Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fear of Success

The fear of failure is something that every human being on the planet can relate to.  Without exception we all try, we all fail, and hopefully we pick ourselves up and try again even though we fear a repeat experience.  Sometimes we even fear failing the first time we try something because of failures in the past in completely unrelated things.  And I'm certainly not immune to that - I've had to stare that fear in the face a lot lately in order to make a lot of the recent changes I've made to my life.  But I can go on and on about the fear of failure, but then again so could pretty much anyone else.  About all I can say on that topic is that what makes it easier for me is to consciously have a solid 'Plan B' in place just in case I happen to fail so that I know it won't be too terrible if I do.

But now that I'm in a place where I'm not really making any new changes to my life but simply trying to keep up with the ones that I've recently made, I'm facing a different fear: the fear of success.  Given how many jokes I've heard about it, I can only assume that people are less familiar with this one.  And I can see why - if you're successful then you should be happily victorious rather then worrying about it, right?  Oh, but there's so many things about success that can be scary!  I don't think I have a problem with one of them even though some people do; I'm not afraid that I'm undeserving of success.  I've largely conquered many of the self-esteem issues I struggled with throughout my teens, and while I try not to make the mistake of arrogance, I do feel like I deserve success as much as anyone else making an honest effort to get it.

On the other hand, the other reasons are currently plaguing me like you wouldn't believe right now.  The hardest one is probably my fear that success will be temporary.  I know on a very logical level that life has it's ups and downs.  Currently I'm on an 'up' since I've been making lots of rapid progress over the past few weeks, but it's been going on for long enough that there's a very strong part of me that seems to just be waiting for what seems to be the inevitable crash.  It's probably all linked to the many times I've tried to do something that was perhaps a bit too much yet was able to stick with for quite awhile even though I eventually had to stop.  A perfect example was my last job as a custodian: I knew pretty much from the beginning that I wouldn't be able to hang onto it permanently, even though I eventually lasted there an entire year before the strain got bad enough that I needed to quit.  And that's happened to me in one form or another often enough that I begin to anticipate it - a part of me is suspecting that something is bound to happen that will reduce my recent success to nothing.

However, though I have that feeling I know that I shouldn't put much stock in it this time.  Unlike most of the times I've had that sort of crash in my life, this didn't really happen suddenly.  I've been slowly growing for awhile now, especially over the past couple of years, and changing as a person.  I think that I've been close to doing these things I've been doing lately for awhile now without quite realizing it.  The only reason why I've been able to take all these good steps lately is because moving out seems to have given me that last push I needed.  I haven't been suddenly thrust into a new situation but have taken a few steps forward that looked manageable.  More likely this 'up' in my life is more a matter of moving the regular pattern of ups and downs to a higher level where the average is better than it was, or at least that's the hope.

Of course, like any of my more negative emotions, my fear of success doesn't listen to my logic very well.  I can sit here and tell myself how extremely unlikely it is that I'll just suddenly lose all of this progress all I want, but that won't make me feel any differently.  Though I hope that if I'm able to maintain all of this for awhile then it will seem more solid, especially if I don't feel any stress build-up.  I'm actually hoping that things will level off into a nice, smooth plateau for awhile instead of adding in more big steps for awhile - that would make me feel more secure about taking more big steps in the future.

But that's actually another aspect of the fear of success - the fear that because I'm having success other people will then expect more from me than I'm ready to do.  Seems like every time I hit a new high, someone always comes along and notices that I'm just a step away from something else and tries to hurry me along to it.  This doesn't work very well because I usually have a good sense as to when I'm at my limit and have gotten good at not being pushed - but it's still stressful not meeting other people's well-intentioned expectations.  Especially people you care about, like you're family.  Seems like they always start to push me right when I'm ready to sit back and enjoy my victory for a bit - but it's one of those 'they do it because they love me' things.

1 comment:

  1. Your last comments reminded me of being on a hike. There are those who are out in front and you're taking up the rear of the hikers. The ones in front stop to rest and then, just when the you show up to rest too, the leaders take off again, making it so that you're pressured into not taking a rest. Not fun!