Do You Have a Fear of Success?

During the past few weeks, I have had a challenging time with a relationship I was apart of. I am not going to go in to the details, however I am going to share with you one of my learnings. The situation allowed me (ok maybe forced me) time to reflect.

What I discovered related back to fear and specifically fear of success and some of the beliefs and ideas I had about success in my subconscious from childhood. Subsequently I wanted to share with you some reasons why many of us have a fear of success.


Background to My Story

As some of you know, I was a professional tennis player. I have struggled owning this part of my life for many years (I finished playing at the 1997 US Open) and reasons (i.e. not feeling I did well enough, which led to unworthiness/deprivation, lack of confidence (self-doubt), a deep sense of shame and never feeling enough), however am continuing to see the light at the end of the long tunnel.

I have known for many years, I needed to heal different aspects from my past. However, I didn’t have clarity around fear of success and how it was linked to my past. I did know it was time to discover the answer.


“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” ~ James Baldwin



The morning after I came back from doing Nia Green Belt training in the USA, I was meditating and a book title came in to my meditation. I could do anything if I only knew what it was. I hadn’t heard of this book or author Barbara Sher before, however I downloaded it and started reading it. I haven’t finished the book yet, however I have received the clarity I was after around fear of success and wanted to share with you as for me ignorance is not bliss.


7 Stories Around Fear of Success

In the book, “I could do anything if I only knew what it was” Barbara Sher discusses the following 7 stories around fear of success. These stories start within childhood and can come from more than one source.

  1. Passing up someone you love. As a child, did you ever feel like you took away from your parents ‘hero’ status? What about choosing to stay in a family business, however not being able to truly succeed? This is passing up success for someone you love.
  2. You come from a family with a history of failure. Has failure eroded your family’s confidence? If so, it can make you very determined or it can make you feel protective of your family. Remember, there is a choice.
  3. You were a trophy. Did you ever get the message from your parents that you’re success didn’t belong to you? Maybe you felt like a family trophy and were losing your own autonomy? This can be challenging as Barbara Sher indicates –
    • “Consciously or unconsciously, you can end up in in a grudge match with your parents: refusing to succeed as a way of saying “I belong to myself – not to you.” (p.85).

  4. You’re waiting to be rescued. Ever get yourself in trouble again and again? Maybe you are waiting to be rescued? However, when you’re waiting to be rescued you don’t enjoy the power of being able to take care of your own problems.
  5. You’ve encountered envious people and other enemies. In Barbara’s words –
    • … jealous people don’t want to approve of you. The nicer you become the angrier they become, because by being nice you’re making yourself look good – and that’s exactly what they resent.” (p. 86).  

  6. You’re a woman (women aren’t supposed to succeed). Maybe enough said?
  7. Your parents were disturbed or unkind. Were your parents abusers (i.e. physical, emotional, mental or substance)? If so, maybe you took on both guilt and unworthiness?


Understanding the source of your fear of success is a step towards learning about your story. There are more steps to this adventure, including learning to feel it, accepting it, being with it and releasing it.

No-one can walk this path for you or free you from this past. You are the only one who can do that. However, I know you have the strength within you to do it and can do it…

Also, here is a great reminder from Marianne Williamson to support you on your way.


Dreams by Marianne Williamson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson.


I hope this post has given you some insight in to why people have a fear of success. If you have any questions, please leave them below or share them on our Facebook page here.


If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Sher, B. (1994). I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It. New York, USA: Dell Publishing.


Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field