Success Guilt How To Avoid Success Guilt

The phenomenon of success guilt has been growing exponentially in the last few years for many people. At the time of this article a Google search of “success guilt” returns of 25 million hits. I would categorize that as an epidemic, wouldn’t you?

What is Success Guilt?

Success guilt is a state of feeling guilty about the good things in your life due to knowledge of others in the world not having as much. In many ways it could also be called “success anxiety” because that’s what it brings to your life – anxiety. And when a person experiences lots of anxiety (i.e. stress) it defeats the purpose of having all those wonderful things.

Most people think having a well-paying job, a healthy family, and some extra cash on hand does not make them a bad person. However, they believe actually ENJOYING these things does.

Sounds crazy when you think about it, but most of us (me included) have wrestled with this at some point in life.

Where Does This Guilt Come From?

Success guilt is cultivated in many ways.

We live in a world of constant input thanks to 24 hour news channels and the internet. A gazillion media outlets are constantly breaking stories about excessive spenders doing crazy things like buying $50,000 handbags or throwing $100,000 parties, and I often wonder, “Do they feel any guilt about starving and sick children in this world?”

Probably not because they keep on doing it.

But the problems most of us have with success guilt comes from somewhere totally different. We watch news stories about homeless people eating at a soup kitchen for the holidays and we feel bad because we are eating a home cooked meal in our warm, cozy homes.

We get a new car and feel terrible about a person we see walking down the street carrying everything they own in a backpack.

A friend passes away due to cancer and we feel guilt because you are younger but still here. (This is also known as survivor guilt and is a topic for a different article.)

Does any of this sound familiar?

How To Overcome Success Guilt

The best way to overcome success guilt is to give yourself permission to do so. You are probably thinking it couldn’t possibly be that easy – but it is when you examine the facts.

Below is a list of reasons why you can be the champion of your life and feel good about it:

It is okay to want to be happy.

Not everyone is happy. Not everyone CAN be happy. And not everyone WANTS to be happy. (You know those people.)

You being happy does not take anything away from anyone else on this planet. In fact, it makes it a better place. Bad things are happening in this world every second, but there are also good things happening. And happy people are usually the ones that cause the good things.

So try to concentrate on the positive things and not the bad things. That alone will boost your happiness.

Just because someone else doesn’t have something doesn’t mean you should do without it too.

There are hungry people in this world. That will probably always be true. If today’s technology and communications systems cannot solve the problem, then it may never be solved.

That doesn’t mean you should starve yourself. That will not feed those poor unfortunate souls. You should keep yourself healthy so you can help be part of the solution to this overwhelming problem.

The same goes for other things in your life. Think about your children. You think it is perfectly fine for them to be happy, healthy, and live a great life. Apply that same set of standards to yourself.

See yourself as fortunate and accept it as it is.

Denying yourself leisure time will stress you out and lead to problems with those around you.

When you are stressed it always causes the trickle down effect. Those around you pick up on the bad vibes and it gets carried on to other people like electricity through power lines. Pretty soon your spouse is stressed, then your children, even your coworkers begin to feel the strain.

Before you know it everyone around you is stressed, which causes a cycle when you become even more stressed from the environment you have now created.

So do yourself and everyone around a favor…..and go on that vacation!

Wanting a good life does not make you greedy.

Greed can be an ugly thing. No one is denying that. However, unless you are one of those over indulgent  people who throws money around like it’s nothing, you are probably not one of those people.

In fact, if most people ranked the things that made them happy, the list would probably be topped by things that cost little or nothing. For most people it would probably look something like this:

  1. health
  2. good marriage/relationship
  3. children
  4. family & friends
  5. ability to help others
  6. relaxation time
  7. comfortable home

I don’t think this list would make anyone look greedy, do you?

Having a good job or a spouse with a good job would probably fall somewhere on everyone’s list because you must provide for yourself somehow. And that’s okay. You must be practical. And a high paying job is always better than a low paying job, financially speaking.


Life is short, so don’t complicate it more than it already is. These are words to live by.

Here is another resource for further reading: