Surviving Success

by Dr. Howard Gluss


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Dear Dr. Gluss,
Recently, I received great news about a promotion and a very substantial raise. At first, I was ecstatic, but as I get closer to starting my new job, I find myself getting more and more anxious. I know it is normal to have some anxiety before beginning a new job, but this feels very extreme. I'm not quite sure why having all this great success is making me feel so nervous. Shouldn't I feel thrilled all the time?
Carl in Sacramento, California

Great success can be paradoxical. While making our dreams come true, success can bring out our worst fears and anxieties. Maybe we feel that we are not good enough for the job or that we are guilty for being successful because we know that others had to suffer so we could prosper. Whatever the case, a dream come true may also signal the beginning of a nightmare. That nightmare is that we will be vulnerable to all our insecurities. In order to stop that nightmare, we may self-sabotage and engage in destructive behavior just to relieve some of the pressure. Since the road to success can be one requiring great force and veracity, the attainment of success can bring out our deepest fears in our ability to maintain our success. These insecurities can be very uncomfortable and we may do everything we can to avoid the anxiety, including sabotaging our success. Some of the most common ways of self-sabotaging are:

  • Distraction: Leading a balanced life is very demanding, so it is extremely easy to get distracted from our professional and financial goals. Of course, there are family, community and social obligations, but don't let those responsibilities be the reason you get too distracted from staying on your path. Many a career has been destroyed over people believing that they could not make the time to take care of themselves. Don't be one of those people. It sets the stage for leading a life of resentment. Your ability to understand that even the most joyful experiences can be filled with difficult periods can greatly aid in our quest for personal success.

  • Lack of Self Knowledge: The most important thing you can do to maintain your success is feel that you are successful. It is also imperative that you gain a sense of yourself as being successful in this new job. You probably have spent far too long as someone who is struggling. You're not anymore. A new sense of who you are has to emerge and this experience of yourself as a success comes out of your dreams. By saying "dreams," this is not to imply those illusions that we wake up from in the middle of the night. These dreams are the impermeable visions that we never wake up from. Visions that stay with us a lifetime. Dreams that do not shake loose but forge the choices we make in the world to come. These dreams of success create and nurture our sense of who we are as being successful. Success (the kind of success that becomes a life-long success) requires that we not only have a firm grasp of our identity but that we are capable of redefining that image (as well as our very lives) every step of the way. This chameleon characteristic will help us; it will be essential in the interpretation of our anxieties and fears as well as the joys and rewards. If success requires becoming a creature that feels foreign, then we are much more likely to sabotage the process than live in a state of unfamiliarity and turmoil. In such a scenario, we have but to routinely destroy opportunity.

  • Rhythms of Success: Most people who survive their success understand that professional success has its own cadence. You are like a mountain climber reaching a plateau. You must learn to rest to rejuvenate yourself and calculate your next move. A mountain climber knows that if they push themselves too hard, they run the risk of accidents and destroying their ability to complete their mission. Success means you must understand the rhythms of success and your personal strengths and limitations in relationship to your desire to maintain your success. It is imperative that you constantly evaluate your position on the mountain so you can maintain your ability to stay balanced and sure-footed.

Finally, don't be afraid to celebrate your achievement and rejoice in the fact that your hard work has paid off. But get ready to be on the edge of your seat as you manage the complexities of your new job, knowing all the time that you have the talent to succeed.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this column are only for advice purposes. They do not represent a professional therapeutic relationship with Dr. Gluss. If you are in need of psychological help, please contact a referral source in your area to receive the psychological help you require.


Dr. Gluss is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a respected film and television consultant, a noted seminar leader, and an acclaimed author. Dr. Gluss is the co-founder of KEYLIGHT, a Consulting Company and DAIS, a Platform for Executive Coaching, Public Speaking, and Corporate Seminars. He is the author of the book Reel People: Finding Ourselves in the Movies.

Take the Next Step:

  • Many careers have been destroyed because people believe that they can't make time to take care of themselves. Vow today to not be one of those people.

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