Fear of Success Can’t Be for Real! Or Can It?

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Fear of Success Can’t Be for Real! Or Can It?


Picture it!  Standing atop the podium excitedly awaiting the wrestling official to place the first place gold medal around your neck.

Being admired by your business peers as you receive the plaque declaring you the BNI Networker of the Year.

Watching Amazon sales skyrocket as the book you have worked so hard to complete soars into the stratosphere!

I’m sure you can (and probably already have) filled in your own success blank by now. We all have them! We all can picture our successes.  However, we sometimes (or, dare I say, oftentimes) insert mental roadblocks that keep us from the success that’s rightfully ours. But how?


I think we’re all familiar with the fear of failure–the procrastination that sets in and keeps us from doing the things we need to do to experience success. We see it all the time.  Typically, we are attempting to avoid a thing we perceive as uncomfortable.

  • The rejection that comes from being told “NO” by a prospect
  • The terror that comes from attending a networking function to try to meet new referral partners
  • The shame when that book just doesn’t sell
  • The sadness when the business doors slam shut as a result of very few, if any, sales

The key to the fear of failure is the word FAILURE!! And after all, it sort of makes sense to avoid failure (sort of!!! I’ll write about that one later).

But the Fear of Success????
This makes absolutely no logical sense!  If everyone wants success (and everyone sure says they do), why would anyone fear it.  And success is positive, right (not like “failure”)?  Well, consider these “little voices” that may change your mind:

  • “If I double my income next month, they’ll expect me to now do that EVERY MONTH!”
  • “If I launch this business idea and it actually DOES work, I’ll be working WAY more hours.”
  • “If I make more money, I’ll have to pay more TAXES!” (I just love that one!)
  • “If I experience success, my friends and family will think I THINK I am better than they are.” (I’ll lose my friends and family)
  • “If I am successful working out and I lose weight, I’ll have to spend SO MUCH MONEY on new clothes.”

As you can see, the list can go on and on and on.

Now can you see the similarities between the fears of failure and success?  We actually ARE–in both cases–fearing something NEGATIVE. Our actions are leading us to avoid the False Events Appearing Real (I’ve been hearing this acronym all my life, and I don’t claim to have made it up. But let me know IF YOU KNOW who actually came up with it!) to protect ourselves. So, whichever we are fearing–failure or success–the psychology behind the fear is the same.


Have you been experiencing the fear of success?  Is there something you REALLY WANT, but you just can’t seem to escape the bane of procrastination?  The one thing that has helped me most to conquer this fear is a tip I got from Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.


Whatever happens, I’ll handle it.

If we focus on the things we can control, and let go of the things we cannot, we find peace (The Serenity Prayer). And SUCCESS!

David Wilson
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David Wilson

Author | Speaker | Coach at All Things David Wilson
David Wilson is a lifelong business owner and entrepreneur, and he has been networking to find new business, make new connections, and build new relationships for almost 20 years. He uses a combination of practical advice, real-life personal stories, and laugh-out-loud humor (most of it is funny, anyway) to teach, coach, and help his readers, clients, mentees and audiences.

David is also Managing Principal of Spendown Finance, a small & midsize business funding company in Richmond, VA.
David Wilson
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  • David keep providing value and shared wisdom, “Whatever happens, I’ll handle it.” I’m using this one too!

    • Thanks for the comment, Patrick. And thanks for reading! It’s amazing how my life has changed by declaring “I can handle it.” Accepting the worst case scenario makes everything else ok.

  • Charmaine C

    It was cute but it doesn’t really help me with the fear factor. I understand the logic but a solution and not a slogan was what I was looking for.

    • Thanks for the comment, Charmaine. I know what you mean. Let me add one more point that Susan Jeffers made that may help you (it sure did help me).

      We have to be able to ask ourselves this question: Which negative is stronger? Actually doing that which we fear or the feeling of helplessness that comes from not being where we want to be or doing what we want to do. So, which is worse? Making the phone call to the publisher that may lead to your book becoming a best seller or the helpless feeling that comes from not taking action.

      Reframing the situation this way might make a difference for you. Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!

      • Charmaine C

        My issue is not doing. I do take leaps of faith and move. I stop my momentum when things take off. I have seen how my family members change when they started getting successful. I have my own TV show, wrote 3 book and do public speaking but I stop myself from being truly successful in any of those areas. And, I am saying this on the Internet is cause, in me stopping myself from growing. I am limiting the people I could help because of my fear.
        And, thanks for replying back to me.

        • Ok. Well, that’s great self awareness.

          Your issue is not the “start”, your “fear” is not to turn into that which you perceive is bad (i.e., your family members who have changed). This actually makes sense, and I think your last lines are hitting hard.

          If you reframe this challenge to include those who are losing out by NOT getting your message because you’re not finishing, your focus shines on helping those people and your DUTY to finish.

          I agree that you’re keeping yourself from growing, and growth is sometimes painful. Try this reframe.

          As for your family members, just because this happened to them, is it CERTAIN to happen to you? Your being aware of it puts you one step ahead of them. You have the knowledge to control any possible change, right?

          • Charmaine C

            Thank you. I think this is exactly what I needed to hear. Instead, of focusing on my fear, focus on my audience. I need to focus on what I can do to help them and GOD will take care of my soul.

          • Absolutely, Charmaine! Looks like we have a breakthrough. Please keep me posted as to how things are going!

  • Savannah Jackson

    Great blog! I used to have a fear of success and failure simultaneously. The evidence manifested in a reoccurring dream. My sister interpreted the dream for me and helped me understand it’s meaning. In the dream, I was in a house with many rooms and bedrooms. I was afraid to go upstairs and afraid to go downstairs as well. Whenever I ventured upstairs in the dream I didn’t stay very long. My sister explained, the house was me. Upstairs represented success and downstairs failure. I was afraid to venture upstairs because I was afraid of success yet I would not go downstairs as I didn’t want to fail. So, I stayed on the main floor which meant I wouldn’t even try. Once I understood the meaning of the dream and changed my attitude to embrace moving forward in my life, the dream stopped and I became successful at many things. and when I failed, I just tried again. Thank you for posting!

    • My pleasure, Savannah. And thank you for sharing your story!

  • Pingback: Fear of Success Can’t Be for Real! Or Can It? | Savannah's Blog()

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