National Association of Christian Ministers

Answering His Call Is Our Purpose

FEAR OF SUCCESS

FEAR OF SUCCESS

By Michael Mooney

“With every success, neurotic impostors think, ‘I was lucky this time, fooling everyone, but will my luck hold? When will people discover that I'm not up to the job?’” (Kets de Vries).

The reality is that at overwhelming number of successful people in the world believe that their success is just luck and that they are somehow just a fake who will be discovered as a failure.  People around them see them as very capable, intelligent, and talented while they believe just the opposite of themselves.  This is known as impostor phenomenon, or imposter syndrome. While it plagues both men and women, the ladies seem to struggle with it the most.  Psychologists believe the reason for this is because of social expectations and guilt feelings associated with working outside of the home, etc. Often the unfortunate outcome of the impostor phenomenon is one’s own sabotage of their success believing that they are unworthy of having such status (Kets de Vries).

More extreme examples of self handicapping included binge drinking, using drugs, failing to live up to commitments, withdrawing from relations with people, etc. The idea is that by acting out in these ways they can demonstrate that they never should have been successful in the first place.  The irony is that in some cases, none of these destructive behaviors are a real reflection if their character.  For example, the one who fails to meet commitments might really be a person who believes that being on time is very important.  One who indulges in binge drinking, may not like alcohol in the first place.

Strangely enough, some 70% of successful adults report having had this problem.  Common personality patterns associated are perfectionism and procrastination.  Perfectionism comes from insisting on unrealistic excellence (for fear of being exposed as an imposter), then feeling guilty upon realizing this goal is unattainable.  Procrastination because of the urge to delay tasks for fear of not living up to expectations and being judged as incompetent.  Other more subtle symptoms of the impostor phenomenon are: * dismissing success as luck or following someone’s good advice * discounting praise offered to them by others * failure to see the big picture * disinclined to ask for help * ridiculously humble * uninterested in team work * complicates simple tasks * never expects to be good at anything.  Seemingly contrary to all of these things, psychologists suggest that people with these problems should keep a record of their achievements and review it regularly to build confidence (Hirschfeld).

We love Him because He first loved us (1Jn 4:19 MKJV).

As the old saying goes, “we should believe in ourselves because God believes in us and He cannot be wrong!”

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6 MKJV).

From this scripture we can conclude a few things:

1) Faith is essential to pleasing God

2) A portion of that faith should be in believing that He rewards those who seek Him


THEREFORE, a certain amount of success should be expected to follow those who follow the Lord.  This should be embraced and never sabotaged, or avoided, or even downplayed…

Assignment Questions:

1) Have you ever been afraid of success -please explain?

2) How has this assignment changed the way you look at things in yourself or in others?


References

Hirschfeld, M. (1985). Is There an Impostor in Your Office? Management Review, 74(9), 44. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

Kets de Vries, M. (2005). The Dangers of Feeling Like a Fake. Harvard Business Review, 83(9), 108-116. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.