How to Overcome Fear of Success

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 02/06/2013

Falling by Kevin Morris via

Fear of success is puzzlingly rampant among DaVincis — i.e. multi-talented people  juggling many projects and ideas.

Occasionally it’s obvious.  But often fear of success is disguised.

Sometimes,  it manifests as a few tingling background thoughts such as “Won’t Mom be embarrassed if this gets published?”

Sometimes, it looks like procrastination.  You’re going along, great guns on a project when suddenly it comes to a screeching halt for no apparent reason.

Sometimes it hurts.  Physically.  The first time I gave a script I’d written to a major producer, I was happy.  For about two minutes.  Then an intense sensation began in my solar plexus, accompanied by a persistent shortness of breath.  This continued for two days before I consulted with a writer friend.

“Oh, that’s just fear of success,” he counseled.  “Perfectly normal.”

“But this makes no sense,” I said.  “It’s a great opportunity.  Why am I so afraid? And why is it this intense?”

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about fear of success in my own life and also from coaching smart creative people.  If you suspect you’re experiencing fear of success, here’s what you need to know:

First, realize there are legitimate reasons to fear success.

* success may change you

* success may change expectations about you

* success may change how others view you

* success may change your relationships with others

The key word here is ‘change’.  Success may indeed lead to change.  Change is good…and change is also terrifying.  Especially to your brain — your mind want to protect you from harm, so it devises clever ruses to thwart your progress.

So it’s important to recognize fear of success in it’s many disguises.  How does YOUR fear of success manifest?

Read the following list of possible symptoms of fear of success.  Which sound familiar?

– laziness (I just don’t feel like doing this right now)

– confusion (I just don’t get this; This is too complicated)

– excessive thirst for information (I can’t start this until I do another few months of research)

– fatigue (I don’t have the energy to tackle this; I need a nap)

– embarrassment (This is just a cliche/so bad/amateur; What will Grandma say when she sees what I’ve made?)

– deferral (I’ll get around to this later/ tomorrow/ after I do my REAL work/ someday)

– excessive busy-ness (I don’t have time to do this; I’ve got too much going on)

– self-deprecation (I’m not good enough; I don’t deserve to succeed in this; I’m too young/old/stupid/serious/goofy to do this)

– avoidance (What’s on TV? ; Hey look at this cat on YouTube)

– despair (What’s the point? I’ll never make it; I’ve missed my chance)

perfectionism (It’s not good enough; Mine is not as good as so-and-so’s)

– self-medication (Pass the tequila; Mmm chocolate)

– physical pain, shortness of breath

Once you recognize what’s going on, you can take action. And that’s really what you’ve got to do:  take some action, despite the fear of success.

Approach # 1:  Feel the Fear & Do it Anyway

Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. has made a career out of helping people overcome fears.  In her many, terrific books are numerous, helpful tools to manage and reduce fear.   In a nutshell, she says EVERYONE is afraid, so it’s no biggie that you are.  Your fear will grow until you take action.  So…’feel the fear and do it anyway’.  ANY action will reduce your anxiety.  It’s better to do something/anything than wallow in helplessness.  Her recommended mantra:  “whatever happens, I’ll handle it”.

Say it aloud:  whatever happens, I’ll handle it.

 Approach #2:  Use Logic

Would you rather be unsuccessful?  If so, there’s no reason to be reading this article.

If you do want to be successful, then you need to overcome your fear of success.  Write down the reasons you want to succeed. Be as detailed as possible.

Write down at least ten reasons why you deserve to be successful.

Now:  address your symptom head on. If you’re procrastinating, stop. Take action. If you’re fatigued, get a good night’s rest and start fresh in the morning.

Approach #3:  Trick yourself

Pretend that you have already accomplished what you want.  Practice acting successful.  Act ‘as if’ you were successful.  Fake it ’til you make it.

But what if I become successful and my worse fears come true? 

Let’s say your real fear of  success is that you don’t want to deal with the negative consequences — the haters, the jealousy, people wanting things from you, people wanting to take advantage of you and so forth.

Well maybe it won’t.  The truth is you can’t predict what will happen when you become successful. It does you no good to be sabotaging your own success based on a fear of what *might* happen in the future. All you can do is carry on, best you can.  When challenges arise, deal with them.  Whatever happens, you can handle it.



For more, check out my workbook: SELF-WORTH ESSENTIALS:  A Workbook to Understand Yourself, Accept Yourself, Like Yourself, Respect Yourself, Be Confident, Enjoy Yourself, and Love Yourself.




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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The DaVinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at .


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gerome Soriano July 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Wow! this website is awesome!!!!! 😀 and very helpful 🙂

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