Fear of Failure, or Fear of Success?

The snow is melting.  For the first time in weeks, the ground is visible through the snow.  Walking outside doesn’t make me shiver.  Sunshine warms my face.

All this makes me deliriously happy, because it means that gardening can begin soon and we can enjoy our time outside, instead of cursing the weather and wishing we wore one more layer of clothing.  To me, the return of mild weather is the true beginning of the year.  Within a few weeks, the trees will start to bud, and the perennials will start pushing through the cold soil.

For whatever reason, I’m in a bit of a reflective mood today, looking at myself and assessing where I am and what I’ve done.  With some things, I wonder where the passion went.  I was all about photography last year (or was it the year before), and I’ve been a frustrated hobbyist lately.  More and more I seem to be blaming my equipment (or the lack of) and I’m wondering how much is just whining and how much is valid limitations.  Usually I subscribe to the saying that a true master never blames his tools, but I usually have a keen sense of when my tools are limiting my ability to grow and enjoy my interests.  Way back in high school, I played clarinet.  By my junior year I felt stuck and was convinced it was because I was still playing on a cheap student instrument.  I convinced my parents to shell out major money to get me a new clarinet.  Low and behold, I improved and was much happier.  At that time I realized that my ability had outgrown my current equipment.

With my photography, I’m starting to feel the same way.  I’m also my own worst critic (arent’ we all?).  I have had numerous people tell me that I have a gift, an eye for photography, if you will.  Yet I don’t look at it as anything more than luck.  Why do I do that?  Why do I discount my ability and chalk it up to chance or coincidence?  My perfectionist tendencies also get in the way.  I have a hard time accepting “good enough” when I know it can be better.

Grandmaster always says that the way you do Tae Kwon Do (or any martial art for that matter) is the way you do life.  Things become very clear in the dojang.  Clearly, I compare myself to others, and usually not favorably, despite evidence to the contrary.  Yet, I’m always looking for ways to improve and perfect.  Whether it be in technique or attitude.

One of the reasons it is so important for me to achieve a black belt is because I have a tendency….nay, a habit of not completing things I start.  It’s the perfectionist thing, it’s either all or nothing, perfect or forget it.  Learning that good enough is, in fact, good enough and accepting that fact is a slow process.  I will start a project with full blown enthusiasm and dare I say obsession.  But then for whatever reason that positive energy burns out.  Either from neglect or frustration.

Hopefully this all doesn’t sound to scattered.  I recently had a birthday and it made me make some assessments.  For the most part, I am in a better place than I was last year, but call it part of getting older (which has never bothered me before), but I have one real fear that is starting to take hold.

It’s the fear of not realizing my potential and/or purpose.

I’ve been feeling rather adrift lately.  I’m not sure what direction my life should take.  Circumstances are such that I have some freedom, if not the funds, to redefine who I am and what my purpose in this world is.  But much like college, I can’t choose a path.  I have a psychology degree, mostly by default.  I took a smattering of classes early on and found that psychology both interested me and was easy for me.  However, I never really looked on to the future and what I would want to do.  I never looked beyond that undergraduate degree.   Part of my reasoning for that was that there are just so many things that interest me, it’s near impossible to choose just one.  I’m starting to wonder though if it’s a deep rooted fear of failure.  I’m terrified of thowing myself into something completely, and with abandon, only to discover that I’m mediocre at best and just fooling myself.  Because then where would I be?  While writing this I also have that fear of making a wrong choice.  I hate that these fears paralyze me.  I hate that I allow so much room in my head for negative thought.

The flip side to this, or one of them at least, is there might also be a real fear of success.  Of what it would mean, and what it would change.  I’m a walking contradiction most of the time.  I tend to act as though I blend in with everyone else while I hold a deep desire to be noticed.

My children are finally at an age where I need to start thinking again about what I want to do with my life.  I can’t be a stay at home mom forever, and I don’t think I would want to be.  I’m also not alone in this family.  My husband is working at a career that he is falling out of love with.  Not that he ever really loved it in the first place.  It seems cruel to be in a position where I can go whichever direction I choose, when he doesn’t have that freedom because he is the sole breadwinner.  Sometimes I wonder if one day we will finally hit our limit and decide to make a radical change in our life and lifestyle.  I also wonder if it will be by choice or circumstance.

Have any of you stood on a threshold and have no clue what to do or where to start?

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1 Comment

  1. Have you been sneaking into my head at night? Because this is very much where I am – though with writing and karate, rather than photography and TKD. I have a novel (heck I have four), that is near ready to send out into the world – and I have gotten stuck at that point, that near ready stage, where I can validly say “this isn’t quite ready to go out”. I can’t seem to push past that point to where I would actually have to commit to putting my writing out there to be accepted or rejected.

    It’s a frustrating place to be, and I’m not quite sure what to do with it.


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