Psyche logo


by Kristen Dutton 11 days ago in disorder / anxiety · updated 11 days ago
Report Story

Living with chronic "success anxiety"

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Achievemephobia. The fear of succeeding, or the fear of achieving your goals. I will never forget the day that this stunning revelation settled in my mind. I had fought and struggled for years against this fear without ever having a name for it. I had always told people that I was a "Professional Procrastinator", or that I had a mental block that prevented me from finishing projects. I was an artist. A fine artist, working mainly in oils. I don't even think I can count the number of unfinished art pieces stored in my studio room. Once I realized that my issue wasn't a mental block, or procrastination, but was a fear of succeeding as an artist it was as if the millions of puzzle pieces of my life fell into place. I could see clearly. This has been my life long fear.

It wasn't just art. This fear permeated much of my life. As a person who takes interest in numerous fields of education, arts, crafts, and even medicine, I have many hobbies. However because of my fears I always switch from one hobby to the next never giving myself enough time to hone my craft in any one thing. I became a Jack-of-all-Trades-Master-of-none. Why? Because if I succeed at something and it doesn't give me the fulfillment I hope for it will all have been for nothing. So I avoid succeeding.

Then there's relationships. Have you heard of self-sabotage? Now imagine doing that to your own relationships. Pushing people away. Making issues bigger than they are so that there is enough distance between you. Because of course you wouldn't want to be in a perfectly happy relationship. Why? Because what if you have a happy relationship and are still unhappy? What will you do then?

This is the core of Achievemephobia. "What if I succeed and I can't handle the success, or it all falls apart?". "What if I succeed but it stresses me out, and destroys my lifestyle?" "What if I succeed and am still unhappy with my job, my marriage, my life...?"

The fear of the unknown. The fear of what my life will look like if I finally get what I want. The fear of what I will feel. The fear of what I won't feel. The dreams are all in my heart and in my head but once I achieve them they will be gone. What I imagine will be gone and I will be left with the reality. I don't trust reality to reflect my hopes.

Living with Achievemephobia is like living in a loop. You dream and hope and pursue your passions. Then you fear and doubt and abandon your passions. Then you do it all over again. People with achievemephobia tend to be dreamers. The reason they struggle so much with their fear of success is because they are quite adept at dreaming beautiful and big dreams. They want something out of their life and yet they are their own biggest obstacle in getting there.

Often people who battle with this fear also develop the fear of failure which can be particularly painful because their achievemephobia causes them to give up and fail most of the time. Once they abandon another dream for fear of what it will be like to achieve it they will beat themselves up, and negative mental self talk will engulf them. Often people who struggle with achievemephobia become depressed because of this cycle.

I have never been particularly athletic but even when it comes to my own wellness I have fears. "What if I work out and I still feel run down and tired all the time, or what if I feel even worse than before." The fear of what it might be like to succeed with my work out goals keeps me stuck. Because individuals with achievemephobia fear succeeding but often also fear failing most of them get stuck in-between the two and end up doing nothing at all in spite of any plans they have of starting a particular goal. Getting stuck like this will continue until one of the fears overpowers the other.

People who live with achievemephobia often feel like they can never win. I often feel this way. Living with achievemephobia is a daily battle in my own mind. However in spite of how overwhelming it can be I believe there is always hope. I have decided that even if I fail over and over again because of this fear. Even if I get stuck for weeks or months, or even years at a time over a certain goal, as long as I don't give up it will be okay.

I will try to speak positively to myself instead."Try with the next hobby Kristen." "Try with the next argument with your spouse, don't sabotage yourself." "Don't fear the disappointment." "Don't fear the unknown." "Try again." "Try again." "It's okay, it will be okay."

"Success is never giving up." "Look. You've already succeeded."

My hope is that if I never give up, one day I can overcome my fear of success. If that is the only thing I succeed at in this life I think that will be enough for me.


About the author

Kristen Dutton

I am a thinker of many thoughts so many that they pour out my eyes, trickle from my ears, and spray out my nose! The best remedy for this "syndrome", is to write it all out instead. A much less messy release I must say.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  4. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

Add your insights

Comments (19)

Sign in to comment
  • Kathleen McClenahan Como3 days ago

    I’m finding it hard to put words to what I am feeling. As I read, a warmth enveloped me and whispered, “This is a lot like you.” I joined vocal+ to try to get myself to write again. I want the feeling of accomplishment when a story or poem is done and recognized. But I haven’t been able to write since my coma. It took that creative part of me that I loved so much. I would write but never enter contests or share. I am the queen of crafts but never successful in selling, although, I am great at giving my art away. I never feel that I live up to anyone’s expectations of me; bosses, parents, partners and friends. Words don’t come as easy any longer and memories are hit and miss. I am bipolar, a procrastinator and maybe I have achievemephobia. I never succeed at any one thing. I always have many crafts going at the same time while others sit unfinished or not started. My ideas are great in my head but some never see the light of day. In my mind I will fail even before it is created. Nothing reaches satisfaction because I know they won’t like it or it’s not worth their money. If something I wrote or made became a success, I would find a way to mess that up also. I don’t know if I have achievemephobia but then why can’t I see my goals to the end? Thank you for sharing your heart, which made me bare a part of my soul. I will stop now and start making a fleece blanket.

