You probably fit into one of two categories.

Either you crave balance, or you crave success.

Put another way, you either prioritize personal development over professional achievement or vice versa. Most of us want both at some level, but we tend to lean toward one or the other more naturally. This applies to those without jobs, too. You either long for a more accomplished external life or a more serene internal spirit.

Here’s the hard truth: you can’t have one without the other. They come as a package set.

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Daniel Swanson Photography

1. The Pride

I have a confession about my personal tendency: I secretly judge ambitious people. I’ve observed some driven people who sacrificed their health–and, in some cases, their relationships–for their careers. I tend to disapprove of those who won’t slow down long enough to sleep, exercise, or spend time with family. They have their priorities askew.

Here’s the problem, though: I need to adjust my own priorities, too.

I am in serious danger of never reaching my full potential because I’m too focused on protecting myself from stress. Maybe you’re like me in this way. You tell yourself you’re “just not that ambitious” — that you prefer a quiet, calm, predicable life. In your secret soul, though, you have dreams you’d like to achieve. You don’t feel completely satisfied.

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Daniel Swanson Photography

2. The Past

The times I’ve succeeded in my life don’t stand out as happy memories for me. In fact, my muscles tighten just remembering all of the nights spent staring at the ceiling in the dark; all of the anxiety-induced stomach aches; all of the lonely, scared hours of research in silent libraries; all of the pep-talks I gave myself just to begin intimidating projects.

Maybe you secretly fear success because you know exactly what it takes.

Frankly, I hated the process. Even now, looking back, I don’t feel any great sense of satisfaction from the hard-won accomplishments: the 4.0 GPA; the Bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in literary studies and a minor in theater; the well-organized Senior thesis; the glowing recommendation letters from my professors. Who cares?

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Daniel Swanson Photography

3. The Paradox

Here’s what did matter to me, though: the lifelong friendships; the (extremely) romantic story of how I met my husband; the musical my Freshman year when I got the lead; the thrill of grasping a new concept in a Gen Ed class; the revelation that God loved me intimately, tenderly, and wholly; the sweet moments with Him when I felt most alone.

You secretly fear success because you believe you must sacrifice what matters most to you–the quiet moments with the people you love–to achieve those big goals. I’ve learned, though, that some of the most meaningful moments happen in the middle of the stress. The end goal may not mean a whole lot to you, but you won’t grow without a challenge.

Don’t be afraid to succeed, friend. You will like the person you become.


The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

2 Replies to “Why You Secretly Fear Success”

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