Just the other day, as I sat across from a sweet friend, anxiety spilled out sentence after sentence as she shared her concerns. She raced ahead into the future, anticipating potential problem after problem before she landed on the root issue, “I guess I have a fear of success.”
Ahh yes, we’ve all experienced the fear of failure. It never feels good to fail. In fact, failure often leaves us feeling cut open for all the world’s opinions to infect. But the flip side of that is the also common fear of success.
Why do we fear success?
To some, a fear of success doesn’t even make sense. But success entails responsibility, so we often sabotage our own success as a result of fear. Many fear what will be expected once they succeed that wasn’t previously part of the expectation equation.
Success brings change, even if it’s a change we think we want. A fear of success often entails concern over what might change if we succeed at something. If we try something and fail, we return to what we know with an option of trying again. But if we try something and succeed, we venture into unchartered territory: the unknown. And that can be scary.
Success not only often brings greater responsibility, but often bigger impact on more people. And the question remains, how will people respond to us if we succeed? Bigger impact leaves us open to greater scrutiny.
Yet, for others, a fear of success comes down to a question of our worth. Many don’t feel worthy of success, or good things happening to them in life. And many will be lured into the comparison trap, determining that others are more deserving than they.
How to cope with the Fear of Success
If you’ve ever experienced a fear of success, or are experiencing it now, let me suggest the following tips to help you cope with a fear of success.
- Know whose you are and why you were created. You are a child of the Most High God, created to be in relationship with and to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 69:30, Psalm 86:12, Romans 15:6). Anything else is a bonus. For more on knowing whose you are are and who God says you are, see Who God Says You Are: 17 Scriptures About Our True Identity
- Remember you were created in God’s image, as His masterpiece (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:1, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:24). By His own design, you are considered a success already.
- Reconsider your definition of success. Have you made mistakes and fallen short? Of course. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23-24,) but because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, God sees us as righteous. And we are considered joint heirs with Jesus and given the same consideration our heavenly father gave him. You are as deserving of success as anyone else. Just keep in mind, however, that God’s definition of success is the only one that matters. In God’s eyes, obedience to Him is success (1 Samuel 15:22).
- Know that you aren’t in this alone. Scripture says you were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Anything God declares for you to do, He will help you through. But it’s up to you to stop procrastinating out of fear. For more on how God will help you, see How God Fulfills His Promises.
- Understand that you don’t have to be up for the task. God has a history of using unlikely people to accomplish the most insurmountable tasks with His help so He gets the glory. In God’s economy, nothing God asks us to do is too big or too small. It is God who gives us strength for the tasks of the day (2 Corinthians 13:9), and the Holy Spirit who leads us in all truth (John 16:13).
- Finally, remember that God says that whatever you do, do for Him (Colossians 3:23-24). If you can say you’ve done that, you can count it a success.
When you’ve done all you know to do, stand (1 Corinthians 15:58, Ephesians 6:13). Leave it with the Lord and watch the Lord fight the battle for you (2 Chronicles 20:17).
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Resource to Break Anxiety’s Grip
No question, we have a lot to worry about. Children, jobs, homes, health, finances, and more. The solution isn’t to rid ourselves of the sources of anxiety – as if we could. Instead, we need to recognize that anxiety originates from a spiritual influence and that we can fight back using the God-given weapons of power, love, and a sound mind.
We can discover true peace in an age of anxiety.
In Breaking Anxiety’s Grip, Dr. Michelle Bengtson shares her own story of emerging from the battle with anxiety as well as the stories of others. She reminds you of your identity as a follower of Christ and of the peace he promises you in spite of everything.
She provides tools to cope with the crushing emotional burden of anxiety now and, more importantly, shows you how to reclaim God’s peace as a way of life so that you can break anxiety’s grip.
Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com, Books-A-Million, and other fine book retailers.
Click here to learn more: Breaking Anxiety’s Grip
I LOVE this!!! I don’t think I have ever read a blog about how to cope with success but I can see where it is so needed. Years ago we changed everything but our address: church, job, church ministry. Many changes and for us a successful transition from the secular world to the ministry world. We were being obedient to what the Lord wanted us to do. Some thought we were crazy for my hubby to take early retirement and go into full time ministry. Some of those naysayers were family. Some had never really acknowledged my hubby’s gifts and talents. They had a negative comment about his qualifications but He was qualified by Father not by man. He did have an ordination service that was such a blessing and in our hearts we knew in Father’s eyes we were successful. Many needy people were helped. It is like we had a tutorial and then 5 years later we graduated into a different ministry birthed in the first one. i could go on but thank you for sharing this message. Really spoke to my heart!
Karen, I’m so glad this spoke to your heart. I think it’s an issue many deal with.
This is so helpful, Michelle! I appreciate the way you’ve broken down exactly WHY we’re afraid of success (change, etc.). The greatest encouragement to me is that I don’t have to be up to the task. Oh, how precious is God’s grace to us! Where He guides me, He will provide for me. What He calls me to do, He will equip and empower me to do – in HIS perfect timing.
Isn’t it freeing to know we don’t have to be up to the task? God is so gracious to us. Peace Prevails!
I was listening to the Do it Scared podcast yesterday and this very topic was brought up. She talked about how we sabatage ourselves because of the fear of success. I hadn’t really thought about it but it is true.
When we first think of it, I don’t think most would think that fear of success is much of a hindrance, but I do think we experience it more than we realize. But God is gracious and an ever-present help.
Thanks for raising this issue, Michelle. I’ve been known to sabotage myself because of some of the reasons you mentioned here. I’ll be filling the prescription you shared with us. How precious knowing that I don’t have to be up for the task. That’s God’s job, not mine.
Blessings to you and your new book. May it speak hope to those who are hurting, anxious and fearful.
Marva | SunSparkleShine
So glad this is one prescription you’ll fill. May you know His peace!
This one fits perfectly with this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt–success! When I read your book, the concept of fear of success really rocked me. I realized I struggle with this and it cripples me.
Wonderful outline of how to cope with the fear of success. I’m looking forward to diving in to reading the scripture references with each point. I resonated with your explanation that part of the fear of success is the fear of responsibility that comes with success. And I’ve caught myself saying to myself that other people are succeed because they deserve it and I don’t. Only recently have I been exploring God’s definition of success and that it is something much different than how I define success. Thanks so much for writing and posting this – Karen