Why we fear success and how to overcome procrastination

fear success
Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Most of us are familiar with fear of failure. But have you considered whether procrastination indicates you fear success instead?

When you find every reason not to start something. Even though you’ve done all the research and collected so much information you’re now an expert on the subject.

It’s easy to blame your refusal to begin that new project on a fear of failure. Stepping outside your comfort zone poses a risk you’ll fall on your face.

But it’s possible procrastination has to do with a fear that things will go right. That we’ll reach that stretch goal and our lives will be changed forever.

What could be scary about that? Well, lots of things.

Here are five reasons it’s completely normal to harbor a fear of success. And what to do about it.

Here are five reasons it's completely normal to harbor a fear of success. And what to do about it. Click To Tweet

5 reasons we fear success

1. Responsibility

What’s the saying? “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’m not sure who uttered this pithy phrase, but it helps illustrate why success can feel scary at times.

Success usually means growing bigger, whether it’s a business or a family. That means more people under your wing, be they employees, followers, or children.

More people looking up to you for answers. More decisions to make. And more riding on those decisions. You can see how this is a completely rational fear to have.

2. Fear of expectations

In her Ted talk, author Elizabeth Gilbert confessed to a fear that her best work was behind her.

She had written the bestselling memoir Eat, Pray Love, which got attention from Oprah and became a blockbuster film starring Julia Roberts.

If you succeed this time, that means you’ll have to do even better next time. This sounds exhausting and potentially embarrassing and makes a great case for not starting at all.

3. The higher they climb, the farther they fall

With success comes more visibility. No more flying under the radar. That means more criticism as your reach increases.

If you stay inside your bubble of supporters, you’ll hear mostly positive reviews.

The more successful you become, however, the more you’ll hear a range of opinions about you and your work. Not all of them good.

4. Alienation from loved ones

Maybe you grew up in a family that punished you for success. For example, they accused you of thinking too much of yourself when you enjoyed a triumph.

You may have had underachieving parents who resented your accomplishments. You learned to keep your head down to avoid the harsh glare of the spotlight.

Sub-consciously, you avoid success because you fear it will alienate you from the people you love.

5. Fear of disappointing people

Closely aligned with imposter syndrome, this fear of success is related to feelings of unworthiness.

You feel you don’t deserve success. And when you achieve it, assume you’ve gamed the system and people will find you out.

They’ll realize you don’t have all the answers and you’re only human. So why risk reaching for that goal at all?

How to stop procrastinating due to fear of success

fear success

1. Surround yourself with supportive people who challenge you in a good way.

Those loved ones you’re afraid of offending with your success may not be your best bet. Find people who support your aims and want to see you succeed.

Seek out like-minded people with goals similar to yours. This will help you feel less alone and give you the accountability you need to reach for what you want.

2. Acknowledge your procrastination as fear.

We’ve all seen the memes about putting things off. It’s easy to think of procrastination as harmless distraction. And sometimes it is.

But more often it’s a form of self-sabotage that will stop you from getting what you want. And leave you with a world of regret.

Struggling with self-sabotage? Download the first chapter of It’s Not Your Fault free.

3. Confront your fear.

Rather than minimizing your avoidance techniques, confront them. Consider writing down what you’re feeling in the moments before you distract yourself.

Ask yourself what you stand to lose if you don’t challenge yourself with this new goal or project. As they say, we regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do.

All the reasons for fearing success are perfectly reasonable. But that doesn't mean you should let them rule you. Click To Tweet

All the reasons given above for fearing success are perfectly reasonable. But that doesn’t mean you should let them rule you.

Be brave. Step out. Take on something outside your comfort zone. Start small if you need to, but start. Only then will you know what you’re capable of.

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