Fear of Success is a Real Thing

By November 21, 2018 No Comments

I don’t fear anything but fear itself.  And success – and maybe dark hallways. I’m not alone, either.  In fact, if you’re reading this, you have probably feared success at some point in your life, if you don’t indeed fear it at this moment. That idea may seem crazy to you, but there are psychologists who are committed to studying the phenomenon.

Not too long ago, I applied for a job that would have given me a significant jump in pay, as well as a more prestigious title. But I waited a long time before applying, and at one point, I almost backed out. I will admit that there were some fears of being rejected, but strangely, there were greater fears of success.  I believed (mostly) that I could do the job, so why was I afraid? Well, first, thoughts of success brought to mind uncertainty. How will success affect my personal life? How will it affect my schedule? My job now (and at the time) was very flexible – something I value very highly. Would the new job allow for that flexibility?  These were things I couldn’t predict, and so I couldn’t garner any certainty. Uncertainty, psychologically speaking, is a significant trigger for fear and anxiety. Second, success would bring much greater responsibility. That was certain. Was I willing to sacrifice to meet that responsibility?  My own morality whispered that if they accepted me for the mission, I’d have to complete the mission, and I really had no idea how that mission would impact my comfortable life.

I remember the tension in my body as I awaited the decision. When the news came that I’d been passed over, I felt an instant relief. The uncertainty had gone.  A person in the know told me that I had made the final list of only two people. I had come within a hair’s width of getting the job.

Unfortunately, instead of enjoying the moment, learning, or networking, I had expended a lot of energy in fearing success. I had let uncertainty about my future rule my present because I had lost certainty in God’s provision, grace, and sovereignty (Hebrews 13:21, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Proverbs 16:9).  As is the case with almost all fear, I had allowed it to supplant my faith.

Know that if God brings you to success, he will equip you for your tasks with everything you require to both grow and to do his will.  He is faithful, and there is no need to fear success.


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