Fear of Success or Fear of Failure

“If you’re afraid of success, you’re probably also scared of failure.”

This adage captures the essence of how fear of success and fear of failure are related. They can be seen as two sides of the same coin.

But what does this mean? How have these two fears been linked together in our collective understanding?

In this article, we’ll explore how fear of success and fear of failure are interconnected, and how they can stop you from creating the success and wealth you desire as well as your life satisfaction.

What Is Fear Of Success?

We all want to succeed in life but sometimes success can feel threatening and scary.

Fear of success can cause feelings such as guilt, insecurity, or even dread over the idea that achieving our goals will bring about negative consequences or change our lives in some way.

For example, an entrepreneur who has a fear of success may fear that they have to be a different type of person to be successful (change in identity), experience more stress (increased pressure), that they’ll need to be perfect to be more successful (increased expectations), or that they’ll lose connection with their partner or not have much time with their kids anymore (loss of personal relationships).

The fear of success can manifest itself in many ways, such as procrastination, low self-esteem, or even avoiding certain situations that could lead to success.

This can lead to feeling that “it’s just not worth it” or settling for “good enough” instead of what you want.

What Is The Fear Of Failure?

The fear of failure can manifest as a hesitance to take risks or try something new. It can be related to a fear of not living up to expectations.

For example, an entrepreneur who has a fear of failure may not put offers out there because they fear rejection.

They may hide and hold back their gifts because they fear that they’re a fraud or that there may be backlash from other people.

They may procrastinate or complete things 80% of the way so that they never have to feel strong emotions like disappointment or discouragement.

They may even quit their business or stop trying altogether because the possibility of failure overwhelms them and completely stresses them out.

All of this can lead to shame, guilt, and thoughts such as “maybe I’m just not cut out for this”.

Signs of both Fear of Success and Fear of Failure

Signs of both the fear of success and the fear of failure can include:

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of motivation
  • Self-doubt
  • Perfectionism
  • Decision paralysis
  • Distraction
  • Avoidance
  • Hiding
  • Irrational fears like being attacked or losing everything
  • Holding back gifts and abilities
  • Feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, or fear
  • Fear of what other people think
  • Feelings of inferiority or Imposter Syndrome

These behaviors are often rooted in a belief that one isn’t capable or worthy enough to succeed at whatever they’re attempting.

This can result in either holding yourself back from success for fear of being found out as a fraud (fear of success) or holding yourself back because of the fear that you’ll fail if you try (fear of failure).

These feelings can cause people to avoid taking risks or challenging themselves in any way due to the fear that they won’t be able to handle it if they fail OR if they succeed.

Causes of the Fear of Success and the Fear of Failure

Childhood Trauma can be a reason why both the fear of success and the fear of failure can show up.
Childhood Trauma can be a reason why both the fear of success and the fear of failure can show up.

Many times, these fears are caused by experiences in childhood.

Both fears can be deeply rooted in our childhood experiences, resulting in a pattern of backlash avoidance that we carry into adulthood.

Trauma can be a major reason why both the fear of success and the fear of failure can show up.

Examples include past traumas such as the past failure of a business or watching your parents divorce after one of them became very successful.

Or if someone has been told they are ‘not good enough’ or ‘not smart enough’ during their formative years, they may have difficulty taking risks and trying new things later in life.

Or, if they were only praised when they achieved things they may feel that their self-worth is dependent on achieving more things. This can make failing feel scary because they are scared they will fail and receive the same negative feedback again.

Or, if they experienced bullying in school as a child because they were gifted or bright displaying these things can seem threatening as an adult.

Or, if their parents worked hard growing up and they never saw them they may believe that to be successful they’ll also have to sacrifice time with family.

How Fear Of Failure And Fear Of Success Become A Cycle

Fear of success and fear of failure may seem very different. But they are actually part of the same cycle.

When you have a fear of success and begin to move toward the achievement you desire, this can often activate the fear of failure.

On the one hand, you believe there may be negative consequences for being successful, like neglecting your family.

Yet, you also desire success and put a great deal of pressure on yourself to be successful.

This then creates a fear of failure.

