How to deal with the fear of success and failure

Adopting an optimal mindset

There is a story behind optimal results

There is a story behind optimal results

The Fear Of Success

Being eaten by a whale

Being eaten by a whale

What would happen to you, if every goal you set became real? You imagine a healthy life, great relationships, financial freedom, busy hobbies and interests, academic achievements and continued exploration. So, what would this mean to you? What would you be missing? Would you feel less deserving? Would you feel like a fake? These questions address what is known as the Jonah complex or imposter syndrome. This is the fear of success found in people and companies. The Jonah complex is the opposite to the fear of failure most commonly shared in society. Behind the closed doors of many people’s minds is their fear of success.

Tears of joy and emotion

Tears of joy and emotion

If you look at people who win prestigious awards from their peers, they are often genuine in their humble words and feeling awkward dealing with the fact they have become recognized as key influential figures. Very often the rise to stardom in popular culture for instance with singers can bring unfortunate ends to their lives when they find it hard to adjust to their new prominence across the globe.



Madonna once said that the careers of her staff were what motivated her to continue in her career, she felt enormous pressure dealing with the responsibility of over 100 lives affected by her employment. Thus her work load became a strain and in time she adjusted her exposure to the music industry to a much lower than expected level.

Lottery winners are often quoted as finding the strain of friendships occurs when the basis of their social interactions change the circles they find themselves within.

The most famous family in American politics.

The most famous family in American politics.

Rising politicians sometimes complain of the strains on their family life that comes under greater scrutiny due to their position of office and public position.

These situations may sound ridiculous at first, I mean, who would not want the best and highest success for themselves? Well the proof is all around us. Every day we see, meet and share our lives with people who have chosen a more comfortable life. Indeed I argue that mediocracy is so popular, most people live it.

This is why we are happy for the people that do achieve greatness, we cheer on the football stars, singers, actors, artists and follow politicians and business leaders who present parts of the same shared vision and goals as ourselves, yet we allow them to take the risk.

Risks everywhere

Risks everywhere

The risk of success is an important and strong influencer to our decisions. Our minds have evolved to identify risks and dangers; we are then also conditioned in society to live in a specific way. Indeed we often here the phrase “show we your 5 closest friends and I will show you your future”. So, do we choose our friends also as part of a safety mechanism so the comparative scale of success is still rewarded but still well within your levels of capacity?

Types of fear

  • We have fear of personal harm

  • We have fear of psychological harm


From th e above 2 areas are the groups of fear elements.

·        Visibility to others of perceived failure

·        Comfort levels when dealing with change

·        Social interaction adjustments with a new peer group

·        The risk of finding new enemies, jealousy and envy in others

·        Accepting new levels of responsibility with little experience. 

Fear of Change

A significant amount of research continues in the field of change management. There are some common agreed models that reflect the emotional roller coaster people experience with change. I wrote an article on how to address this through the SARAH model.

Hunter Gatherer

Hunter Gatherer

As humans we are designed to conserve energy and nature has always brought sufficient challenges to ensure we dispelled this energy. However, over time we have become the masters of our environment and therefore our brains face real physical change less frequently than ever due to external events such as food supply, shelter or water. If you recognize these points, you are better informed to understand the root of your fear and therefore overcome it.

Fear of Future Failure

A big mistake

A big mistake

Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Apple, BMW, Picasso, Leonardo De Vinci all have the amazing ability to have success after success. What the public do not see on a day to day basis is the mistakes, errors, poor judgements and errors made by these greats. It raises their status to inspirational leaders and yet they do make mistakes and errors. Not everything they have done was or is great. Their personal and corporate emotions may be different than we see from the outside. They are worried about the missed opportunity, under developed idea or product, the waste of time creating a process or design that was never followed through.

Very often I see how people are scared of the next phase being a failure and not understanding that failure may be necessary to discover the best solution for the long term.

Fear of Lost social circle.



As we move through life our social circles often evolve and change. However unless we are determined to accept this loss and change is a real part of improvement and development you will remain stuck. The challenge often faced by people is that their friends and family and social circles develop a framework expectation of you and for you. This is why there is an often cited quote from the bible that “No prophet is accepted in their home town”. You may say or have heard some of the common phrases such as “oh James now feels he is too good for us” etc. The fear of the other people can spread and support the fear in you.

Fear of envy & jealousy 



One element of social conditioning in modern society is the need for us to fit in and get on with each other. Therefore as social animals it is natural we want to be liked and accepted. The reality of life shows that’s some people become jealous or envious of your achievements. These can be from the persons own insecurities coming out to attack you.

Fear of responsibility

Hiding behind responsibility

Hiding behind responsibility

Have you met people with great skills and talents who could go for a promotion but shy away at the last moments and declare they would not like the responsibility? They may feel uncomfortable making new decisions that fall beyond their personal destiny, control and skills. This is an important leadership skill to overcome and master.

