“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock
I mentioned last week that I was readying myself mentally for being my husband’s plus one at his high school reunion and my struggles with impostor syndrome. My husband had told me not to worry. I should have listened, though not for the reason he intended.
After all that build up I was only asked once about myself.
“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James M. Barrie
Admittedly that might have had a little to do with the fact that I spent the much of the evening chatting with a couple I’ve known since college, one of whom was also in my husband’s graduating class. But still. After so much preparation and nervous anticipation, it felt a wee bit anticlimactic, disappointing even, not to have been asked to launch into an over the top justification of all my life’s decisions at least twice.
This is not to say I was disappointed in the event. The venue was lovely. The handful of people I did manage to meet were great, though our conversation typically consisted of: “so where are you living now?” , “how many kids do you have?” , and “did you see which way your husband went?” It seems they were just more interested in catching up with their long-absent classmates than learning all about some stranger he brought in from the street. It was enough to make you think that was the entire point of a reunion. Go figure.
“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.” – Stephen Hawking
So I didn’t dazzle, nor did I amaze, but I had a good time, which I think counts for something. The question is, does it count enough?
When researching impostor syndrome, I came across another social fear, one even more destructive: achievemephobia, the Jonah Complex, or the fear of success.
At the time, I skimmed over it. I brushed it off. I didn’t fear success. I’ve told myself and I’ve written on this blog, that I view success as something different than giant houses or fast cars. It is freedom, security, and time with the family. It’s not fame or fortune (though I’d somehow find it in myself to accept either). It’s not something to be feared.
But then, like the glutton for
punishment research, I am, I clicked on links. I read further.
Questions that plague the achievemephobic:
- What if success is only temporary? How will I handle success begin taken away? After working so hard to get this far, would I really be willing to do it all again?
- What if my success makes me a target? What if it endangers those I love? Do I really to risk that kind of attention?
- What if success changes me? What if it changes my relationships with others?
- What if the world finds out I don’t have what it takes? (Impostor Syndrome rearing its head)
- What if my success means I no longer have time to spend with the people I care about or doing the other things I love?
- What if I like routine? Why should I risk disrupting it?
People with this fear aren’t typically lazy but they make excuses like “I don’t have the time right now,” or “I’ll get it done after I take care of xyz.” They procrastinate while to everyone else it looks like they are busy achieving. They redirect. They go out of their way to ensure the goal line remains right where it is, in sight, but just out of reach. This way they never have to truly deal with their fear of the what ifs or learn the answers to these questions. Their fear of larger success is a killer and makes their failure a certainty.
I don’t blame them. Seeing these questions in black and white, the lack of certain answers scare me too.
I had a good time at the reunion, but after so much preparation, I now feel as if I could have done more. I am wondering if there might be a little more fear of success in me than I’d like to admit, but the past is past. All I can do now is be aware and try harder the next time.
Fear can actually a good thing in our lives. A healthy fear of pain keeps us from sticking our hand on a hot burner. Fear of heights keeps us from dancing on a cliff’s edge. A fear of sharks can make for entertaining stories and awesome blog fodder. We all have them.
- You fear the burner because you’ve been burnt.
- You fear the edge because you’ve fallen
- You fear sharks because … well, that’s just good sense.
- You fear success because … because the unknown is stubbornly uncertain and terrifying in its possibility.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H. P. Lovecraft
The difference between a fear of success and other phobias its focus on what could happen in the future rather than what has happened in the past, but that doesn’t mean it is a fear any less able to be managed or overcome.
Just as we wouldn’t recognize the good in our lives if we didn’t experience the bad, understanding our fears and finding the way to rise above them is what separates the brave from the idiotic. Fear can be a teaching mechanism too. So I am not afraid to admit I have fears, but I am learning to ask better questions, like how I can stop poisoning my goals, and how I can stop standing in the way of my own success.
May you find success overcoming your fears and never fear being overcome by success. – Me
*quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com