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Why Do People Fear Success? Why Do People Fear Failure?

Have you ever felt like success eludes you? That no matter what you do or say, you find yourself falling short and not making the mark? Sometimes, whether we know it or not, we undermine our own efforts for success to avoid the possibility of a larger failure. This is known as the fear of success.

The fear of success is often synonymous with the fear of failure. Both carry the same symptoms and both can stem from the same causes. Unbeknownst to us, we self-sabotage and play it small so that there isn’t even a possibility of failure. And inadvertently, this disrupts our chance of success. Below is an overview of both the fear of failure and the fear of success, and how those two are intertwined. 

The Fear of Failure

Let’s start with the obvious: fear of failure. Have you ever been so afraid of something you decide not to try it at all? Most of us have probably experienced this a time or two. The fear of failure and risk-taking. We all have different definitions of failure. Some might consider not upholding values to be a failure. Others might think that not doing what you said you were going to do is a failure. Regardless of how you define failure, many of us are afraid of failing.

Fear of failure can be linked to many causes, like not having a good support system or negative feelings from childhood that can seep into adulthood. A traumatic event can also be linked to fear of failure. Additionally, fear of failure might cause you to experience symptoms like self-sabotage, excessive anxiety, a reluctance to try new things, or perfectionism. So how is this related to the fear of success?

The Fear of Success

While the fear of failure is vastly common among everyone, so is the fear of success. The fear of success is the concern that once we achieve something new, we’ll be incapable of sustaining it or may suffer because of it. It is mostly the fear of change or the consequences of success. The main concern is that achieving success will come at the cost of something else valued in your life, also known as change.

Fear of success can cause us to lose out on a lot of opportunities in life. When we are too afraid to take risks, we get complacent, and we don’t reach our goals. The symptoms of the fear of success might be procrastination, self-sabotage, anxiety, or adverse to risk-taking. Essentially, the fear of success has the same symptoms as the fear of failure, and both fears hold you back from achieving your goals.

How to Overcome All Your Fears

You can use several different strategies to overcome your fear of success and failure. The more you face your fears head-on, and analyze them rationally, the more you can reduce your reluctance to achieve your goals. Below are a few tips to help regulate the fear of success and failure.

Analyze all potential outcomes. Many people experience both the fear of success and failure because there are lots of unknowns to taking risks. Start to take a mental tally of all the outcomes of this decision before moving forward; so it is more premeditated vs. impulsive. 

Look at the glass half full instead of empty. Positive thinking is incredibly powerful and a great tool to help neutralize self-sabotage. It’s easier said than done, but think of the positive impact that taking this risk could generate. 

Have a backup plan. As always, if you are afraid of an outcome, whether that be with failure or the cost of success, it’s always good to have a plan B. Having another route to go can help you become more confident and secure in your choice. 

  1. Source: Mind Tools (2023) Overcoming Fear of Failure

  1. Source: Mind Tools (2023) Fear of Success

  1. Source: Kristine Moe (2021) Fear of Success: Why We’re Sometimes Afraid of Being Our Best

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