  • Chelsea Lynne5 days ago

    As someone who struggles a lot with procrastination this is insanely helpful and insightful. Thanks for sharing your story with us!!

  • Ameya Rao5 days ago

    I totally agree, and know that you're not alone! A therapist once told me that a lot of high-functioning people actually procrastinate because they've done it before and have managed to pull through at the last second, your brain relies on the historical data that proved you're capable enough to handle it.

  • Jess Lee5 days ago

    Amazing story... especially as creatives it can be so hard to know when to push yourself higher and higher, and when to let yourself breathe for a moment

  • Shah Hussain8 days ago

    Great story.. How i can improve my earning and readers???

  • Shailesh Shakya8 days ago

    Great story. I love this quote "Jack of all trades master of none"

  • Emma Ellis9 days ago

    Thank you for writing this. It helps just knowing someone else understands.

  • Ryan Kimball9 days ago

    I'll definitely be reading more about this thanks to your story. Well done. Informative and thought provoking.

  • Caroline Jane10 days ago

    Excellent article. ❤️

  • Erica Wagner10 days ago

    Such a helpful and honest piece, Kristen. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • This is the first time I've ever heard of Achievemephobia

  • Breanna Botten10 days ago

    OMG. I could never put it into words. I didn't know this was a thing. The possibility of success TRULY can be overwhelming!! loved your ideas.

  • Sue Brettell10 days ago

    This really resonated for me. I have come to understand that there are many layers of deep-seated influences at work when we fear success, self-sabotage and procrastinate. We somehow believe that it's wrong to draw attention to ourselves, vulgar to be successful, that making money is not "nice", and—the worst one of all—we don't "deserve" success. Having stage four breast cancer has opened my eyes to the futility of self-sabotage, but it hasn't stopped me from procrastinating. I recently wrote a haiku for the challenge, but couldn't bring myself to publish right away. Then I missed the competition deadline. Duh.

  • Gal Mux10 days ago

    Very mind-opening story. I've learnt to be open to all the wonderful things coming my way

  • We can all learn something from this piece.

  • Andrea Estrada11 days ago

    We can all learn something from this piece. To succeed in life, we connect and achieve daily goals.

  • Emily Scott11 days ago

    This inspired some serious self-revelations for myself as well. Especially this part: “Because if I succeed at something and it doesn't give me the fulfillment I hope for it will all have been for nothing. So I avoid succeeding.” OMG. So accurate. Good good thoughts

  • I thought I was the only one with this problem! It felt so ridiculous to be afraid of success in the first place, let alone be afraid of both success and failure. Part of my problem is that everyone expects more and more out of me, so if I succeed at something, then I'm afraid that people will expect even more beyond that and if I can't--or just don't want to--give that to them, I'll fail them, which itself sparks more anxiety. This article is so relatable in so many ways--some painful, some freeing. Thank you for sharing your experience and making this phenomenon better known.

  • Robert Aneiro11 days ago

    Whenever people asked me if I had any hobbies, I would respond "I like to think". In cross country races, I would more often than not, find myself in no mans land. Plenty of runners ahead of me and plenty behind as well, but no contact between those ahead or behind. There are plenty more instances in my life that I can think of that are similar scenarios. I knew I struggled, I knew I had big dreams. The safety of the middle, don't stand out, but neither should I fail. Eventually, I just accepted that I simply wasn't good enough. But, I continued to dream big, have new Ideas day after day, so overwhelming, that I thought it natural and right that none of those ideas would see completion. Too much competition, which one is best to choose. In the end, I start to work on one or two ideas. Then, I stop because more, new and thus, fresh ideas have been birthed in my mind. Do I abandon the ideas I was working on for the new ideas or not? In the end, all ideas are abandoned as, while I ponder which ideas to work on, new ones are born that fight for attention. It is a struggle to pick one or two ideas out of the hundreds that have amassed by now. But, I love my ideas and working on none of them is painful to bear as well. I want the world to enjoy my ideas like I do. So, thank you. Even if it is a struggle, I will persevere and power through. Sincerely, Robert Aneiro

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.