268. A Fear of Success?

When I blog, I tend to steer clear of post in which I do a lot of self-reflection.  It’s not that I don’t spend time reflecting on myself; in fact, I spend a great deal of time thinking about myself.  Lately, I’ve spent so much time reflecting – primarily my struggles with losing weight and reaching goals, that it’s overshadowed a lot of my blogging inspiration – hence the lack of posting lately.  I’ve considered posting some of these things, but to be perfectly honest, I think in such a random and fragmented sense that my thoughts usually don’t make much sense to anyone other than me (I spent three days composing this post going back over it to see if it would make sense to an outsider.)  However, I’m sure there are plenty of people who can identify.  Plus, at the end of the day, this is my blog and I’ll self-reflect if I want to.  So here’s what’s been consuming my mind lately…

I’ve talked before about how I’m not very good at seeing things through when I set goals.  Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about why this is.  I’ve examined my reasons before and come to valid conclusions – I overwhelm myself by trying to do too much.  I don’t keep them in the front of my mind so I forget.  And I’ve done things to try and solve my issues based on these conclusions – I go for small starts.  I set just few goals.  I create mini vision boards and stick post-it notes all over the place.  I’ve been creating daily goals to try and boost my confidence in sticking to goals.  Despite this all, I still come up short in sticking to so many of my goals. 

Recently something has occurred to me though: a sort of break-through if you will.  It’s occurred to me that my problem is actually making the commitment to my goals.  I set goals yes, but the truth is I never really commit to them.  I don’t really dedicate myself.  This begs the question why.  Why would I not commit to things I really want?  Why do I not commit to things I know I can achieve?  Why do I settle instead of going for things?  I’ve only come up with one answer, and that is fear.  I’m afraid.  It’s not necessarily that I’m afraid to commit, but I’m afraid of what will happen once I commit.  Part of me is afraid that I’ll fail, but even worse, a larger part of me is afraid I’ll succeed.

On the surface, I present a cool-as-a-cucumber, laid back attitude, and for the most part that’s an accurate depiction of my personality.  However, lurking beneath the surface there’s a tiny perfectionist, type-a control freak.  This is the part of me that’s afraid to fail.  The fear of failure isn’t what really bothers me.  I get it.  I understand being afraid to fail.  It’s the fear of success that bothers me.  It just seems so irrational to me.

That’s why I’ve spent so much time thinking about it.  It just doesn’t make sense.  I guess maybe it’s rooted in a fear of the unknown.  Perhaps I’m not scared of being successful so much as I am what will happen if/ when I do succeed.  That my life would somehow be changed for the worse?  Still seems silly, but…

As I’ve been thinking about this I’ve looked back on myself a lot.  I’m used to be good at stuff, but it’s rare that I ever letter myself be much better than average.  In high school, I was a good swimmer, but I wasn’t great.  And when I got a chance to be great, I quit.  Yes, there was more to it than that – I didn’t get along with the coach.  I was taking multiple AP classes.  There wasn’t enough time in the day to balance school and swimming and friends. – but ultimately, I quit when I got to the point where I was being pushed into going from good to great.  That was part of the reason I didn’t like the coach.  He pushed for more than just good enough.  I can find repeated instances of me basically calling it quits and settling for good enough: my grades in college, my decision not to teach, my staying with Chris for as long as I did.

Truth be told, it was Rachel’s post on how to handle praise that really triggered this entire post.  At the heart of my personality, I’m an introvert.  I don’t like to be the center of attention.  I don’t like people paying attention to my achievements.  I don’t like praise, and I don’t handle it well.    Her post got me thinking about how I handle praise and take compliments.  I don’t.  Receiving praise makes me really uncomfortable.    I down play everything.  When I first lost weight, I hated it when people would call attention to it.  I could handle about one comment before I started getting anxious.  If people started gushing about how good I looked, I immediately downplayed it.  “Oh, it’s nothing…”  When my friend Sarah would give me props on running calling me “the little marathoner,” I immediately emphasized that a 5K is only 3 miles.  Even when I cook or bake, I’m constantly nit picking the dish.  It could be this… It should be that…

Maybe I’m not so much afraid of being successful, of being great, as I am uncomfortable with the attention it will bring on me. 

But how do I fix it?  Do I just face the fear?  That seems much easier said than done.  Do I slowly learn to take praise better?  I guess that’s as good a place as any to start.  So here I go.  I’m going to do my best to learn to take praise.  If you compliment me on anything and I downplay it, feel free to slap me upside the head…or something.

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0 thoughts on “268. A Fear of Success?”

  1. Yes, I realize I’m supposed to be paper writing. Whoops.

    I think a big part of being afraid of attention from others is the uncertainty about what they are thinking. When you are negative, when you judge, when you think nasty things about people – you just assume everyone does the same to you. I’m not saying that you ONLY act this way about people (because frankly I’m the person out of the two of us that does this the most), but it also comes across in how you feel about yourself. If you feel negatively about yourself or find something that you DO want to change, your apt to believe everyone else thinks the same thing about you.

    But honestly, people don’t. There are so many people out there that ARE genuine. There are people that don’t/won’t buy into the irrational fears you have about yourself, your image, your achievements and who you really are to your core. In a way the fears that you have about yourself or the acts that think/believe about others make you project these fears onto yourself that people share these beliefs with you.

    I frankly love it when people can notice I’ve lost weight. Even though it’s awkward and little embarrassing, it’s praise and motivates me to keep trying. Sure, I’m always humble in my response back – but I do take the time to thank them.

    If you truly think you are afraid to succeed from being in the spotlight, just don’t share anything you are doing with people. Only tell those that you know will be truly happy for you or won’t make you feel self conscious about it.

    Or (and this is the better strategy I feel) just put yourself out there and let the praise come to you. Celebrate reaching your daily goals in a public forum like twitter or facebook. The more you put your successes out there, the less people are going to comment on them because they are so common for you. The more you hide the fact that you run races or you lost weight or you reached your daily goal – when you finally do make it known, people are going to take big notice. But if you’re always that girl talking about the shit you’re doing, people won’t pay as much attention. OR you will inspire someone else to follow in your path and help both yourself and others at the same time!

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