams and imprison us within the boundaries of our comfort zones. Yet, in the realm of fears, one often lurks in the shadows, underestimated and overlooked: the fear of success.

What is the fear of success?

Fear of success meaning: The fear of success (FOS), also known as success phobia or achievemephobia, refers to anxiety experienced when facing the prospect or realization of success. 

fear of success symptoms
Fear of success is also known as success phobia

Though we consciously value achievement and strive for prosperity, unconscious fears can often make us avoid truly achieving it.

FOS is a psychological phenomenon characterized by the fear of achieving success or reaching one’s goals. Identified as a form of anxiety disorder, it involves a fear of the positive outcomes that success may bring, such as –

  • Increased responsibility
  • Attention
  • Scrutiny
  • Expectation

If you have a fear of winning, then you may self-sabotage your efforts, avoid opportunities for advancement, or set low expectations for yourself.

People who are scared of success unconsciously fear that success will disrupt their sense of identity, self-esteem, relationships, and autonomy. However, with reflection and change, these fears can be transformed into fuel for future growth and prosperity.

Related: Why You Should Get To Know Your Fears

Signs of fear of success

Fear of success can manifest in different ways and may be difficult to recognize at first. Here are some of the most common fear of success symptoms:

1. Self-sabotage

Individuals with a fear of success may engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, such as procrastination, avoiding opportunities for advancement, or not putting in their best effort.

They may constantly delay opportunities for growth and advancement, often due to a fear of the unknown or fear of increased responsibilities that success might bring.

2. Setting low expectations

Individuals with a fear of being successful may set low expectations for themselves, believing that they are not capable of achieving more or that success is not worth the effort.

3. Fear of disappointing others

They may have a strong concern about how success may affect relationships or lead to envy or resentment from others, causing hesitation or guilt in pursuing personal goals.

4. Fear of criticism or rejection

Individuals with a fear of being successful may fear criticism and judgment from others, especially if they are in the spotlight or have a higher profile. They may also be afraid of rejection from others, leading to a hesitation to put oneself out there or take risks that could lead to success.

5. Fear of standing out

They may have a reluctance to be in the spotlight or receive recognition for achievements, as it may invite higher expectations, judgment, or feelings of imposter syndrome.

6. Avoiding risks

Individuals with a fear of success may avoid taking risks, playing it safe instead of pursuing opportunities that could lead to success.

7. Setting unrealistic goals

People with the fear of winning habitually set goals that are easily achievable or below one’s true potential to avoid the possibility of failure or the pressure that accompanies success.

8. Negative self-talk

Individuals with a fear of success may have negative self-talk, such as self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and a lack of confidence in their abilities.

They may constantly doubt their abilities, downplay accomplishments, and engage in negative self-talk that undermines confidence and perpetuates the fear of success.

Related: How To Conquer Your Unconscious Fears? Mantra For Success

9. Fear of change

They may have a tendency of resisting or avoiding change, even if it offers promising opportunities for advancement, due to an aversion to the unknown or fear of losing stability.

10. Feeling unworthy

Individuals with a fear of achievement may feel unworthy or undeserving of success, believing that they are not good enough or that success is reserved for others. This is one of the most basic fear of success symptoms.

11. Self-imposed limitations

They may create self-imposed limitations by underestimating abilities or downplaying achievements, consciously or unconsciously, as a means to avoid the pressure and expectations that come with success.

12. Difficulty handling success

Individuals with a fear of achievement may have difficulty handling success, feeling overwhelmed or anxious when they achieve their goals.

13. Lack of clarity and direction

As they feel overwhelmed or paralyzed by the prospect of success, they may have a lack of clear goals, direction, or a sense of purpose.

Recognizing these signs within oneself is the first step toward addressing and overcoming the fear of success, paving the way for personal growth, achievement, and fulfillment.

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional. They can help identify the underlying causes of the fear of success and develop strategies to overcome it.

fear of success symptoms
Overcome fear of success because success is a mindset

Why are we afraid of success?

Success brings many gifts such as money, status, freedom, and self-confidence etc. Yet for some of us, the prospect of achieving success creates anxiety, apprehension, and active self-sabotage.

Despite positively valuing the rewards that come from success, people who are scared of success, consciously or subconsciously, hold themselves back from achieving it. 

According to fear of success psychology, this fear, also known as achievemephobia, often stems from unconscious beliefs that have developed over a lifetime of learning and experiences. 

These unconscious fears begin to form in early life. Children learn from observing parents, siblings, peers, and other role models how to conceptualize success and failure. They observe both rewards and potential costs associated with achievement.

If a child predominantly sees success punished – through jealousy, disapproval, resentment, or withdrawal of love – the child may learn to unconsciously fear it. Achievement becomes associated with negative emotions and consequences.

While success phobia may be triggered by different factors in different people, common underlying fears usually involve:

1. Losing relationships

Fears that friends, family members, or loved ones may feel threatened, jealous, or resentful if one succeeds.

2. Social isolation

Fears that success will lead to feelings of alienation, being misunderstood, or being disliked.

3. Changing roles

Fears that success will require stepping into an unfamiliar identity or losing an established role.

4. Increased responsibility

Fears that with success comes more demands, expectations, and pressures.

5. Self-doubt

Fears of being “found out” as a fraud or inadequate, despite outward success.

6. Loss of control

Fears that handling success will be overwhelming or require sacrificing autonomy.

However, it should be noted that fear of success is not the same as the fear of failure, which is the fear of negative outcomes.

Fear of success stems from the belief that success will bring negative consequences, whereas fear of failure stems from the belief that failure will bring negative consequences. 

