Have you ever imagined what fearing success would be like? Well, here’s a factual tale about Achievemephobia– the fear of success.
At approximately 30,000 ft above ground, en route my home town with multiplied excitement, I was seated next to a lady in her late fifties. While I was engrossed in my book titled ‘The Magic’ by Rhonda Bryne, little all I could hear was the lady’s periodic sighs. And of a sudden she asked me the genre of the book. “It’s a self help book”, I replied with a smile and she asked me for the book. She went through the preface while I was in a dilemma about starting a conversation with her. Though she had already asked my where-abouts, I was not expecting much of a talk. Surprisingly enough, she asked me if I knew about ‘Achievemephobia’. I had the faintest idea of what this phobia is about, and so I gestured an obvious no. She wanted to know if reading this book could help her. I expressed confusion and she started, “It is known to all that, fear is a powerful emotion and if you are experiencing the extreme fear of success, then there is probably nothing holding you back more in life.” I guessed Achievemephobia has to be the fear of success, and it left me wondering how success can be scary. As she went on, “The fear of success is very much like the fear of failure: both prevent the sufferer from dreaming and achieving his goals.” I was still wondering how she can be sharing her weirdest fear to a complete stranger. How weird it seems to fear success; after all what can be more appealing in life than it?
“It might surprise you to note that many CEOs and presidents of banks have been known to have Achievemephobia” she added. “Success has mixed results: it can bring fame and money but it comes at a cost such as envy, jealousy, hurt, notoriety, limelight etc. This knowledge can cause deep fear in the minds of Achievemephobic. Fearing about getting what one wants and being unable to handle achieving this, the deep fear of success is usually deep rooted. A person may be exceptionally talented yet they may have a long list of underachievement. This becomes a vicious circle in a way that they refuse to set goals. Shy, introverted people or people who do not like limelight might suffer from Achievemephobia. Getting ahead of friends, colleagues, and close family members can be intimidating and threatening: one might fear breaking ties with these people. The fear of success often stems from guilt or self doubt. Success comes with responsibilities which can lead to fear.” “A child who has always listened to comments like “You will not succeed” might carry the belief well into adulthood, undermining everything they do.” As she finished, I had an ardent desire to know if that child was her. I aptly suggested the book to her. She gave me a faded smile, maybe for listening to her. Unknowingly how contagious fears are, she taught me how scary it is on the top. Later I learnt that she is an IPS officer, a gold medallist in Political Science and a doctorate holder.
Achievemephobia is an unconscious phobia: often an individual is unaware that he has it. People suffering from Achievemephobia are not able to handle success: they might go on a spate of self destructive behaviour: drinking, drugs, sex etc and end up losing all that they have achieved. Many refuse to set goals in the first place. The need to escape self awareness can lead the phobic to drug use or alcoholism or even drive one to suicide in extreme cases. There are ways of overcoming this phobia. Writing down one’s thoughts and changing negative into positive ones can be a great self-help technique while dealing with this phobia. Positive visualizations, meditation and deep breathing upon facing an anxiety attack related to thoughts associated with success are other self help remedies.