Fear of creating enemies



There is a known risk in many cases that a new position at work may create new potential enemies in the form of staff who are jealous of you, have different goals and objectives than you, may feel at risk from your skills and talents or simply are hyper competitive.




The fear of success has many similar functional elements as the fear of failure. The core approach when dealing with any form of fear is to take a pure logical and informed choice to help overcome it.

The fear is for some good reason and should be embraced as an opportunity to refocus and understand the purpose of your actions. By doing so, will equip you best for continued longer term performance and success plus embrace the results when they arrive. You need to draw on your original purpose and mission for your goals, remain enthusiastic and accept a bumpy road which will include criticism and responsibility are part of the experience.

oooopsss it failed

oooopsss it failed

Understanding reasons for failure

If you have a fear of success it is also important to understand the reasons for frequent failure. There are common areas in both business and personal goals that play significant contribution to failure.

  • You do not want to give up bad habits

  • You do not want to create new systems

  • You do not want to be self-accountable.

  • You enjoy procrastinating

  • You prefer to fast track everything

  • You do not like self-review and performance measurement

  • You do not want to share with others your true ambitions and goals

  • You feel uncomfortable asking for help

  • You do not want to change

How to re-frame your mind to accept and embrace success.

  • Complete this sentence: “I do not feel worthy or deserving of _____________”. Generate your list so you have a specific block of areas and points to be addressed.

  • Now revisit your goal and ambition. Take a deeper review of the following points to help understand the full meaning of what success in your mind is, and explore areas that you may not be currently aware of.

  1. Who do I think I will hurt or generate emotions of intimidation or envy?

  2. What would a “more deserving person” look like, that is significantly different than you?

  3. What is the broader purpose of your success? Have you already created a wider vision for your purpose?

  4. How am I going to measure my performance progress?

  5. Do I respond positively to motivational and affirmational self-talk?

  6. How do I currently respond to positive compliments of good work or performance?

Take 10 minutes to complete these steps to help your mind reframe your relationship with success. Use the first 2 minutes to remove distractions for this exercise.

1.     For 3 minutes, think of a time and event where you experienced success. Take note of what you are feeling during this memory. 

2.     For 5 minutes, now, go back to your goal and plan for success. Use the power of your mind to visualize the success. Do you notice a difference?

Here are some extra tips and ideas to help form a better acceptance with success.

Ladder to success

Ladder to success

·        Learn something new at least once a week

·        Exercise using a progression systems and feel the benefits and rewards this provides

·        Help others by teaching and sharing some of your skills and knowledge

These steps will help you improve the management of your mind to accept and embrace positive experiences and success.

You can support your sense of worthiness of success through the use of affirmations and motivational quotes and surround yourself with people who are successful in their chosen fields. This provides an insight into their back story and helps you relate to their own struggles and their ultimate acceptance of their own success.

How to live a life without a fear of success:-

Accept who you are

Accept who you are

Success is a relative measure for many people. A millionaire may not feel as much of a success as a billionaire and yet a small stall holder may feel a huge success if they come from a background of little opportunity.  So, get used to a sliding scale of ambition with your held firmly in the present and future and not with the past.

  • Recognize and accept that success can be a temporary period of time. Every athlete is beaten and replaced by another eventually; the same can be seen and said for popular singers and even established business’s (think Kodak, Motorola, HP, MG Rover, Rubix cubes). Simply accept and embrace the positive experience and joy whilst it lasts.

  • Be true to yourself and embrace the popular phrase of “authenticity”, simply do not live your live through and by the expectations of others, live your live your own way whilst sharing common compassion and love and respect for others.

  • Perfection is rarely achieved; indeed perfection is often superseded over time with new levels of excellence and abilities. Allow yourself to understand your success will be part of a continual journey towards your own excellence.

  • Enjoy the moments you get to celebrate and reward yourself joy when you achieve new thresholds of success. Become used to celebrate not just other people’s success but also your own self-made performance levels.

A very complex part of our body.

A very complex part of our body.

So the message within this article is simple. Your goals and ambitions are held within your own mind and brain.

That mind is equally capable to allow you to feel uncomfortable or generate the belief of worthiness of success.

It is your choice, you may need to help train and develop the mental strength to accept new levels of performance using many of the points I have raised, yet it remains to be the mental transformation that is required the most.

So take on your ambitions and goals with enthusiasm. Give all your best efforts to achieve your goals and dreams without allowing irrational beliefs take control of your habits.

·        Let other know how this article has helped your understanding and behavior change when facings your fear of success.

·        Please share this article across your social media platform so others can have the opportunity to make benefit from the content.

JAMSO helps people and business transform their performance levels.

Further Reference and Reading

Transcending Fear by Brian Germain

Vision boards for success

How to use affirmations with goal setting success

  • Written by James Doyle, founder of JAMSO. We have over 200 free articles, tools and resources for your success.