Are you afraid of failure…or success?

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one. This Halloween week, we present: fear.

The following is a translated excerpt from Elena Martín’s original post on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.

When we talk about the obstacles that prevent people from moving from intention to action, we often cite the fear of failure. But the other side of the coin is not so commonly discussed: fear of success.

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Are you afraid you might see failure… or success?
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Fear of failure can come into play when we think our image is on the line (“People will think this idea is absurd,” “If I try this and it doesn’t work, they’ll think I’m a failure,” etc.), and also when we treat failures purely as setbacks, instead of as opportunities to learn and make changes.

Fear of success, however, comes from different ideas and habits—often ones related to responsibility and commitment.

When thinking about an idea you want to make happen, have you ever had the following thoughts?

  • “If this goes well, am I willing to take on the extra responsibility it will mean?”
  • “What if I start to develop this, and it works, but then I realize it’s not really what I want?”
  • “My life is pretty good as it is. Why introduce this risk and complication to it?”

If so, you might be suffering from a fear of success! As you can see, the way we frame our thoughts and feelings about fear determines in large part what we dare to do (or not do).

So we invite you to try asking yourself what stops you from taking action. What’s the cost of not trying? Would it be better to try than to keep imagining what would happen if you did? What would make a better addition to your life than realizing your idea?

Your answers might give you a clue that you’re afraid of succeeding. If that’s the case, don’t fret: you can turn it around.

If we change our thoughts—if we can behold failure as a learning experience, responsibility as an honor, and commitment as an adventurous challenge—we can change the world.

Have you experienced fear of failure, or of success? Have you been able to turn good intentions into action by reshaping your thoughts and feelings about fear? Please share in the comments.

Idealist contributor Kimberly Maul also delves into the fear of success, with a focus on career goals, in this Idealist Careers post.

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Comments (2)


  1. allen craig writes:
    October 30, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Wait, that was it? That was the whole article? What’s to discuss, there’s no information here.


  2. Re-Frame | rE·embark writes:
    November 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    […] of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. […]


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