How to Restrain the Fear of Success

How to Restrain the Fear of Success

To kill fear, you must identify it, call it by its name, and cut off its fuel source.  John Thurman

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy is known for his folksy, family-friendly humor. One of his most viewed and vintage routines is the “You might be a Redneck if series.” With that in mind,

You might fear success if you:

  • You do not complete your projects at home or at work. 
  • You talk about what you’re going to do more than what you actually do. 
  • Your vision board has the exact same things on it that it did three years ago. 
  •  You don’t think your work is ever quite good enough. 

If this sounds like you, I bet you are asking, “What can I do about fear of success?”

The above list represents the classic symptoms of someone who struggles with the fear of success. It’s not that you don’t want to be successful because you have probably been working your tail off and spent many a night thinking, dreaming, and strategizing. These thoughts hide in your subconscious mind and over time may have been put there through various life experiences. But the truth is if success doesn’t come quickly to you, on an individual level, you might not want to succeed or feel you deserve to. 

Ready to make some changes? In this article you will learn three ways to restrain the fear of success.

It is always interesting when you begin to talk about success in some circles. On the one hand, one group of people share stories of their struggles and victories as they seek to live out their dreams. But, on the other hand, you will hear something like, “woulda,” “coulda,” shoulda,” group who consistently make excuses for their lives.

If you want to see this conversation really become uncomfortable for many Christian, ask a few questions about what it means to be a successful Christian. 

Fred Smith was a very successful businessman who loved the Lord and made a ton of money in his life. I think his words help bring clarity concerning the topic of success from a faith-based perspective.

For Christians, success can never be measured by money. So, when people say to me, That man’s worth ten million dollars,” that tells me he’s wealthy, but it doesn’t prove he’s successful. In some cases, it could mean the opposite. For instance, if Mother Teresa, whom I consider a tremendous success, confessed she was hoarding a million dollars, I’d think she was a hypocrite. The money would prove her a fraud, not a success. 

The measurement of success is simply the ratio of talents used to talents received: What you are doing with what you’ve got, plus who you are becoming. Are you a growing, maturing Christian? Whether you work in business or in Christian work, or as a day laborer, professional, or academic, if you are a growing Christian using a significant percentage of your talents, you are successful. Be glad.[i]

One of the significant differences between fruitful and unfruitful people is that successful, forward-looking people get excited about any small step of progress they make toward a goal. Any little win or small victory seems to fire them up and push them toward their goals and dreams. 

Yet, people who fear success focus on their lack of success. Any slip-up or misstep seems to fuel their fear of success. They listen to the dream stealing propaganda of fear, saying something like, “You will never measure up.” This leads them to think, “See, I cannot do this, I am hopeless, I will never amount to anything.” As a result, they lay their life, hope, and dreams on the altar of fear. 

Are you ready to learn how to restrain the fear of success? Keep reading.

While this may seem odd to many, it is a form of self-sabotage that can make things fearful. From getting hired, messing up a relationship, or missing opportunities that come your way, we can sabotage our plans.

To kill fear, you must identify it, call it by its name, and cut off its fuel source. Rather than passively feeding the fear, you need to get crystal clear about the dream God has given you and make sure you are adding fuel to the fire of your dream! 

The fear of success is very much like the fear of failure. Both prevent the individual from achieving their dreams and goals. Unfortunately, many people get so accustomed to this mindset that they convince themselves it is okay to never think about being sucessful in life. 

Fear gets a voice, not a vote.

Jon Acuff

Here are 3 Common Reasons people fear success, it is important to understand these if you want to restrain the fear of success. These are from my book, The No-Fear Entrepreneur. 

1. The fear of appearing to be unspiritual. Christians seem to be more prone to this fear than most people. Christian teaching often fails to balance biblical perspectives on the evils of the desires of the flesh and the need for self-denial, with the positivae role of motivation and accomplishment in the Christian life. The end result is many success “phobics” among modern Christians. Many believe God does not want them to enjoy significant success. 

This idea is rampant in many faith communities. I will typically hear the verse, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” I also hear, “Rich people are greedy,” These are pervasive thoughts and sayings that tend to bubble up in our thought processes directly related to the phrase “feeling unspiritual.” On a personal note, I have had to work on this one myself. 

