Have you ever found yourself rationalizing why not getting that promotion or new job would probably be better for you? “I’d just end up a work-a-holic.” Or, “I don’t need the added stress in my life.” Maybe, each time you start to get closer to a new level of professional success, something goes wrong in your personal life and you have to drop back and start over? In both cases, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a fear of success.
The good news is, it’s not just you.
Recent psychological studies point to the idea that “fear of success” is very real and even become a debilitating condition. Years ago, I experienced this in my own career and it wasn’t until a mentor pointed it out to me I realized I had been subconsciously holding myself back from the success and growth I desired. It usually afflicts someone who grew up in an environment with high expectations. And, while it’s historically been more common in women, the condition is rising across both genders. Here’s why…
Social media has created a ‘spotlight culture’ that loves to take people down.
Social media has given everyone a voice. News travels fast online. Which means, our success will not only be seen, it will likely be discussed. Most of us can’t stand the idea of people talking about us. We also hate the thought of being alienated from others because we have more success than they do. Finally, we genuinely fear being seen as selfish, entitled, or full of ourselves – all of which are often negatively associated with the large trappings of success.
3 Steps to Overcome A Fear of Success
You can get over a fear of success. Here’s what to do:
- Remind yourself you’re not alone. Millions of people have this reaction to success. Society has trained us to be humble, or risk looking like a fool. But, you can still be humble and successful. Just remember, the more successful you become, the more you can help others find greater success too.
- Visualize past success.The anxiety you’re feeling is actually excitement. It’s important to know the difference. Focus on some past success and think about the details leading up to it. It will help you put your feelings into proper perspective so you can leverage your excitement to help you succeed yet again.
- Map out the steps to validation. Make a list of all the things that need to happen in order for you to achieve success. Treat them as milestones and celebrate each one as a sign that your work is paying off. This is actually the most important step. Why? The way going after our goal makes us feel is the real reason we strive to succeed. You need to recognize and appreciate the progress you’re making – that’s the whole point! As they say, “It’s the journey, not the destination, that makes us feel alive.”
Remember, with each new level of success, you’ll have greater access to resources and opportunities to help others. Success isn’t a bad thing. Don’t let your fear of it hold you back from helping yourself and all those around you. Go after your dreams and have no regrets!
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.