The Fear of Success


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It was about this time last year that I found myself sitting in a room full of strangers (and my husband) holding my breath. Waiting. I’d been waiting for a couple months since they first announced on the conference website that my book proposal was among 9 others that were being considered for a book contract.

The moment of truth finally arrived; the announcement was seconds away…and the honor went to someone else.

I exhaled. And as I applauded the winner taking the stage, you know what I felt? Sadness, disappointment? Nope–relief.

I’d felt it simmering in me for a while, almost since I had submitted the proposal (and probably long before). A familiar emotion. Fear. But it wasn’t the kind of fear I was expecting. I expected the fear of failure–what I discovered was a fear of success. I passed it off as complete trust in the plans of God (which was partially true), but deep down I was afraid to succeed. Afraid of the unknown ways in which success would change my life. The ways in which it would expose me, and my weaknesses, to the world. Knowing it would demand a new, truer vulnerability, something I wasn’t sure I was capable of or even wanted to give.

I was afraid to succeed, knowing that in my success I would be opening up another avenue to fail.   

One of the best-est movies of all time is It’s Christmastime, Charlie Brown. In it Charlie Brown sidles up to Lucy’s psychiatric help booth, drops in his nickel, and gets her “professional help.” She then rattles off a list of “phobias” asking if any of them match his vague feelings of unhappiness.

Finally she says, “There’s pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”

“What’s that?” he asks.

And she says, matter-of-factly, “the fear of everything.”

Bowling her over, in true Peanuts fashion, he shouts, “That’s it!”

I laugh every time. But sometimes I can relate a little too well to that scene. I fear failure, I fear success (and spiders, and rats, and something happening to my family, you get the idea). Sometimes the list can get really long. So today I’m reminding myself that God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear of success or failure. So I’m moving forward out of fear into pure trust in the plans of God.

Have you ever found yourself fearing success? Did you recognize it for what it was? How did you handle it? Drop me a comment; I want to hear from you.


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