Fear of success can have a variety of causes, including past trauma, fear of change, perfectionism, impostor syndrome, and cultural beliefs. Regardless, with the help of therapy and other strategies, individuals can overcome this fear and achieve success on their own terms.

Related: Top 3 Ways To Kick Fear In The Face

What is fear of success trauma?

Fear of success trauma refers to the fear of success that stems from past traumatic experiences. Trauma can have a significant impact on a person’s beliefs and behaviors, including their beliefs about success and their ability to achieve it. 

Individuals who have experienced trauma may develop a fear of success as a way of protecting themselves from further harm.

For example, a person who experienced childhood abuse or neglect may have success phobia because it could draw attention to them and make them vulnerable to further abuse. 

Similarly, a person who has experienced workplace harassment or discrimination may fear success because it could lead to more scrutiny and attention from their colleagues or superiors.

Fear of success trauma can be challenging to overcome, as it is deeply rooted in past experiences. However, working with a mental health professional can help individuals address the underlying trauma and develop strategies to overcome it. 

Do you have a success phobia?

The first step in overcoming this fear is recognizing that it exists. Pay attention to self-sabotaging behaviors: procrastination, avoiding challenges, creating distractions, etc. Ask yourself:

  • “Do I want to succeed in life yet prevent myself from achieving it?”
  • “Do I unconsciously create obstacles to avoid fulfilling my goals?”
  • “Do opportunities to succeed make me anxious instead of excited?”

If so, the next step is exploring the fears beneath the behaviors. Reflect on:

  • “How did I start having such negative feelings towards success? Is it influenced by any person or experience?”
  • “What type of unconscious beliefs do I have about failure and success? Are they helpful or limiting?”
  • “Which fears associated with success feel the most prominent for me?”

Once you understand the origins and nature of your fear, you can develop strategies to manage fear thoughts, change limiting beliefs, and build a vision of the life you truly want.

Overcoming fear of success

Overcoming success phobia can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some tips to help you overcome your fear of success:

1. Acknowledge the fear

Start by recognizing and acknowledging that you have a fear of success. Understand that it is a common fear and that you are not alone in experiencing it.

2. Identify the root cause

Understanding the underlying cause of your fear of success is a crucial step in overcoming it. Consider working with a therapist to explore past experiences or beliefs that may be contributing to your fear.

3. Challenge limiting beliefs

Examine the beliefs and assumptions that underlie your fear of success. Are they based on facts or self-imposed limitations? Challenge and reframe these beliefs to align with your true potential and worthiness of success.

Related: 5 Things You Can Do to Calm Your Fears Now

4. Embrace change

Change can be scary, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and development. Practice embracing change by trying new things, taking on challenges, and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

5. Set realistic goals

Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps. Set realistic and achievable milestones that will gradually push you out of your comfort zone, building confidence along the way.

6. Visualize success

Use the power of visualization to imagine yourself succeeding and enjoying the benefits that come with it. Create a vivid mental picture of your desired outcomes and the positive impact they will have on your life.

7. Focus on the process

To overcome success phobia, focus on the process instead of focusing on the outcome. Enjoy the journey and the learning opportunities that come with it, rather than worrying about the end result.

8. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity

Shift your perspective on failure. Instead of fearing it, view it as a valuable learning experience that brings you closer to success. Understand that setbacks are natural and provide valuable lessons for growth.

9. Surround yourself with supportive people

Seek out a network of supportive individuals who believe in your potential and can provide encouragement and guidance. Their positivity and constructive feedback will help you overcome self-doubt.

10. Celebrate small victories

Acknowledge and celebrate even the smallest achievements along your journey. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may be. Acknowledge your achievements and give yourself credit for your hard work and effort.

Recognizing your progress will boost your confidence and reinforce a positive mindset.

11. Develop self-compassion

Be kind and compassionate to yourself throughout the process. Treat yourself with the same understanding and encouragement you would offer a friend facing similar challenges.

12. Take action despite fear

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to take action despite it. Step outside your comfort zone and embrace opportunities, even if they feel uncomfortable or uncertain. Each step forward will diminish the fear’s hold on you.

13. Seek professional help

If your fear of success is deeply rooted and significantly impacting your life, consider seeking the assistance of a therapist or coach who specializes in working with individuals overcoming fears and limiting beliefs.

Related: The 5 Principles of Success

14. Practice self-care

Taking care of yourself is essential in overcoming fear of success. Engage in activities that make you happy and feel relaxed, such as exercise, meditation, having a mental health day or spending time with loved ones.

15. Believe in yourself

Success often hinges on faith in one’s own capabilities. Challenge doubts with facts about your worthiness and abilities.

With attention, effort and time, you can transform fear thoughts into fuel to propel you forward. Overcoming success phobia requires courage and perseverance, but the rewards-both internally and externally-are well worth the journey. 

fear of success symptoms
Learn strategies for overcoming fear of success

There’s nothing to fear but fear itself

It is only with awareness, introspection, and a willingness to confront limiting thoughts and belief can you truly overcome the fear of success. With courage and effort, it can be transformed into an asset that fuels your drive to succeed – rather than inhibiting it.

Remember, overcoming success phobia is a journey that requires patience, self-reflection, and a commitment to personal growth. With persistence and determination, you can break free from its grip and unlock your true potential.

Follow the right strategies and seek support from loved ones to not only overcome your fear phobia but also to achieve realistic goals.

Success on your own terms, without unconscious fears holding you back, offers ultimate freedom and fulfillment.

Related: 10 Effective Tools To Help You Succeed In Life

fear of success symptoms

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