Is Fear of Success a Real Thing?

Is Fear of Success Real?

I was talking with my husband Louie last night and the topic of fear of success came up.

Often we hear people say they are afraid to fail and that’s why they don’t take the steps they know they need to take. They don’t pick up the phone and call a prospect. They don’t get out there and talk about their business and make offers to people. They put off all sorts of action steps because if they never take the step, the illusion of success is still there and they don’t actually have to face the reality that they may not be successful. It’s a crazy holding pattern to say the least.

But what about the fear of success?

It sounds crazy right? We’re all in business because we want to be successful. We want to serve people. We want to make a difference in the world. And yes, we want to make money. All things we quantity as “success.” So why in the world would we stop ourselves with the excuse “I’m afraid of success” when success is the goal?

I’ve heard this excuse thrown around so often, that I don’t think I ever really gave it much thought. 

On the surface it sounds plausible. Yet last night when Louie shared it during our discussion, I heard it differently. Maybe because I heard it within an entire conversation about what stops people from actually taking the action they know they need to take to succeed.

I realized that it is indeed fear that stops most people. 

But I don’t believe it’s actually fear of success. That has become a very acceptable excuse. The real fear is much more specific. It’s fear about doing something that will make them uncomfortable (e.g. actually making an offer to a prospect – that’s “selling” and selling feels yucky for many people).

It’s fear and apprehension about doing something they’ve never done before, and what might happen. And I believe we are a lot more afraid of rejection than we are of success. What if the person I make the offer to says no?  What if the action I take doesn’t yield the results I’m hoping for? What does that say about me? Does that mean I’m a failure?

And just plain fear of stepping into the unknown. As unhappy or unsuccessful as we may currently be, it is a known place. And there is a strange comfort in the “known.”  So, very often we unconsciously keep ourselves there.

So to answer the question that prompted this post:  Is Fear of Success Real?

I think not. I think it has become a socially acceptable excuse. And I think when we find ourselves using this excuse, we need to ask ourselves what we are REALLY afraid of. My guess is it’s much smaller and more specific than fear of success. I’d be willing to bet it’s fear about taking the next specific step because it’s something we’ve never done before, or we’re worried about rejection, or things not going the way we want.

The good news is, when you get rid of the socially acceptable excuse and you drill down to what the fear is really about, you are then in a position to do something about it. You can make the choice to face the fear head on and move through it, because you know what IT is. Compare that to what you’re supposed to do with “fear of success.”

Truth be told, that is the real difference between successful people and those who are not successful. It’s not that successful people don’t have fears. It’s just that they’re willing to take the action anyway.