You Might Fear Success and Not Know It

Achievemephobia – The Fear of Success

I know, I know… This sounds crazy. Why would someone fear success? Doesn’t everyone want to be successful? Theoretically, yes. In all the years I have been teaching, coaching, training and speaking to people, I have never had anyone tell me that they want to be a complete failure and have aspirations of being a bum.

The fear of failure is easy to pick up on. With the fear of failure you tend to:

  • Worry about what other people think about you or that they will lose interest in you
  • Worry about your ability to pursue the future you desire
  • Worry about how smart or capable you are
  • Worry about disappointing people
  • Downplay your skills in order to lower others’ expectations
  • Often procrastinate or get last-minute headaches, stomach aches, or other symptoms that prevent you from completing tasks

You know when you fear failure. Achievemephobia, however, is a self-deception. It’s not something that you will know you have. The fear of success is a lot like the fear of failure: both prevent you from achieving goals. Fearing success is more natural, however, simply because you may not be looking for any change.

Even though there may be complaints about life or circumstances, you can be so comfortable in your current situation that you want to continue to live the life in your comfort zone despite hating where you are. You may even be afraid of success because of a fear of inability to handle fame or wealth.  Fear of success can also come from a fear of loss of existing relationships.

Success has mixed results. You may get fame, money or achievement, but it also can come with envy, hurt or even jealousy. Your success can make others around you unhappy. The fear of success can also come from:

  • Fearing getting what you want and being unable to handle it
  • Previous underachievement that causes a mental downward spiral
  • Shy or introverted people or people who do not like limelight might suffer from fear of success
  • Growing more successful than friends, colleagues or close family members can be intimidating and may cause a fear of loss of relationships
  • Parents unknowingly instill such fear in their children’s minds. Comments like: “Even if you do not get the first place, we will still love you” etc can also deter a child from setting goals. The giving everyone a trophy mentality will further this fear
  • Guilt or self-doubt
  • Listening to others who are negative or avoid success

Since the fear of success is an unconscious phobia, you’re typically not aware that you will have it. There are indicators that you may have it, however. Self-destructive behaviors such as addiction may be manifestations of achievemephobia. Refusing to set goals and the tendency to give up when things get hard are also signs.

One of the most common signs of fear of success is recurring negative issues in your life. Does it feel like every time you think you’ll get out of debt, something happens financially? You get decent jobs, but can’t seem to keep them? You work hard every day, but just can’t seem to get anywhere? You have a tendency to be late on things and it causes issues? You may be self-sabotaging. You may have a fear of success and not know it.

How do you overcome achievemephobia? It’s ok to have fears. Everyone has fears. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. Ok… hokey, I know. It is true, however. The first step is admitting that there is a problem. This problem requires behavioral modifications. Start with eradicating all the negative thoughts by writing them down when you have them and rewriting them to positive. Positive visualizations and dream boards can also help. Learn how to lead yourself better. Positive change comes with personal development.

If you find that you’re struggling with the fear of success or suspect that there may be something that has been holding you back, you may also want to seek help from a professional coach. You can find out more here.


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