Why Fear of Success is More Powerful than Fear of Failure – And What You Can Do About It


There is much talk about fear of failure, and we are all aware that we fear failing and therefore oftentimes prefer to stay in our comfort zone. Did you know that research shows that fear of success is holding you back more than fear of failure? The reality is that many of us inadvertently sabotage our own success because we are subconsciously scared of what will be different if we actually succeed to the full extent of our capabilities.
Everyone fails. For many, fear of failure is paralyzing and holds them back from trying something new, taking a risk, or taking a step towards their goals. Conquering that fear of failure, not letting it stand in your way and learning how to rise from failure to success, are all important things that we all need to know and master.

Fear Of Failure

Fear of failure may actually be the small hurdle, though, ironically enough. The fear of success, the somewhat counter-intuitive concept that we are actually scared of achieving what we want to achieve, may be more subtle, harder to recognize, and more real, common and impactful than your think.
The main reason for fear of success is that success means change, and change can be scary, even it is the change that you had always wanted. If you try something and fail, you go back to what you knew. You may not be happy about it, but you go back to your comfort zone. If you try something and succeed, you head into uncharted territory. Things are different. Things change.
Success also often means a bigger impact on more people. It could be a bigger role where more people depend on you. It could be that more people care what you do and say, and that your opinions are further reaching. Which sounds great, but bigger impact can also actually make you feel vulnerable because you are now more in the spotlight to more people. It can be easy to be scared off by that and feel ill equipped to handle the scrutiny, the judgment and everything else that comes with that broader exposure.
It often prompts questions about whether you can live up to people’s new expectations of you or if you even want to have to do that.

So What Do We Do With Our Subconscious Fear of Success?

We often self-sabotage without even knowing we are doing it
Often, if you give it everything you have and still fail, you get pats on the back and respect for having put it all out there. It’s the “you left it all out there on the field” concept.
What if you convinced yourself that you were putting it all out there and giving it everything you had even though you knew deep down that you weren’t? You’d still get the pats on the back and could walk away from it knowing “it just wasn’t meant to be.” Then you could go back to what you knew.

So What Do You Do About It?

Two things: first, knowing that you could be sabotaging yourself is half the battle. The next time you are confronted with a new thing and conquer your fear of failure, make sure you give some thought to your fear of success, too, so you can really move all of the barriers out of the way. Second, prepare yourself for success. Run that scenario of success in your mind and break it down into what it really means for you, and if you are ready to face it, no matter what. If you are, raise your head, pull your sleeves up and move forward with confidence.

Dr. Michelle Rozen
Dr. Michelle Rozen

Dr. Michelle Rozen, Ph.D., is a highly respected authority on the psychology of change. She is one of the most booked motivational speakers nationwide as well as internationally, and a frequent guest on media outlets such as NBC, ABC, FOX News, and CNN on topics related to dealing with change in our world and in every aspect of our lives, so that we can do better and feel better.

Her most recent book, 2 Second Decisions helps people power through with their most challenging decisions through turbulent times.

Dr. Michelle Rozen consistently speaks for Fortune 500 companies and her clients include some of the most recognizable companies in the world including Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, and The U.S. Navy. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology and resides in the greater NYC area.

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