Fear of Success? Or Fear of Power?

She sat across the table, looking like the savvy businesswoman she was.

As we chatted over kale salads, she told me how her company, not yet two years old, was growing exponentially.

Then she lowered her voice and leaned in close. “There’s something I need to talk about. I’ve never shared this with anyone.”

“What is it?” I asked, also leaning forward. I could tell this was difficult for her.

“I’m afraid of success. I can already see little ways I’m holding myself back.”

When I asked what scared her, she replied, “I’m afraid people won’t like me. I’m afraid people will want more of me than I can give them. I’m scared it will all be too much.”

“You’re not afraid of success,” I responded. “You’re afraid of power. There’s a distinct difference.”

This conversation reveals a critical distinction that more women need to understand. Success is the outcome we desire to achieve. Power is what it takes to create this outcome.

Success is the fun part, the cherry on the chocolate sundae, the celebratory flute of fine champagne.

But doing what we need to do to get there, that scares us silly. Almost every successful woman I’ve ever interviewed confessed to a “little girl inside me who wants to be liked.”

Power, however, requires rocking the boat. Power demands that we speak our truth, set strong boundaries, make tough decisions that may negatively impact others.

That’s really what women truly fear—not success itself, but ‘making’ people mad or unhappy.

Once we understand this difference, all that’s necessary is a shift in our thinking. And the shift sounds like this: In the world of work, I’d rather be respected than liked.”

The recognition that earning respect is more important than garnering approval is what allows us, as women, to be powerful without diluting our innate strength or watering down our dreams.

As I conveyed my thoughts to my friend, she nodded her head knowingly. Then I raised my wine glass as she lifted hers. “To your success,” I toasted.

“To our power,” she smiled.

How do you make yourself small to hide from your power? Leave me a comment below.


Comments & Feedback

  • Meg

    I do not share my successes because it feels like bragging.

    • Lisa


      I don’t think it’s bragging if you’re sharing some positive news with a friend and listening to their news as well. It’s better than hearing a repetitive victim story.

      Success is all about being happy and doing what you want to do! (that usually requires some money though) If anyone feels your positive news is bragging, something about your success might be making them feel inadequate! Brag to someone else!

    • barbara huson

      Meg,, I agree 100% with what Lisa wrote. Never dim yourself down because you think others will be upset. Sharing is much different that bragging. Much different.

  • Lisa

    It used to be not speaking up about something important. As my mother toxicly used to whisper “don’t tell your father, it will make him angry”!

    Every time you speak up about something not right, in a dignified way, you move up a tier into your power. Sometimes the response you get from people is pleasantly surprising! Also, having good intentions and not taking action is another way to stay small.

  • Barbara

    Authority is what I fear. I tried teaching what I well know sometime back, but two things finally stopped me … fear of authority (being alternative to the usual routes) and feeling overwhelmed as numbers grew. I finally just backed off.

    • barbara huson

      I’m sorry you backed down, Barbara. I hope you’ll find a way to overcome your fear of authority so it doesn’t need to hold you back from what you’re born to do. I suspect it stems from some early experience that can be healed…and needs to be healed.

  • Aileen Reyes-Picknell

    I do not share my successes or my positives because I am afraid people are going to actively do something to bring me down, hurt me, make life a pain and create suffering like charging me more, making me pay a “successful person tax”, turn away, not give me perks and instead make it harder for me to manifest. I don’t want to be given a harder time because I’m successful. I saw this I Asia with my husband. People assumed he was “rich” and made him pay 3 to 5x more than the locals even though I am of Asian descent. They treated me like an enemy who switched over to the other side and did not give me any perks or discounts that the usual asians received. I call it the home town advantage. It’s like the poorer person’s handout.

  • Aileen

    it’s like they are trying to get back at me for doing well….it’s vindictive. A how dare you become different, let me punish you so take that…help

  • Lisa


    I could be wrong, but there might be something in your energy that screams “I don’t deserve a discount anymore, because I’m now an international, wealthy woman”.

    These sales people might think you’re a bit eager beaver and sense that you’re going to buy anyway regardless of a discount or not! They might assume that your husband is a tourist who is unfamiliar with eastern bartering. Most merchants will charge more if they think they can get away with it.

    Discounts are for everyone, not just for the poor. Sales people offer them to lock in the sale. I invite you to step back into your power by requesting a discount and walking away if they don’t give you one! Let them know you’ll try going down the road to see if you can get a better deal first. Sometimes walking away from something is so powerful.

    Also, one of my friends is a Chinese-American millionaire. He uses coupons and shop’s around for deals all the time! The money he saves he uses on his art collection. It’s what he values.

    Finally, I rarely disclose my successes to marketers and sleazy sales people. Also, successes can be little things like finally calling that doctor to get that scary mole looked at! You don’t have to share your net worth with anyone and everyone.

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Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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