You feel that if you’re going to be successful that you need a guarantee that everything will work out – to make sure that the time and effort are worthwhile.

The need to ensure success is what the fear of failure is about.

You swing from feeling that being successful will be overwhelming and stressful to the other side of the coin where you fear that if what you’re doing isn’t successful that you’ve wasted all this time and energy.

The outcome of both the fear of failure and the fear of success is the same.

You hold yourself back, stopping yourself from going after the very thing you want most. You self-sabotage and procrastinate on the very things that would make the biggest difference in your life and business.

One thing to consider is how self-doubt can lead to a fear of failure or a fear of success. You may worry that if you succeed, people will expect more from you in the future. Alternatively, if you fail, you may feel like you’ve let yourself down and not lived up to your expectations or that other people will think negatively about you.

This can cause you to not want to put forth your best effort and hold back your gifts and abilities. When you hold back you protect yourself from feeling the full brunt of failure because you can always use the excuse of “I didn’t actually put my all into it”.

I’ve seen this time and time again with my clients.

When they don’t put their full effort into their business, their launch, or generating income there’s always a good “reason” why things didn’t work out. And then they don’t have to take it personally or make it mean that they’re flawed somehow.

Many entrepreneurs equate success with their worth.

So if they’re successful, they’re worthy, worthwhile, and can feel confident.

If they’re not successful they feel they’re not worthy, worthwhile, their confidence wilts, and they experience significant self-doubt.

So they end up subconsciously sabotaging themselves and their efforts at success by holding back. They procrastinate. They get busy with other projects. They convince themselves that now isn’t the right time. Or they continue to perfect a project rather than putting it out there.


Because the deepest parts of them believe that it’s easier to cope with not really trying than to cope with the blow to their self-worth if they don’t succeed.

Procrastination is a sure sign of Fear of Failure and Fear of Success
Procrastination is a sure sign of Fear of Failure and Fear of Success

Tips For Managing Fear Of Success And Fear Of Failure

The first step in managing fear of success and failure is recognizing them for what they are: psychological roadblocks that impede our progress in life.

One important distinction is to understand the difference between healthy ambition and unhealthy ambition.

Healthy ambition is driven by passion, determination, and resilience; whereas unhealthy ambition is driven by self-doubt or insecurity.

Another way you can address this cycle is to recognize your feelings about successes and failures and how they affect your levels of anxiety.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Acknowledge both your successes and failures without judgment
  • Monitor your thoughts around success and failure
  • Regulate your nervous system when you start feeling overwhelmed and stressed
  • Seek help from a coach if needed

Shedding Stress & Anxiety and Becoming a Chilled-Out Achiever

Many people don’t realize the importance of managing stress and anxiety in achieving their goals.

They think it’s natural to feel stressed all the time so they just push through and try to work harder and “suck it up”.

Unfortunately, this ends up perpetuating the cycle of the fear of success and fear of failure.

To overcome the cycle you must start from a chilled-out place where success, wealth, and abundance feel wonderful and easeful.

To feel chilled-out when you work on achieving your goals instead of feeling stressed out.

Wealthy & Successful Looks Like You

Many of the limiting beliefs that you have around success stem from the idea that you need to be a different type of person to be successful.

You fear that you’ll become ruthless or greedy if you’re successful. Or you’ll have to dress differently or act differently to fit in.

Wealthy and successful people look exactly like you do. You do not have to be a different type of person to have what you most desire.

Developing A Wealthy & Successful Mindset

A wealthy and successful mindset starts with knowing that you deserve wealth and success. It also comes from the deep knowing that you don’t need wealth or success to be a worthy valuable person.

When you own your worth, feel confident in your skin, and know that you are a badass on all levels you stop putting so much weight on success. Once these are no longer connected in your brain, you feel free to create from that chilled-out place, instead of feeling the weight of “I need to achieve this to show people that I’m worthy”.

This helps break through the cycle of the fear of success and fear of failure.

Mindfulness and Self-Reflection: Key Tools for Change

Mindfulness and self-reflection are powerful tools for overcoming the fear of success and breaking the cycle of procrastination.

