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Fear of Success: Explained

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"There are real, rational reasons to fear success, even though it seems contradictory to fear the very thing you desire. Along with success comes a great deal of pressure– not only to live up to past achievements but also to continually surpass them. Performing at one’s best can raise others’, as well as one’s own, expectations. The increased pressure to perform can evoke such painful stress and anxiety that some people opt out of the fast track all together."

Marc Miller, Ph.D.

Fear of success is the following:

* Fear that you will accomplish all that you set out to, but that you still won't be happy, content or satisfied once you reach your goal

* Belief that you are undeserving of all the good things and recognition that come your way as a result of your accomplishments and successes

* Opposite of fear of failure, in that fear of failure is the fear of making mistakes and losing approval--Fear of success is the fear of accomplishment and being recognized and honored.

* Lack of belief in your own ability to sustain your progress, and the accomplishments you have achieved in your life

* Fear that your accomplishments can self-destruct at anytime

* Belief that no matter how much you are able to achieve or accomplish, it will never be enough to sustain success

* Belief that there are others out there who are better than you, who will replace or displace you if you do not maintain your performance record

* Belief that success is an end in itself; yet that end is not enough to sustain your interest and/or commitment

* Fear that once you have achieved the goals you have worked diligently for, the motivation to continue will fade

* Fear that you will find no happiness in your accomplishments--that you will be perpetually dissatisfied with life.

Fear of success can result in:

* A lack of effort to achieve goals you have set for yourself in school, on the job, at home, in relationships, or in your personal growth

* Self-destructive behavior, such as tripping yourself up to make sure that you do not sustain a certain level of success or achievement you once had in school, on the job, at home, in relationships or in your personal growth.

* Problems making decisions, being unable to solve problems

* Losing the motivation or the desire to grow, achieve and succeed

* Chronic underachievement

* Feeling guilt, confusion and anxiety when you do achieve success--this leads you to falter, waver and eventually lose your momentum.

* Sabotaging any gains that you have made in your personal growth and mental health, because once you become healthier, a better problem solver, and more "together,'' you fear that no one will pay attention to you. You are habituated to receiving help, sympathy and compassionate support.

* Your choosing to do just the opposite of what you need to do to be happy, healthy and successful

* Reinforcing your chronic negativity, chronic pessimism and chronic lack of achievement since you cannot, visualize yourself in a contented, successful life

* Denouncing your achievements and accomplishments, or seeking ways in which you can denigrate yourself enough to lose what you've gained

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Hey LLaura, it sounds like a very interesting fear. Interesting not as in amusing, but rather in the sense, like you said, it is contradictory to fear the thing that we desire. I try to think what it is like to have a fear of success, but it is hard for me to grasp, as I can only come up with the fear of failure.

I dont have a fear of success, but one thing that caught my attention was the following symptom: "Fear that you will find no happiness in your accomplishments--that you will be perpetually dissatisfied with life." I've definitely felt that before and it is a scary thought, so I could imagine it would be amplified ten times if someone had a fear of success. Anyway, this is a pointless post on my part, I just wanted to respond and thank you for taking time to put up information regarding this fear, as it might prove helpful to someone who has it. Take care- Allen

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Hey allen, not a pointless post at all. I think many here with any kind of anxiety issue can relate to one or several of these things. And imo fear of success is also more about fear of change, be it positive or negative. The mind tends to fight against change being stuck it its ways, even if its a negative or unhealthy way.

Anyone else relate to any of this or have some comment?


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I can relate without reading the whole post...

Fear of Success

Definately.. been a screw up all my life, So for me actually to grow up and be somebody.. is a chore in and of itself. Much less a good somebody..

I am complete just not finished.

love you all


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Thank you for posting this Llaura. I can definitely say i have this. Even when I have what I consider a "great idea" I will do great for 2 weeks, see myself get to that goal and then give up before its achieved. Ironically I consider myself a perfectionist but apparently not in this sense. Anways, makes alot of sense for alot of the things I do.

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Ok so the other day I presented this "fear of success" issue to one of the counselors here. He responded by telling me it's still really a fear of failure. Of not being able to sustain any level of success, thereby failing at it. This made me go hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think there is still an initial element of fear of achieving the success or advancing one's status...followed by further thought of it as failing at the new level of achievement eventually, so why bother.

Either way it keep us stuck as we are, and whether progress is seen as a success or potential for failure, the fear is still real. The core of it being all about change, and the brain hates change and would rather we stay stuck in the gutters of hell than go through the difficult, frustrating, painful process of thinking/being different, even if being different means being/living a happier more content life.

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