It may seem strange or silly, but the fear of success is quite normal. Even the most confident or seemingly confident people in the world get scared at the idea of success.
Let’s take a look under the hood of the human condition to better understand why, while also looking at ways to move past the fear. An important statement of fact is that, it is not often success we fear, but failure. Often, this fear of failure is the driver for our fear of success.
Why Fear of Failure Makes You Fear Success
Story 1: Tiffany wants to be the general manager of her store. Her quick ascent up the ladder to date would be a good indicator that she is on her way. She has made some inroads to getting there. Often, she talks to her husband about sacrifices that they may need to make in order to make it a reality.
Two weeks ago, she signed up for a live blog on leadership as an introduction to a bigger role that may very well be in her future.
Not so fast though. Tiffany also watches in crippling fear as the current general manager of her store consistently deals with irate customers and irresponsible employees. Just yesterday, the store got its 3rd quarter earnings report and its sales were down 14 percent.
Tiffany, future general manager, doesn’t know how she would deal with this.
Story 2: Martin is on a slightly different mental path. He isn’t worried about being the next Vice President of Operations. He has seen the current VP in action and he has absolutely no worries about his ability to succeed in the job.
But what’s next for Martin? Ah, that’s what stresses him out. After all, he is six years younger than anyone at his current position. But the company sees him as a soaring talent. Martin is worried that the bar will continually be raised and that he will not be able to meet expectations.
This is not dissimilar to athletes that sign huge contracts and succumb to the pressure to match it. Alex Rodriguez has admitted to falling to the pressure to perform to a contract. Clearly, he displayed the talent necessary to secure it.
But once the ink was dry, the pressure to perform from the media and fans was just too much. He ended up taking steroids. And the rest, as they, is history. This is just one of the many stories of the fear of failure.
Story 3: Cary and Todd are home improvement professionals. They buy run-down houses, fix them, and flip them. In just under four years, they have bought and sold eight houses to the tune of a $1.7 million profit. To call this a success would be an understatement.
Yet, two days ago, Cary and Todd had a big fight. Todd wants to slow down a bit, and Cary wants to keep pace. She could not, for the life of her, understand why he would want to slow down the momentum. Todd won’t admit to her that what he really fears is that the higher and faster they ascend, the steeper and swifter they’ll fall. Todd has a fear of failure.
It doesn’t matter if Todd has any logical rationale for his fears, they are real and he is fully in touch with them. To Todd, success is nice but scary because of the oft used line, ‘what goes up, must come down.’ In this, his fear of success is really based on his fear that it will all end in an abrupt and painful manner.
What To Do When You Have Fear of Failure
Whether story 1, 2, or 3 resonates more with you, the way to move past a fear of failure or success is the same – and it is two-fold.
1) Investigate and find your confidence.
A confident person does not worry about peaking too soon, or facing further ‘insurmountable‘ success hurdles. They will not fear the road to success because they will have the confidence that tells them it is achievable.
People are often advised to ‘take the plunge’, ‘go for it’, ‘be brave’. These are all sincere and admirable thoughts. But along the way, people must understand the source of their insecurities and begin chipping away at them.
Without confidence, there is NO chance for sustained success. Plenty of people have faked it ‘til they made it, only to find themselves struggling to keep it going. The fact is, you cannot fake confidence in the long-term.
There are a couple of reasons for this. For starters, a lack of confidence will be noticeable to others, to include those who will have some say or part in your continued success. Plus, sustained success requires a lot of tough planning and decisions, both of which require confidence.
2) Slow down as you need to along the way.
It is great to have goals, even stretch goals. But if you find yourself fearing success or failure, take a pause. It is better to move forward less stressed and more focused, than to keep your head down and run into a brick wall of fear and stress.
Taking a pause will not negate a positive outcome – but rushing to completion most certainly will.
Assuring the right pace is really about two things: perspective and calm. Those tough moments of planning and decisions must be made with the right perspective. We have all seen the effects of rushed or misinformed decisions.
Confidence and the right pace are critical to the success of each and every person in the world. As you move forward in your own life, seek to understand your fears. It’s the most important first step in healing from anything. If we do not understand why we think, do, or fear certain things, there is NO chance for moving past them.
Find the story within that relates to you. Then find that confidence and pace that will help you create a new one. Eventually, you will move past your own fear of failure.