How Fear Can Stand In Your Way Of Career Advancement

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels


Sweaty palms. A shiver down your spine. Racing thoughts… What you’re experiencing is fear. You might be scared of the possibility of failure. Or you fear success because you know that’s when imposter syndrome will take over. What about the changes that you may need to make in order to advance? Leaving your comfort zone to go into the unknown can cause fear, which is completely normal. However, letting fear hold you back is no way to advance towards achieving the goals you want both personally and professionally. Let’s dive in to the types of fear and how we can overcome them on our way to success.


Fear of Failure

Has your fear of failing kept you from advancing in your career, such as withholding yourself from a promotion, or going after that dream job? Or even kept you from sharing an idea with colleagues in a meeting?

In terms of career advancement, fear of failure can be the most intimidating. It’s when the “what if” moments start to plague you:

“What if I can’t do this job once I get promoted?” or “What if I speak up  and say something ridiculous?”

Whether you’ve been in your current career for a while and the monotony has let you unfulfilled or you’re just starting out, new challenges can breathe new life into your career, but fear of losing it all will keep you from taking risks that bring excitement. The “what ifs” stand in your way.

In order to overcome this, flip the narrative. Instead of “what if my idea sounds stupid” ask yourself, “What if my idea will enhance my team’s advancement?”

When it comes to fear of failure, we tend to focus too much on the negative outcome, without seeing the possibility for success. Flip the narrative and start taking the risks!


Fear of Success

When someone has a fear of success, it’s usually due to one of two issues: perfectionism or imposter syndrome.

Let’s talk about perfectionism first. When you try to advance in your chosen field, it’s tempting to try to be perfect at everything. This may be due to unrealistic expectations set by the industry, others, or yourself. Instead of perfecting everything you do, focus on progress. Perfection is procrastination and the killer of success and can delay progress every time.

When it comes to imposter syndrome, you may wonder whether you’re skilled enough to be where you are. When you get promoted, you feel like you’re not qualified enough, assuming you’re a fraud, and believing others think that too.

This fear is based on self-doubts and chronic feelings of not matching abilities that others see in you. The problem with high-achievers and imposter syndrome is that they typically work so long and hard to achieve one level that when they get there, it almost feels unreal or fake that they made it there, leading to feelings that they don’t belong.

If you’re feeling imposter syndrome, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with top-tier executives at Fortune 500 companies that also suffer. There’s a reason why you’re in the position that you are, you made it and you’re in control of your advances.

One of the most valuable tips I can give you is to share your fears with others. After a few conversations, you will realize that many people have the same thoughts about life as you do. We are all just trying to figure it out, little by little.


Fear of Change

The only constant in life is change.

The longer you wait before taking action or deciding what should happen next in your career path, the more time there is for doubt and uncertainty to grow with each new day that passes.

Maybe you have a fear around what to do next, or you’re unsure about whether that next step is something worth even trying.

These are all common fears among passionate professionals whose careers have stagnated. When presented with an opportunity, ask yourself: What’s holding me back from getting there? Why not now? What’s speaking against this change? The more specific and concrete the answers, the better.

Write down the changes that need to happen, no matter how unrealistic they seem to be. This will give you an action plan and turn fear into motivation, as each change you master will represent a milestone towards your ultimate goal.


Don’t let fear get to you.

Fear of failure or fear of success can hold you back when it comes to advancing your career. But remember, fear is completely normal, especially in high-achievers. Rather than letting fear hold you back and stop you from following your dreams, try turning fear into motivation.

You have only one life. What’s the point of it if you let fears hold you back from living it to the fullest potential? Take that promotion. Tell them your ideas. Present yourself as the industry leader that you are and proudly hold your head up high.




Share :