By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can identify and challenge negative beliefs and limiting thoughts that hold you back.

Regular meditation and journaling can help you to stay focused on your goals and cultivate a positive mindset.

Additionally, self-reflection can help you to identify patterns of behavior and understand the root causes of your fear of success. By exploring your past experiences and relationships, you can gain valuable insights into why you may feel overwhelmed or unworthy of success and take steps to address these issues.

Face Your Fears

Most people do one of two things when it comes to fear. They either try to avoid it completely by ignoring it or try to become “fearless” and never feel fear again.

Both of these will sabotage your success.

Fear is inevitable. Fear is a fact of life. It’s only when you learn to face your fears and stop running away that you feel inspired and motivated every day.

Because if you’re waiting to be fearless, you’ll be waiting forever.

Self-Doubt is a common sign of Fear of Failure and Fear of Success
Self-Doubt is a common sign of Fear of Failure and Fear of Success

Setting Realistic Goals and Celebrating Small Wins

Setting realistic goals and celebrating small wins can help you to overcome the fear of success, fear of failure, and boost your motivation.

I’m all about having great big giant juicy goals.

But the truth is, sometimes when you set huge goals they can be really overwhelming, stressful, and come with a lot of pressure.

By breaking down large goals into smaller, achievable tasks, you can experience progress and build confidence in your ability to succeed.

Additionally, taking time to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small, can help to reinforce positive self-talk and boost your confidence.

It is important to remember that success is a journey, not a destination. By focusing on the process and celebrating each step along the way, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed by the fear of success and maintain a positive outlook toward your goals.

Adopting a Growth Mindset and Embracing Failure

Adopting a growth mindset and embracing failure can be key to overcoming the fear of success and the fear of failure.

By viewing challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning, you can maintain a positive outlook and avoid becoming discouraged by obstacles.

Additionally, accepting that failure is a natural part of the learning process can help you to feel less overwhelmed by the fear of success and increase your resilience in the face of adversity.

Furthermore, by recognizing that success is not a measure of your worth or identity, you can reduce the pressure and expectations associated with success and focus on what truly matters: your personal growth and happiness.

The Power of Community

Seeking support from a community of like-minded people who support your growth and flourishing can be invaluable in overcoming the fear of success and the fear of failure.

This can be in the form of hiring a coach, joining a program, or surrounding yourself with other people who have a grounded and relaxed approach to success.

Talking about your experiences and feelings with others can help to reduce feelings of isolation and shame. It can also provide you with the encouragement and guidance you need to succeed.

Additionally, coaching can provide a safe space to work through your fears and develop a personalized action plan for success.

Remember, you are not alone in your struggle with the fear of success. By reaching out for help and support, you can take control of your future and reach your desired goals.


Fear of success and failure are common emotions that can have a powerful effect on our lives. It’s important to recognize when you’re feeling either of these emotions so that you can take steps to work through them and use them to motivate yourself in positive ways.

For example, a client recently had the opportunity to take a promotion at work. When she first heard about the job, she felt excited – but then her fears started to creep in. She was scared that if she took the position, it would be too much responsibility for her to handle. After some reflection, however, she realized that her fear was just masking her excitement and ambition. Rather than letting fear stop her, she decided to use it as motivation – and now she’s thriving in her new role!

When dealing with the fear of success or failure, it’s important to remember that they can both be used as motivators if we take the time to understand our feelings and find ways to channel them into productive action.

By doing this we can achieve our goals while still maintaining our emotional well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Strategies Can I Use To Overcome Fear Of Success And Fear Of Failure?

The fear of success and failure can be overwhelming. We all experience this fear to varying degrees, but it’s often hard to shake off its paralyzing effects. So what strategies can I use to overcome the fear of success and failure?

One strategy is to focus on the present moment. By being mindful of the present moment, we can avoid getting caught up in worrying about future outcomes; this helps us to stay focused on our goals and take action toward them without letting our fears hold us back. Additionally, it’s important to practice self-compassion and self-care when tackling our fears. Taking time out for yourself—to do something you enjoy or to practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga—can help reduce stress levels and build resilience.

