Fear of Success

I was randomly looking at a friend's facebook profile and I ran across this quote, which I found to be both beautiful and true:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we ...are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Nelson Mandela
Right away, I emailed it to Zane, my triathlon coach, because it touches right on something we have discussed a lot: fear of success. I think a lot of people would say that they fear failure, but few would claim to fear success. I wonder, though, if it isn't more often the opposite.
Most of us want--or say we want--to be successful. But how many of us balk when we are confronted with the many obstacles that line the path to success? (Please note that when I talk about success, I do not necessarily mean financial or career success! What I mean is success in whatever dreams and goals one might have--success in being the best one can be in any realm and, ultimately, success at being a human being.)
And if we are not afraid of the obstacles, don't many of us fear the unknown that lies beyond the pinnacle? Don't we secretly know that the peak of success we imagine in our minds is not really the highest point, because beyond each mountain is another, higher one? Possibly the scariest part about success is that it is a never-ending pursuit.
It is easier to not even begin to climb the mountain, deluding ourselves with the idea that we like the plains better, than to face the unknown beyond the mountain, because the unknown might be the greatest of all human fears.
Mandela talks about the way children shine. They not only want to succeed, but they know they can. Children rarely show any bashfulness about basking in the light of their success. But not only do they love to tell the world about their own successes, they also genuinely delight in the successes of others.
I think the child-like faith that Jesus encourages in us is more than we usually make of it. Jesus certainly wants us to have a child-like faith and trust in him; but moreover, I believe we would all do well to have a more child-like faith in ourselves and in the power we have as humans who are made in God's image, who are giving unique gifts and passions for a reason.


  1. Hey Calah, Thanks for the post. If we are really good at something or super kind or outspoken about Jesus, there's a pressure to keep being that and be the best, and I think that can cause us to be terribly afraid of failure when we get up that high.

  2. This was INCREDIBLY applicable to my life right now. Thanks for the post Calah!

  3. I had this quote in my dorm in college! Love it. And love when you post things :)

  4. Thanks for this post, Calah! It prompted me to ask these questions of myself...
    What is there, really, that could hold us back from what God created us to be? Nothing!