Remember when I said that success was scary? Scarier than failure, even?
Turns out, fear doesn't really care what you're facing: it'll find a way in, no matter what. And, when you're up to big things, your fear is going to amp up the volume, lest you miss the sweet nothings it whispers in the night. And by “night,” I mean all the damn day long.
I thought I was freaked out by success because I didn’t have a plan for it, or certainly for what comes after it. OMIGOD THE FUTURE. EVERYBODY PANIC.
But I knew something else was creeping around in the shadows of my sightline, out in the periphery, where I sometimes caught glimpses of it darting in and out of the edges of my fear. When you're afraid of success, it's because now you've got something to lose. Which would mean you're a failure. So you're still scared of failure, after all.
I mean, it’s disappointing to me, because I’d like it to be about something different. I’m bored of being afraid that the bottom is going to fall out of my life. It’s one of the longest held fears I’ve got. I’d like to think I’ve got it mastered, but alas! I’m in need of more practice, it would seem. The fear is not bored with me yet. Or more likely, I’m not bored enough with it to choose outside of it, so I keep inviting it back in, putting out the good towels, making it comfortable, and then wondering why my fear won’t pack up and get out.
When I was a kid, my mom would worry about money a lot. She was a single parent with two kids, no alimony and laughable child support that stung more than it served its purpose. We received social assistance and groceries from food banks, thank God. Things were tight and there was a lot of scarcity, a lot of fear. I remember mom saying that she didn’t know how we were going to make it the next month, and we might have to get rid of all our stuff and live in a tent, which was moderately exciting, because Camping! (I was just little, remember — tents meant adventure, toasted marshmallows and cereal in miniature boxes. Heaven.).
Where the tenting/Indiana-Jones life went sour for me, though, was when mom would mention that if things got dire enough, we might not be able to keep our pets (in case we had to move somewhere that wouldn’t take them). Now This Was Serious. I was going to lose my dearest friends/family. I was going to lose my furry unconditional love. This was not cool. It was terrifying.
So yeah, it’s not hard to imagine why I might be so afraid of the bottom falling out.
It never actually did, by the way. I kept my pets. Things got better. I’m educated (so is my mom, by the way), resourceful and I work really hard. I’ve continually had increasingly great jobs that used my talents, experience and education. Adam and I own a home, which was once an impossible dream to me. I’ve traveled to see wonderful places in this world and have amazing experiences.
I know I have been blessed and I know life is good. So I should just relax, right? But that’s not the way fear works, unfortunately. It is so much easier to get into a conversation with the what-ifs when they go waaay back, back to when you didn’t really know whether you were going to be okay or not, and whether you were really going to have to live in tent. Back before you understood that your mom was just letting the voice of her fear grab the loudspeaker.
Because of this long-seated fear (by the way, most of your fears have been squatting in your mind for a very long time, or since you were significantly shorter than you are today), I find it difficult to not look forward and try to control the ever-living daylights out of my future so that I won’t be at risk of losing things/people I love, losing everything and having to live in a tent.
What this looks like is worry, stress and anxiety about the future. A friend of mine reflected this to me and called it, appropriately and eloquently, “living in the wreckage of my future”. Boom. Nailed it.
Living in the wreckage of my future has a high cost:
- I worry about the future at the expense of enjoying the present. That’s pretty sad (it makes me sad).
- It costs me joy, which is the reason I’m on this planet. So that’s a big deal.
- It costs me the ability to enjoy success, celebrate wins or own my achievements. They disappear as soon as they’ve been accomplished, because I’m already worrying about what’s going to happen next, and how I’m going to evade my imminent losses.
- I overwork, because I can’t trust (read: know for certain and fact because I have a crystal ball) that it’s going to be okay.
- I disconnect from people, because I get too busy compensating for the fear, or because I don’t want to have to fake a smile when I don’t want to admit I’m afraid.
- It makes me live in fear, and then beat myself up for being afraid.
I don’t want to share this. I sort of want to barf, or at least pee. I don’t want you to know this about me. I don’t want you to know I operate with a lot of fear sometimes, and that sometimes, it's a lot of the time. That’s not inspiring, Bay. No one wants to hear that. What kind of coach admits to being afraid?
This kind. Honest, human and real. This is what’s up over here. And it’s okay. It’s just fear. I'll keep doing what I'm doing anyway. Probably with many trips to the bathroom included, but I'll keep moving forward.
"But basically courage is risking the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar, the comfortable for the uncomfortable, arduous pilgrimage to some unknown destination. One never knows whether one will be able to make it or not. It is gambling, but only the gamblers know what life is." ~ Osho