Why Do I Fear Success?
Exploring anxieties that arise with achievement.
Posted Jan 28, 2020
"She was powerful, not because she wasn't scared but because she went on so strongly despite the fear." —Harper Lee
There are many reasons why one might fear success. Being caught between the desire to flourish and deep-seated resistance to doing so can be painful and paralyzing. Inhibition after striving and achievement can be indicative of deep down fears. Insight into fears can be freeing. Just naming them can be a relief and a form of preparedness. Here are some fears and anxieties that may arise with success.
- Making a mistake
- Being exposed
- Not knowing enough
- Fatigue from hard work and less personal time
- Surpassing others who may be envious and retaliatory
- A shift in your identity
- Inadequacy or being seen as inadequate
- A sense of unworthiness or guilt
- Feeling like or being seen as an imposter
Self-awareness helps to clarify your particular fears. Exploration and expression of the fears either through your own reflection or the support of another can help break down inhibitions. Finding a way to be comfortable with discomfort, accept imperfections and keep moving is useful and probably preferable to avoidance because avoidance can cause inner angst. There is always a possibility that your intuition is telling you that this new position is not a good fit or the stretch does not work for you right now. Even if it is not a good fit now, you might grow into it, gain skill and change in such a way that it does ultimately suit you. Change can involve uncovering and developing natural gifts as well as mastering new abilities.
Overcoming anxiety is not about extinguishing it as much as managing it and even making it work for you. Tolerating humiliation is paradoxically strengthening. Franciscan Richard Rohr writes, "I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then, I must watch my reaction to it. I have no other way of spotting both my denied shadow self and my idealized persona."
Horney, K. (1947). Inhibitions in Work. Am. J. Psychoanal., 7(1):18-2520