6 Obvious Signs You Fear Success, And How To Overcome Them

It’s common to fear failure. When trying to avoid ridicule, embarrassment or a dent to the ego, we act in predictable and unhelpful ways. No one really wants to fail, but failure is inevitable when aiming high. Its lessons hold growth, so learning to love it will serve any entrepreneur well.

Fear of success is a different beast, and one you might not realise you have. Fear of success is the concern that once we achieve something, there may be associated suffering. When you sabotage your efforts for seemingly no reason, when you keep yourself playing small no matter how much you dream big, and you can’t seem to shake those old ways and thought patterns, this fear could be holding you back.

Why would anyone fear success? What’s scary about fame, fortune and fun on new levels? Your conscious mind can explain all the benefits, but your subconscious might be terrified of them coming to fruition.

Maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to handle it: the money, the attention, the influx of enquiries. Perhaps you’re afraid you’ll lose yourself to ego, not enjoy the spotlight or the inevitable criticism, change too much or lose some friends. Are you scared you’ll have to work too much, find out you’re not as good as you hoped, or have to deal with a backlash?

Consciously or otherwise, these fears impact your actions. Here are six obvious signs you fear success, and how to overcome them.

You avoid hiring

Deep down, you know that with the right people on the right seats, you could remove all bottlenecks in your business. You, as the owner, are probably the main bottleneck. Your tasks could be done by someone else but you’re avoiding hiring them. You’re coming up with multiple reasons why someone else won’t do a good job. You say you don’t want to manage people or have the burden of more suppliers. You test the waters but don’t fully commit to training people sufficiently, or you find problems in the service, then take the responsibilities back and declare no one can do things as good as you.

This is a sign you fear success. As long as you’re keeping your tasks and doing the busywork, you can’t possibly get to the next level. Your fear is putting a ceiling on you and making up excuses for why you can’t step up. It wants you to stay inside, remain focused, and persevere with the small roles so you can’t ever access the big ones. When the working week’s hours have run out and you have nothing to show but the status quo, you’re within your comfort zone and safe from the danger that success might bring.

There’s no denying that working more top level and less in the detail will grow your business, so stop avoiding the role.

You don’t spend money

Spending money is a privilege that you aren’t taking advantage of. Money can buy you time and output. Money, spent in the right way, can bring trials and users and customers that stay forever. Money can bring awareness and clicks and website traffic. Money can free up the time you would have spent fixing your own car or loading your own dishwasher. But your fear of success wants you to be slow, busy, inexperienced and invisible. That will keep your business small.

When you fear success, you avoid spending money. You’ve developed a scarcity mindset and you’re aligning yourself with frugal values that you now take pride in. You ignore ways to access cash and you believe it’s scarce. You adopt the personality of a scrooge, always trying to find discounts or save a few bucks here and there. You’re sweating the pennies without going after the pounds. Limiting beliefs around money hold many entrepreneurs back.

See spending as making investments and flip your thinking. Instead of waiting until you have the money to spend it, invest to make more. Think of spending cash as something you “get” to do, not “have” to do. Act accordingly and you will reap what you sow.

You don’t explore new ideas

If you don’t explore new ideas, it might be a sign that you fear success. Stuck in your ways, you prefer the safe known to the potentially prosperous unknown. You aren’t convinced what you’re doing right now will lead anywhere impressive, but you keep going under the guise of focus and determination, nevertheless. You ignore new technology and only adapt when necessary. You dismiss inventions as hype and close off completely.

Speculate to accumulate. Going down rabbit holes of research can bring ideas for improvement and new pockets of customers. One concept from a book, one method from a YouTube video, one insight from a friend with experience, and your company could entirely change its trajectory. But your fearful mind wants to close off these inputs and get back to what is familiar, because it knows that way doesn’t hold big, scary achievement.

Rapid technological advancement means exploring new ideas isn’t just essential for growth, it’s essential for staying still. Even if you don’t want to progress, don’t let yourself go backwards.

You shut down suggestions

When people you trust want to give you suggestions, but you find yourself shutting them down, this could be a sign that you fear success. Friends and networks have cool ideas for where you could take your products or services, but you respond with reasons why they probably won’t work. You won’t give it a go. You won’t entertain their proposals. Are your fears of expansion masquerading as limiting beliefs?

What if you heeded their advice? What if you made a few edits and the opportunities rolled in? Then you’d have to show up, figure stuff out, and face new challenges. This is a daunting prospect for someone who secretly wishes for normality and wants to live a quiet, comfortable life. Being open to suggestion means hearing people out. You don’t have to take action, but at least listen. When you start to see that exponential growth, you’ll have people to celebrate with.

Instead of shunning the suggestions, consider their impact. See what happens when you try a few things out.

You don’t ask for help

You think you have all the answers you need to run your business well, so you plough on with what you know. You have no coach, you take no guidance, you seek advice from no mentors. There are people all around you, but you avoid asking them for help. They might be too busy, they might think you’re taking liberties, they might not want to talk about work. That’s what you say to avoid getting their opinion.

If there are people in your network who have had the success you think you want, but you’re not getting their advice, this is a clear signal you fear success. You could get the answers so easily, but something is holding you back. Perhaps you do ask for help, but you ask too late. Your plan has already failed, which is maybe what you really wanted. Procrastination (before asking for help) or self-handicapping (by not asking all together) are sure signs of sabotage.

Emulating proven strategies could work out really well, but something is stopping you moving ahead. Figure out what and find out why.

You shirk responsibility

You could put your name forward for new experiences, but you shy away. You could take on more responsibility, but you avoid the limelight. You could ask the question, request the chance to prove yourself, and put your art out there, but something is holding you back. You know you’re capable and you know your work makes a difference, but you’re scared of proving it. That would mean you had to change.

If your business took off in a big way, if people were banging down your door to work with you, you’d have no excuse not to grow. But maybe you want the excuse. You’re content with chugging along, getting by with the bare minimum. You only have a few hours of client work and you’re convincing yourself that’s a good thing. More responsibility comes with drawbacks as well as perks, and you’re inflating the problems. If people knew how good you were, you’d be a billionaire. So why not let them know?

Take on more than you think you can handle and find out how capable you just might be. Remember you can stop at any point.

There are six signs that you fear success that you might not have realised so far. Avoiding hiring, spending money or taking on responsibility keeps you within the realms of comfort. Not taking advice, asking for help or exploring new ideas close you off to outside inputs that could change your game. Recognise when the signs that you fear success are cropping up so you can explore what’s behind them. What’s the worst that could happen, and wouldn’t the pros outweigh the cons?

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