There appear to be more nobility and humility in failure and much less hazard to your relationship with the Lord. Is this true? In my opinion, this is faulty thinking! God is not poor, or broke.

The Word of God offers plenty of warning about trusting in riches and the dangers of success. Yet is speaks just as often about the positive side of success and the importance of using our gifts, resources, and mind constructively for God’s glory. Psalms 1:3 (NLT) says, “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” The Lord has ordained each of our lives for specific accomplishments. Yet, the fear of success can and will hold us back. The Lord understands how fear can hold us back, that is why the He admonishes us to “fear not” 365 times in the Scripture.

Our relationship with money and spirituality has always been complicated. Money is more like a symbol for what we want, what we don’t want, what we can get, what we can’t reach, where we go on vacation or not go, what we’d give away, and what we’d hold on tightly. So money has a tightly woven and complicated relationship with our integrity. 

Here is the error in our thinking: People with money helped fund Jesus’s ministry. Paul was sometimes supported by others with money. Churches and ministries get generous gifts and other contributions— that is what keeps them going. If it were not for productive, godly people, many ministries and churches would not exist. 

Action Plan

Reality check and news flash: Not everyone will like you whether you are broke or wealthy. Accept it. No matter how good you are or how kind you think you are, most people could care less. Instead, a biblical view focuses on who you want to serve and why, whether it is your family, your business, church, or community. 

Work on becoming crystal clear about what you are willing to give of yourself. The bottom line is that one sure way to overcome the fear of success is to choose to honor the Lord, serving others, and supporting the causes you believe in.

But there is more to look at as you and I seek to restrain the fear of success.

2. Fear of standing out. The fear of standing out can bring you to your knees. In the past, I had a ton of brilliant ideas that would have helped me stand out more online, but I didn’t execute them. Do you know why? I told myself it was because I didn’t want the attention. Or all the hard work was not worth the effort. 

The most important truth was that I was afraid to be extraordinary. Blending in with the crowd is easy. It means not dealing with rejection or worrying about the possibility of making someone else feel inadequate. 

What to do: 

This is a quote adapted from Marianne Williamson. Read through it a couple of times and reflect on what it is saying to you. 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frighten us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. 

Now read this from the Gospel of Matthew: 

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, giving light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) 

On a personal note, this verse has been a big help in my life as I learn how to restrain the fear of success.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. You and I are hardwired to impact this world by demonstrating the Love of God in all that we do.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence will automatically liberate others. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. 

We have to do one more thing to conquer the fear of success, and that is to face our fear of change.

3. The Fear of Change. For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And when the answer has been “No” for too many days, I’ve known I need to change something.” Steve Jobs

Failure to adjust to changes that comes your way can negatively impact at least seven areas of your life. 

1. Physical Health. Imagine carrying around a stone that represents the negative impact of fear on your physical health. That fifty-pound stone affects your physical health. Residual anxiety, stress, and worry can cause headaches, muscle pain, chest pains, insomnia, and a suppressed immune system. 

2. Psychological Health. That rock can increase the risk of needless worry, anxiety, depression, and general well-being. Failure to make the changes and adjustments you need to complete will consume more energy and distraction than the actual change itself. 

3. Relationships. If the changes you are avoiding having to do with your relationships, what is that costing you? Are you settling for “comfortable” at the cost of having a healthy relationship? 

4. Work. Is staying in the maintaining mode of your business making you money? Is failure to expand preventing you from growing? The Laws of the Universe indicate that if you’re not growing, you are decaying. 

5. Fun. Maybe you’ve been avoiding fun. Research shows that having a good time promotes happiness. Positive Psychology studies show that this is a must in having a safe, productive, and profitable workplace. 

6. FinancesFailure to change in economics may significantly impact a lack of financial growth in your personal and professional life. 

7. Spirituality. It’s challenging to be true to yourself and apply your values, strengths, and faith when you are under the pressure of resisting change. 

When we are not living the life God desires, we often behave in unhealthy ways; overspending, addictive behaviors, choosing toxic relationships, and other harmful practices. 

When you decide to make needed changes, you shift your thinking and energy. When you use your faith to take the steps, you are rewarded with the strength and joy that enables you to follow through with those changes. You can begin doing this right now, just review and apply the principle and you will learn how to restrain the fear of success.

