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Are you afraid of success? Learn to overcome your fears
You're doing well at work; you've been noticed. Your boss is probably going to ask you to head up a new project. Yet all you can think about is why you don't want to do it. Maybe you think you don't really deserve to be successful, that you're just not good enough, or not ready? Or you're afraid of appearing pushy. Or worried you'll fail. Sound familiar?

Many people suffer from fear of failure, but we don't often hear about those with the opposite problem, though it can just as easily prevent us from achieving our goals. Indeed, when "fear of success" was first diagnosed in the early 1970s, the findings were controversial: people denied its existence. Yet it does exist, for men and women alike. So how do you know if you have it – and what can you do to overcome it?

Do any of these sound familiar?
  • I don't deserve to be happy or successful
  • Praise and recognition make me feel guilty
  • I find success embarrassing
  • When people praise me, I think, "Why am I so special?"
  • I think, "Other people are better than me, really."
  • I keep success at work secret from my family and friends
  • I never volunteer to take on high-profile projects
  • I give in because I avoid conflict
  • I think, "There's no point trying, because I'll fail in the end, anyway."
  • If I'm happy and successful now, I'll pay for it later
So why are you so afraid?
There are lots of reasons why you might be afraid of success.

Reason 1: You're no better than anyone else
It is a sad fact that there are parents who turn their happy, confident children into fearful adults. Were you told as a child that your achievements weren't so great? That you shouldn't boast? That you should always let other people take what they wanted before you got to choose? That being modest, and accepting what you had, was better than striving for better things?


Forget it. Put it behind you. Of course, it's nice to be kind and modest, but there is nothing wrong with having ambition, enjoying success and being praised by other people. In the end, your success benefits other people anyway, whether they are your family – who are proud of you – your team, your company or your community. Being successful is not the same as being proud and boastful; it just means you're really good at what you do! And what's wrong with that?

Reason 2: It will change my life
You're afraid that success will make you unpopular, lonely and isolated. You're afraid of never seeing your family, of having to spend longer hours at the office, that you will be first in the line of criticism, that you'll make enemies – or false friends.

Why should this be the case? If you excel at what you do and enjoy deserved success, but still remain friendly and accessible, keep your sense of humour and avoid becoming obsessed with achieving your goals, there's no reason why you should be isolated from the people you like. If your friends are jealous of you, then are they really friends you want? And yes, promotion may entail more work, but don't just assume that it will mean more hours at the office: investigate whether this will really be the case before you turn down an opportunity. Might you be able to delegate other work, to make time for new challenges? Or arrange that on certain days of the week at least you will leave work on time?

Reason 3: I should have done it sooner
Maybe you think that if you actually manage to get what you want at last, you will start to regret all the things you didn't get, all the challenges you turned down because you weren't confident enough. And you're afraid that this intense feeling of regret about the past may spoil any enjoyment you get from success.

This is not a good reason! It just took you a bit longer, that's all. Accept that you aren't the same person today as you were in the past; that you're growing all the time; that what's right for you now wouldn't necessarily have been right before. Allow yourself a new start. It's never too late!

Just remember: someone who is successful is simply doing their job excellently. And what's wrong with that?

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