Give FOS (Fear of Success) The Flick!

Fear of Success

It’s time for another guest post by one of our fave guest writers, accredited coach, Viv Fantin! If you like this one, check out her previous articles, ‘Perfectionism: Just ‘Fear In Fancy Shoes’, ‘Time to Give A Shit About Self Care! Looking After #1 in the Creative Industries’ and ‘Coaching Tips For Event Workers‘.

How many of us have not taken on a new job / project / client / creative collaboration because we’ve managed to talk ourselves out of it in record time? Or we find we’re right on the cusp of achieving a long cherished goal only to find ourselves doing something subconsciously to sabotage its success.

Guilty as charged.

Believe it or not Fear of Success is surprisingly common in the creative industries (and beyond). And you don’t need to be a performer to experience this. Fear of success can overcome people on both sides of the creative fence.

Just as fear of failure can paralyse us, fear of success can put the virtual handbrakes on as we sit in neutral waiting for the next golden opportunity to turn down.

Coined by US Psychologist Matina Horner in the early 1970s, fear of success can be caused by many things including low self-esteem, self-doubt, fear of the unknown and (the big one) fear of change. There’s a long list of expected consequences of achieving success and some of them, like increased hours, workload and discomfort with visibility, are real. We fear we won’t be able to cope with the workload and attention or the inevitable change that success can bring to our lives.

In the creative world, it can be fear of being recognised in your field, fear of being honoured or awarded, fear of heightened visibility and fear of being rejected by your less ‘successful’ peers among others.

Success, like failure is highly subjective. And ok, you might have genuine concerns about the workload involved in a project that can lead to success. But if you are a repeat rejecter of great offers in spite of what you know you truly want, it might be time to step out of your comfort zone.

Clues you might genuinely fear success:

– You dismiss great opportunities outright and then feel disappointed you didn’t pursue them.

– You focus on the (potentially) negative consequences of success

– You procrastinate on projects that can directly lead to success

– You secretly worry that you don’t deserve success

– You spend energy worrying that people will think you’ve ‘sold out’

– You’re worried that success will ultimately lead to disappointment

– You worry that you won’t be able to ‘sustain’ success

– You feel like an imposter in a successful role

– You have a pathological fear of change

Whether it’s fear of success (or its closely related cousin – fear of failure) ultimately it’s the F – word that’s at the heart of this angst. Like many fears there’s little logic attached to the emotion. But the accompanying negative thoughts can undermine a happy, creative career.

Fear is a mindset and the good news is that mindsets can be changed. Think about how to create a healthier perspective around what success means to you.

  • Accept that fear is natural
  • You are not your thoughts. I repeat, you are not your thoughts!
  • Think about a time you were successful. How did it feel? What changed in your life as a result?
  • Make choices you’re comfortable with. Don’t undermine the possibility of success by taking on things that aren’t ‘you’
  • Try not to have a fixed view of your abilities

Finally, ask yourself this question…and be honest.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I am successful?

Think about the most successful people you know. Do they have anything in common? Maybe it’s a positive mindset, inner confidence or a fearless ‘I don’t give a rats what anyone thinks’ attitude.

If there’s a recurring script in your head that’s contributing to your fear of success maybe it’s worth re-writing that copy.

Thanks for reading,

Coach Viv

Viv Fantin is a certified, accredited coach at Next Act Coaching. If you’re interested in a complimentary skype call to learn more about how coaching can help you set clear, achievable goals, manage stress, and sort through work-life balance along with many other issues please contact Viv on or Ph 02 6687 1965. Check out for more info.




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