Guest post by Nancy Poller

What on earth is the fear of success?

We all know it takes courage and self-belief to start a business. But one thing I’ve discovered is that the journey of personal development doesn’t end when you take that brave step of hanging the ‘open’ sign in your metaphorical shop window.

fear of success--what is it and how to overcome it as featured on the Belong Magazine blog - celebrating the art and community of blogging, social media and entrepreneurship for women

I’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer for two years, and over that time a lot of stuff has come up to be worked through (self-doubt, fear of judgment, fear of making catastrophic mistakes - I’m sure you’re familiar with these delightful themes). But the latest personal hurdle I’ve found myself facing is the fear of success.

I was talking to my coach about moving my business to London from where I live in a rural part of England and how this change was making me feel all kinds of strange anxieties. She told me without hesitation that what I was experiencing is the fear of success.

Wait. What? Isn’t that an oxymoron? How can fear and success exist in the same phrase? Success is what we strive for, dream of, look towards when we daydream about a rosy future. Why on earth would I be fearing that?

But as we talked, I started to see how the anxiety I was experiencing was based in a fear of the unfamiliar, the unknown, of what might happen when I move myself and my business to the city, and how all those new things will feel. When I really thought about this idea it became clearer what the anxious voices in my mind were really saying to me:

- If I achieve success - whatever that means to me, how will that feel?
- Who will I become?
- Will I still be me, or will I change somehow?
- What will the people around me think about it?
- What will I have to do differently?
- Will I be seen by more people, and what will they think of me?
- Will I open myself up to criticism or ridicule?
- Will I lose something or someone?

- Will I crash and burn and feel humiliated?

Once I realized that these were real fears, and pretty deep ones at that, I started to see how their constant rumbling in the background might be a powerful force for holding me back.

What fear of success looks like for me is keeping myself safe, small, comfortable, avoiding putting myself out there and showing my authentic self, taking six months to create my website and even longer to show photos of myself, staying in a town where I feel bored and stifled.

I see it as a murky, deep water between me and the things I’d like to achieve. I’ve only just realized it’s there, so I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to cross it yet, but with most things I think the awareness of it is the first and most important step. Maybe I can start to build a bridge over it? Or wade in and start to swim? Or maybe my fearful voices and I could climb into a boat together and row across?

I know I am going to make this change and that it will be scary and exciting.

But now that I know that fear of success is a real thing, and that I don’t have to be controlled by it, I feel a little bit more equipped to handle what happens next. And who knows, maybe success when it comes will feel amazing in ways I haven’t even thought of yet.


Designing is what Nancy loves to do. There's magic in finding out about people, their businesses, why they're doing it and what they offer and using all of that to create a visual identity that shines their brilliance to the world. Nancy really loves creating the print promotions, websites, emails and social media graphics that show off all this creative work. She knows it's her ideal job because it lets her play around in her comfort zone and stretches her outside of it as well. Nancy has worked in large and small companies, creating designs for a huge variety of projects from events in far-flung places to product packaging. She is based at her home studio in London and works with clients everywhere.

Tweet me at @aligneddesignco

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