6 Blocks to Achieving Goals- Fear of Success

Today we will finish up the last of six blocks that can come between a person and  achieving their goals.  A rarer, and more difficult block is where the fear of success is really a fear of delayed failure.  This is where you are afraid that if you successfully achieve your goals you will set yourself up for a devastating failure later.

For example, if you get a great job or marry Mr. Right, you will become more prominent.  People will look up to you and depend on you.  This thought spirals into realizing that if this happens, people will look up to you and depend on you.  Then you will ultimately let them down and the failure, when it comes (according to your negative thinking... whether you consciously realize it or not), will be even more awful.

The underlying thought behind this fear is that "The higher you climb, the further you fall".  Some people recognize the thought of "if I might fail eventually anyway, why even try?".  It's like you are afraid to pull out into the traffic because you might actually get somewhere, like the top of a cliff from which you might fall.

Why would anyone be afraid of success?  Especially when that's what they say they are wanting the most? It seems that everyone wants to succeed.  It may seem silly on the surface, but many people with low self-esteem feel a sense of shame deep down that leads them to avoid success at the same time they say they are looking for it.  They might want the good things in life, and all of the rewards of success, but deep down don't believe they deserve them.  This sense of shame keeps them from trying to achieve them.  If they do achieve success, they may fear that it just sets them up for an even bigger failure later-- and this also keeps them from trying.

If you have done the things needed to achieve goals, such as breaking them down into little steps, have the time management and other skills you need-- and you are still stuck, consider that you might be afraid of success. 

Work on trying to quiet your inner critic, and talk back to the critic you hear in your self-talk! Self-talk statements, such as:

  • I deserve the good things in life
  • I am a vital, competent person
  • I can go where I want and do what I set out to do
  • I can handle minor setbacks without falling apart

And remember... When in doubt, get moving!  Doing something to help you gain direction can help silence the inner critic as well, and help you get on your way to achieving your goals!

Adapted from:  "Self-Esteem" by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.