Change is a natural, organic part of life. Nothing really stays the same, but the thing is, it can feel like it does. Especially when it comes to the ins and outs of your life from day today. 

By its very nature, success means you now will be tasked with or experience something different—something you didn’t have before. And the Catch-22 is that we really want this change on one level, but it could be a very frightening thought on another level! 

When we fail to achieve a goal, we know what to expect. We’re already accustomed to living the way we do. But, on the other hand, success can be scary because it brings uncharted territory. Imagine if you’ve been overweight your whole life. What might it be like to be slim for the first time ever? It’s a new, slender you. How will a smaller you dress? How will a thinner you behave? Who will a healthier you hang out with? 

What about creating a business that brings in so much money that it’s easy to share and give to others. Yikes! You spend so much of your time juggling bills right now. Can you even imagine what new habits you might have if you were rich? Would you suddenly be more wasteful? Would your children be ungrateful? 

What about a relationship starting or ending? Or moving? 

Confronting that fear of change that makes you squeamish is a step you must take as you choose to experience the success that God has in store for you.

Change can be amazing or frustrating or liberating, or scary. But, on the other hand, it’s also inevitable, so we should probably choose what we really want! Quite often, it’s tedious, character-building work. Are you willing to embrace the changes?

What to do: 

If change is inevitable (and it is), then the first thing to do is to begin the process of getting absolutely clear on what you want. Write a description of the life you really want, without judgment. Then, just let it pour out onto the paper. 

Next, gather a great support system around you. This could be sharing your vision of your life with someone you love and trust, joining a Facebook group of people who are going for similar goals, investing in a mentor, or reading an excellent book that resonates with the description of the life you really want. 

So, Now What? 

Now breathe. Deeply. Success comes in stages. You’ll always have the capacity to improve and strive for yet another success. When you’re done breathing, look at the thing you want most right now. Break it down and focus on two things you can do today andjust be the unique person that God designed you to be. 

Bible Study Helps

A crucial part of God’s design is to create and bring an increase. These are vital factors to understand as you build your business, expand your creative endeavors, and fulfill your ministry. To help you restrain the fear of success, you can incorporate truths from Scripture to help fortify and change your beliefs.

From a faith perspective, success is not measured in fame, money, prestige, or how many toys you have. Instead, it is measured by how many lives you touch. 

These can be lives you touched personally, through your business’s profits, the development of your gifts, talents, and temperament. So here are some closing thoughts about biblical success:

It is rooted in the art and hard work of diligence. 

Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. Proverbs 12:24 (NLT)

Become a person of excellence.

Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than work for ordinary people.

Proverbs 22:29 (NLT) 

Assume responsibility and manage details.

Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds.Proverbs 27:23 (NLT) 

Strive for trustworthiness and dependability. 

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?

Who may enter the presence of your holy hill? 

Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, 

speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors 

or speak evil of their friends. Psalms 15:1-4 (NLT) 

Treat your customers like family. 

Choose a good reputation over great riches;

being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold. 

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, 

and long life. Proverbs 22: 1,4 (NLT) 

Develop a long-term perspective. 

Do your planning and prepare your fields 

before building your house. Proverbs 24:27 (NLT) 

Be alert for opportunities to expand your business. 

She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings, 

she plants a vineyard. Proverbs 31:16 (NLT)

Manage risk well. 

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept 

hoping—believing that he would become the Father of many nations. 

For God had said to him,

 “That’s how many descendants you will have! Romans 4:18 (NLT)

Make your assets work for you. 

Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful 

in handling this small amount, so now 

I will give you many more responsibilities. 

Let’s celebrate together! Matthew 25:21 (NLT) 

Surround yourself with wise counselors. 

Without wise leadership, a nation falls; 

there is safety in having many advisers. Proverbs 11:14 (NLT) 

Make decisions based on biblical principles.

O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is 

what he requires of you: to do what is right, 

to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT) 

Ask the Lord Jesus to be your CEO. 

Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 (NLT) 

I hope you find joy, fulfillment, and blessings as you learn to restrain the fear of success and allow the Lord to expand your dreams.

Be sure to check out https://www.johnthurman.net and https://www.johnthurman.info


[i] http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/spirituallife/ christianview.html. Accessed August 2021

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