The 5 aspects of overcoming the fear of success

The fear of success is such a massive issue when it comes to people self-sabotaging their own goals. The Fear of success is often more powerful in holding people back than the fear of failure because of how subtle it is. 

Here is a classic example of this fear in operation to show you how it works. 

One of the most common outcomes people are looking for in coaching is weight loss. Often people imagine that to lose weight would give them more confidence. Yet if that was as good as it sounds, they would have found a way to get it already because there is no lack of opportunity to lose weight or gain confidence. 

I always ask people then, “So what’s so dangerous about confidence that would cause you not to go ahead and take it? 

See a confident person backs themselves, says yes to challenges, put themselves in the spot light, get more judgement from others, fail more, experience more stress, pressure and uncertainty. These hazards are things that an unconfident person never has to face. 

People often imagine that the biggest fear is failure, but we know how to fail. The fear of success is actually far greater for most people, because of how uncertain it is. 

The fear of success is actually built around 5 key issues:

  • Awareness
  • Certainty
  • Safety
  • State
  • Story


Lets first explore each aspect of this very subtle yet powerful fear. 

1. The fear of success is an issue of awareness

Because the concept of the fear of success is counter-intuitive, lots of people would not even believe that it is a thing. Yet, the surprising thing is that the fear of success is often a bigger hindrance than the fear of failure for most people. If you can’t see it, or you don’t believe it is a thing, the fear operates unchallenged is free to do what ever it likes in your life.

When it comes to thinking about actually succeeding the key is to see what specifically you are afraid of that is made more real by success rather than failure. For example; will friends who don’t know how to cope with your success reject you? Will you be judged? Or is it that once you have succeeded you have now set a standard to sustain; Awareness is 90% of the issue. Turn the lights on and have a look at exactly what you are dealing with.  

2. The Fear of success is an issue of certainty

All humans crave a sense of order, control and safety. Anthony Robbins says it is one of our 6 core needs. One of the scariest things about success on the other hand that it pushes out into the unknown. See we know how to fail…we do it so often it is familiar and safe, yet success always pushes us into uncertainty beyond comfort zones into new and unknown experiences.

The need for certainty has to be met, so the key is to let go of the need to try and control things that are ultimately out of out capacity to control and focusing 100% on what we can control. We can’t control what happens to us, what others think of us or whether or not things will go they way we desire. But we can be certain about our ability to choose or response. Overcoming the fear of success is about backing ourselves to be able to deal with whatever challenges success may bring. That is resourceful certainty. 

3. The fear of success is an issue of state

Your mental, emotional state or way of being totally affects the outcomes you produce in your life. Our state determines what we are capable of and what becomes impossible. If you are in a great state for example, you have access to your best ideas, creativity, intuition, and magic. But if you are in a poor state, its almost impossible to make good decisions, be creative or access energy and motivation. So, the fear of success only surfaces when you are in a poor state. If you are in a great state, the fear and the associated self sabotage totally disappears. This means state is king. If you can control your state, you can also control this fear. 

Let me remind you the 3 quickest ways to manage your state. 

a) Change your focus, - fix your attention on positive things

b) Change your physiology – breathe, stand tall, dress for success 

c) Change your language – use words, phrases and metaphor that are full of life, energy and positivity

4. The fear of success is an issue of safety

I love the coaching space and how useful it is to help people make some massive changes but because it is such a positive possibility place, sometimes people make passionate commitments to make massive action that in reality is very high risk an unlikely to work out well. In order to give your self permission to succeed it has to be sustainable. You can’t turn off your need for safety. Every cell is wired for self-preservation.

So firstly it is crucial to reframe safety rather than trying to turn it off by asking what do I really been protecting from. It is crucial to ask: What are the real threats in my life? Stepping out of my comfort zone, or staying there?

The second key is weighing up the cost of achieving your goals. Everything comes with a price, have you considered the impact of you achieving your goals on your world? Being aware of both these things makes you stepping into success a much safer prospect. 

5. The fear of success is an issue of story

We all need stories to live out of yet some stories don’t allow you to succeed. They almost make you feel like success is somehow inappropriate, undeserved or a bad thing. Maybe it’s your family story…Perhaps you had a rich uncle who was also arrogant, rude and selfish. He was always the example of what not to become. So the thought of success is linked with the fear that money will ruin you. Or perhaps the Aussie story. We are one of the only countries in the world that has the tall poppy syndrome. We love the battler, and pride ourselves on our humility. Sometimes even the religious story holds people back from success. Poverty is esteemed and money is evil. Whatever your story, the key is to live out of a story that make is Ok to succeed and give yourself the permission to flourish

How does the fear of success most affect or limit you?


For more information about transformational change, check out my book "Elegantly simple solutions to complex people problems.

Jaemin FrazerComment