Is a Fear of Success or Fear of Failure Holding You Back From Being a Successful Author?

by Karen Jonson

Writer in a bell jar

Is a fear of failure or a fear of success stifling your life as a writer? Both of these conditions are real — and are really threatening to your success. The good news is you can take action to defeat your fears — and pursue your dreams.

How to Overcome these Debilitating Emotional Blocks — and Market Your Books With Greater Confidence

Does this sound familiar? You believe that you have been working hard towards publishing and marketing your books. But success has been elusive.

If so, one of two surprising, but powerful, mental obstacles could be at work: a fear of failure or fear of success.

Fear of success and fear of failure share many of the same symptoms — and both fears hold you back from achieving your dreams and goals.

For instance, suppose you don’t push yourself to take advantage of a book promotion opportunity, and the reason is because you secretly fear that the additional income and recognition would jeopardize your integrity and family relationships. You’re worried that you would be so busy working to maintain your success that you’d never see your family, and you might be forced to make choices that would make you uncomfortable.

This scenario may sound farfetched, but experts say these issues are more frequent than people realize.

The biggest problem for many people is that their fear of success or fear of failure is largely unconscious. They don’t even realize that they’ve been holding themselves back from doing something amazing that will help them achieve their goals.

Understanding and Identifying Fear of Failure

Many of us are afraid of failing at least some of the time. It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure.

But “fear of failure” is when we allow fear to stop us from doing the things that can move us toward our goals and dreams. People who succumb to their fears probably live so cautiously that they cannot make a move forward.

If you have a fear of failure, you likely experience some of these symptoms:

  • Immobilization. A reluctance to try new things or get involved in challenging projects.
  • Self-Sabotage. Examples include procrastination, anxiety, or a failure to follow through with goals.
  • Low Self-Esteem or Self-Confidence. For example, negative statements such as “I’ll never be good enough to sell my books,” or “I’m not smart enough to market my books.”
  • Perfectionism. A willingness to try only those things that you know you’ll finish perfectly and successfully.

Understanding and Identifying Fear of Success

Fear of success is the projected fear of negative consequences or side effects from what success can potentially bring. Hence, you are essentially acknowledging that success can result in both positive and negative consequences. Your aversion to the thought of negative consequences is more than the pleasure gained from the thought of positive consequences.

“The fear of success is a very unique issue that arises when you are genuinely creating change and moving forward in your life,” says Ti Caine, a hypnotherapist and life coach based in Sherman Oaks, California, in Psychology Today.

“The fear of success is very real because the future is real — we’re all heading there — and what we imagine for our future has an enormous influence on us.”

To create and sustain success it is essential to find and release your fears of success. The more you leave the task undone, the more your fears will control you.

“It’s the monster in the closet,” says Caine. “And it gets bigger.”

These are signs that you may have a fear of success 

  • Lack of motivation
. For example, you frequently compromise your own goals or agenda to avoid conflict in a group, or even conflict within your family.
  • Downplaying of dreams
. For example, you self-sabotage your work or dreams by convincing yourself that you’re not good enough to achieve them.
  • Slow progress.
 For example, you avoid or procrastinate on big projects, especially projects that could lead to recognition.
  • Sustained underachievement
. For example, you believe that if you do achieve success, you won’t be able to sustain it. Eventually you’ll fail, and end up back in a worse place than where you started. So you think, “Why bother?”
  • Internal confusion about what you really want.
 For example, you feel, subconsciously, that you don’t deserve to enjoy success in your life.
  • Negative emotions such as guilt, shame, denial, or envy.
 For example, you feel guilty about any success you have, no matter how small, because your friends, family, or co-workers haven’t had the same success.
  • Disconnected with your true self. For example, you don’t tell others about your accomplishments.

Taking Action to Overcome Your Fears

To keep the fear of failure and fear of success from undermining your goals and dreams, it’s best to address the fear of success and fear of failure as soon as possible.

Fear in any form is not a good thing. It creates internal conflict.

The good news is that the more you face your fears, bring them to the surface, and analyze them rationally, the more you’re likely to weaken those fears – and dramatically reduce your reluctance to achieve your goals.

When you start to acknowledge your resistance, acceptance begins taking place. Fear dissipates. The law of attraction works favorably. Success should not be too far away.

There are several different strategies for overcoming your fear of failure or fear of success. If you feel that your efforts are being diminished by either of these fears, let me know and I’ll send you an exclusive handout from Lesson 15 in the Indie Book Marketing Workshop, which guides self-published authors through all of the critical steps on marketing their books.

The Workshop lessons are created especially for Members of the Workshop. But I feel this issue is too important to keep under wraps.

There are too many obstacles in the way of authors — we don’t need our own fears to be another roadblock on the road to living our dreams of being successful authors.

Email me at: Karen at indiebookmarketingcommunity dot com and I’ll send you the handout on overcome these two fears from the Indie Book Marketing Workshop.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie Alexander April 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Thank you for a wonderful post! I am a super -type-A-go-getter in every area of my life except for publishing and marketing my book. It’s been confusing, because I have never procrastinated so much in my life. This article gave me a LOT to think about. Will email you for the handout. Thanks, again!


Karen Jonson April 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hi Valerie,

I can totally relate. There is something both overwhelming and intimidating about marketing books.

I’m working on it all daily to get a handle on what it really takes to market a book today and get it discovered and purchased. It’s easy to get lost in all the advice out there. I’m hoping to bring sanity and a practical route to helping self-published authors market their books.



June Craig April 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

Thank You. I never realized before how much fear was within me for moving forward with marketing my book ” Climbing the Stairs of Loss and Greif. ” I lived , studied and wrote the subject and now stuck ,.., ! Wow .. All of these messages are so helpful. Wish we could meet in person,


Karen Jonson April 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi June,

I’m so happy to here that you are getting value from this blog. That is exactly why I created it — to help Indie Authors through the jungle of self-marketing. I hope you’ll sign up and stay connected.



Shirley Fitzgerald, RN May 17, 2013 at 1:09 am

Thanks for a fantastic explanation of my observations over the past 50 years! Fear of success is real; very real. It can be debilitating, counter-productive and completely immobilizing at times. In my experience the higher your I.Q., the more debilitating the fear of success or fear of failure becomes.

I look forward to your insights and solutions.

Thanks again.



Karen Jonson May 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Hi Shirley,

Thank you for commenting — and confirming this condition it real. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it exists.

I appreciate your support.



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