February 5, 2023

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There is no shortage of talk about the fear of failure. It’s almost a cliche topic at this point. But what about the fear of success? Picture this: You’re on your way to achieving your biggest goals. It’s exhilarating and exhilarating, but just when you get super close to achieving whatever you want, you stop. Almost on purpose. Almost like something is holding you back, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

We all assume that it is fear that creeps in, preventing us from reaching new heights. What if that feeling of fear actually stems from your fear of success; a fear of what it really means to move to the next level and leave the cozy blanket that is your current reality?

Why people fear success

Successful people are no strangers to failure. Sure, it’s not pleasant. But the road to success is paved with ideas that didn’t go as planned or bombed out. There are plenty of stories about Fortune 500 CEOs who didn’t make it the first time – or the tenth time. That just fuels your fire to keep trying because you know that big wins come after big losses.

What really keeps you up at night is the fear of success. It’s counterintuitive to think that realizing your wildest dreams is holding you back. When you work so hard for something, it doesn’t make sense that you fear it the most.

There is comfort in being where you are now. You already feel a measure of success and you know you can sustain it simply by continuing to do what you do. To reach the next level, however, you must leave the safety of your current position and head into uncertain territory. Success requires you to feel uncomfortable pursuing all those exciting things you’ve set your mind to.

Wishing for your life to change, inviting all the dreamy things – that’s easy. Putting in the work to get there is a different story, as it requires a change in areas of your life that are hard to maneuver.

What to do about your fear of success

To make room for all the wonders your dream life has to offer, get rid of the old stuff that will no longer serve you when you get there. You must now examine the details of your life and decide what you want to part with. You don’t expect your dream life to require you to give up people, relationships, and behaviors that are comfortable right now. You will have to let go of many meaningful things. Those decisions can be very difficult, even crippling. These emotions lead to your fear of success.

While it’s hard to rid yourself of the old you (the baggage, limiting beliefs, and people’s opinions and energy that hold you back), it opens up the space you need for the new goodness you invite. You can’t change your life if you don’t change your life! When you dream starry-eyed about your future, you are not dreaming about the pain it takes to get there. But the pain is a necessary part of the transformation process. It gives you the chance to learn more about yourself, what you want and where you want to go. It gives you the space to lean on yourself, rather than other people. And the more you embrace yourself, the more you realize that you are your own source of protection, knowledge and security.

I learned this valuable lesson from a lobster. A lobster has a hard outer shell that keeps it safe and comfortable. The shell feels great, and with its protection, the lobster can go out into the world without fear of being harmed. But one day, this once cozy shell starts to feel a little snug. See, the lobster started to grow a little bit; little by little. Suddenly that shell doesn’t fit like it used to, and he feels uncomfortable. Yet the lobster continues to grow.

One day, the lobster realizes that no matter how good the shell once felt so good, it now feels like it’s more of a hindrance than an advantage. The lobster has to let it go in order to regain the strength and comfort that a particular shell once provided. It is momentarily vulnerable. No shell equals no protection from the outside world. The Cancer defies this moment because it instinctively knows that this transformation is uncomfortable but necessary. This will allow it to grow into a new shell that better suits the larger, stronger lobster it will become.

To succeed, you must also evolve. With your previous constructions you cannot reach the new level you dream of. You must shed the person you were and let go of all the things that no longer serve you. It’s scary to walk half-protected into the unknown. That transitional state may feel unsettling, but embrace the opportunity for growth. Take that time to be alone with your thoughts, and get more in touch with who you are and what lights you up. Use this time of solitude to gain clarity about what you want and who you want to become. Strengthen yourself from within so you can confidently take those new, scary steps in the right direction. Your dream life awaits.

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