Is It Possible To Be Afraid Of Success? Oh Yes!

Most people would easily concede that the fear of failing can hinder a person from even trying something where success isn’t guaranteed. What about the fear of succeeding however? Can a person really be afraid to do something because there is a chance they might actually be successful? Oh yes!

Suppose you are an unemployed person who in the early stages of a job search, stuck to your guns and looked for employment in your field. As time passes you start to consider other employment because your main goal – the job you really want – just hasn’t been advertised or you have not successful in getting an interview. Subsequently after expanding the job search you do get an interview on a job applied to, albeit one of the jobs that isn’t really in your field of first choice.

Okay so are you with me? You go through the job interview, get offered and accept the job. After all, it’s a job. It’s money in the bank account, current experience, a rise in self-esteem – hey somebody wants you! There’s no downside to taking this job, so what could possibly be the problem?

There is a problem you see; something isn’t right. You can’t figure it out logically though. You were unemployed just a short time ago and now you’re not. Your friends and family were happy for you when you told them you got hired, and initially, you were happy too. Something isn’t right though. You should be happy but you’re anxious. The people at the new place of employment are friendly, welcoming, helpful and they are doing all they can to make your transition to the ‘team’ a smooth one. You should be happy right? But again, you’re not. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself.

Maybe, just maybe mind, you are afraid of succeeding in the new job. After all, if it turns out you’re good in the job, you might be tempted to stay long-term. The money is decent if not good, the people friendly and just what you’d want in your co-workers. The job you went to school for however; the job you envisioned and promised yourself you would ultimately get – well…that’s fading with every day you put in 7 or 8 hours working for a company doing something different.

You reason that if you were unemployed you’d still be looking for a job in your primary field instead of being trapped in this, your secondary work of choice. If you spend 6 months or a year here, you’re references for the job of your dreams will be a year out of date. The education you had if you stay for a year will be secondary to the new grads coming out in a year who will be more relevant and current. Job search after working a full day? Who has the energy for that when there’s work around the house to do?

In fact, if you quit or got yourself dismissed, it would actually come as a blessing not a bad thing! While it’s not like you to pack things in, be a quitter or underperform, you just feel physically ill while at work, trapped in this job you didn’t really want, doing things you really don’t want to do, but yet you are somehow good at.

I suspect that a growing number of people  see themselves in this scenario. Out of work, they wonder if they aren’t actually better off without a job in order to concentrate on getting the perfect job; the dream job. They are in short, conflicted. Work after all is good. It sure beats unemployment but is accepting anything other than the perfect job conceding, giving in, settling?

So only a few days into the job and you’re wondering, “Did I make a big mistake taking this job? What if I’m actually good at it and end up here for years?”

There is a belief out there that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. You know, it’s based on the idea that you’re more marketable, your skills current, your work routines established. Employers like to hire people who are work ready rather than unemployed. References if you choose to use people at the current job will be stronger if you have been out of work for a number of years too – providing you made it past probation at the minimum.

Yes, fear of success can freeze a person in their tracks. It’s as if they think, “I might actually get a job if I apply for one, so I won’t apply for a job unless it’s my dream job.”  The problem on the other hand  is that the dream job might not actually come up, or if and when it does, you don’t get an interview or an offer. Now what?

That fear of success could keep you unemployed for a long time. And all the while, your skills get rusty, knowledge out-of-date, references stale and self-confidence sags. What’s to be done? Take a job you know isn’t your first choice until something in your primary field comes along, or hold out and be unemployed so you don’t feel trapped in a job you don’t like but might be good at?

There is no one answer for all people. There are a lot of variables to consider. I’d like to hear YOUR thoughts.



2 thoughts on “Is It Possible To Be Afraid Of Success? Oh Yes!

  1. With unemployment being so high, many people are getting jobs out of their field. In a lot of cases these people are over qualified for these positions but get the jobs over people with average qualifications Employers are glad to employ them as long as jobs in their field are unavailable and they need the money. You are not better off unemployed if you are out of money.


  2. Fully with ya Deb2000. And Kelly, another bang on topic! Thanks! For my 2 cents, I agree that any employment is better than unemployment when we have bills to pay. I meet an awful lot of people who are not working in jobs that they initially paid ‘big buck’ to a post secondary institution to train for which lead me to wonder who are the real winners then? I mean take HR for example. I think it makes more sense to get into this line of work once you have had some ‘life experience’ behind you. It should not be an entry level type of work. However having said that, even a surgeon has to have his first patient, right? I was fortunate with a former employer to have learned a number of different things and found out what I like and what I was good at. Problem is that as an ‘older’ worker, none of this seems to matter anymore since employers are taking up young workers because they can ‘supposedly’ train them the way they want! The irony is, as I noted in a previous post to you, employers aren’t really interested in the training game any more (that’s where some of the first cuts come when needed), so I think, in the end, for everyone, getting a decent job (good pay, respect, autonomy and development opportunities) depends more on the ‘luck of the draw’ and networking (i.e who you know) and less on what your actual academic prep is. I have 2 college certificates, a diploma, 2 undergrad and a graduate degree -all in different areas. I have got these because I have been supposedly ‘not eligible’ for certain jobs because my degree wasn’t in the ‘right’ area! It has taken me many years to finally realize that it doesn’t matter what degree or diploma you may have. “Do what you love and the money [supposedly] will follow” as Marsh Sinetar writes, and I think job hunting and the workforce in general, will be a happier place!


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