Finally, another way to tackle the fear of success or failure is by breaking down the goal into smaller steps. Working towards small tasks one at a time can help make the overall goal seem less intimidating and more achievable. When making these steps, it’s also important to create a plan for yourself with realistic expectations and timelines that will keep you motivated and provide structure throughout your journey.

By focusing on the present moment, practicing self-compassion and self-care, as well as breaking down goals into manageable steps, I can empower myself with the courage needed to pursue my aspirations without letting fear stand in my way. By setting realistic goals with achievable timelines, I can face my fears head-on while still giving myself space to grow.

How Can I Recognize When I’m Feeling Fear Of Success Or Fear Of Failure?

When we are faced with a challenge or an opportunity, it can be hard to recognize when we are feeling fear of success or failure. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and be overwhelmed by our emotions. But understanding the difference between these two fears can help us move forward confidently.

Think of it like a rollercoaster ride – the thrill of success is like ascending the highest peak on the track, while the dread of failure is like plunging into darkness. Both feelings produce adrenaline and excitement, but they come from very different sources. When we experience fear of success, it’s usually because we’re not sure if we have what it takes to reach our goals. On the other hand, fear of failure arises when our minds create worst-case scenarios about how things will turn out if we don’t succeed.

The key is to learn how to recognize these feelings and use them as motivation rather than letting them prevent us from taking risks. By reflecting on our experiences and gathering insights about ourselves, we can develop strategies for overcoming fear of success and failure alike – whether that means setting smaller goals along the way or seeking support from friends and family members who understand our struggles. With practice, we can become more confident in ourselves and make progress toward achieving our dreams.

How Can I Use Fear Of Success And Fear Of Failure To Motivate Myself?

Fear of success and fear of failure can both be powerful motivators. On one hand, it can be daunting to consider the potential of achieving our goals and the responsibility that comes with success. On the other hand, we don’t want to fail and experience disappointment, which can also be a strong motivator.

So how can I use my fear of success and failure to motivate myself? A good starting point is to look at my current situation honestly. What are my strengths and weaknesses? What do I need to do to take meaningful steps toward achieving my goals? Answering these questions helps me focus on what I need to do to move forward rather than getting caught up in worrying about the potential outcome of success or failure.

By acknowledging my fears and taking actionable steps toward achieving my goals, I’m creating an environment where I can realistically work toward success without becoming overwhelmed by fear.

Taking small steps gives me a feeling of progress that then encourages me to keep going even if things get tough. With effort and dedication, I know that anything is possible!

Is Fear Of Success Or Fear Of Failure More Common In Men Or Women?

When it comes to whether one gender is more likely to experience fear of success or failure than the other, there’s no clear-cut answer.

Here are some key points to consider:
– Women tend to have higher levels of self-doubt than men
– Men often feel pressure from society to achieve more than women do
– Women may be more likely to overestimate the consequences of possible failure
– Men might be more prone to taking greater risks with their decisions
– Women may take longer to make important decisions due to fear.

The unique pressures that each gender experiences can lead them down different paths when it comes to facing their fears. For example, a woman may hesitate before pursuing an opportunity because she is afraid of failing, whereas a man might push himself harder to make sure he succeeds. Ultimately, both genders grapple

Are There Any Long-Term Effects Of Fear Of Success Or Fear Of Failure?

Fear of success and failure can have long-term effects on our mental and emotional well-being. It’s important to recognize when these fears start creeping in, so we can take steps to address them.

When we’re afraid of succeeding or failing, it can lead us to feel overwhelmed and anxious. We might struggle with decision-making or procrastinating in our work or personal lives. Over time, this can lead to feelings of low self-worth, insecurity, and depression. We might become immobilized by our fears and begin avoiding opportunities that could potentially bring about success or failure.

It’s important to make an effort to understand the root cause of our fear of success or failure. If we can identify what is causing us to fear, then we can start working towards overcoming it. Working with a therapist or coach may help us gain clarity around these issues and help us find better ways of dealing with our emotions related to fear. With the right guidance, we could be better equipped to pursue opportunities without being held back by fear.

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