The fear of success and why it’s more deadly to your long-term goals than you think

The Fear of Success - www.alliepottswrites.com

“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

 

 

Over There – An American’s experience at the London Blogger’s Bash

OVER THERE - An American's experience at the #BloggersBash - www.alliepottswrites.com

Earlier this year, my hubby surprised me with tickets to attend the Annual Bloggers Bash in London. For those of you not familiar with the event, it’s an international get together and conference for writers of all interests, sizes, and platforms wishing to network as well as learn about how to take their writing and/or blogging to the next level. I’d seen the videos from prior events. I’d read the testimonials about connections made and the impact the event had made on others’ lives. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to get to go. I felt like Cinderella finding out she would be able to attend the ball. I was so excited – nervous about traveling to another country all on my own – but excited all the same.

Then . . .

Well, then there was an event in Westminster and the news broke with stories about women and children exiting a pop concert being targeted in Manchester followed by others about shoppers and pub-goers on London Bridge, and my nervousness took on a slightly different flavor. I wasn’t the only one to wonder what might happen next. I saw a message from another attendee suggesting the event might not still go on in light of recent events.

The response from one of the event’s organizers was simple – as long as London is open, the Bash will go on. I should have expected nothing less from the land of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. And so, on I would go as well, coincidentally packing my bag while a bit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the song, ‘Over There’  played on the radio. Yes, I thought as the music played, the Yanks were coming. I would show my grit, do my bit – over there.

I might say a prayer, but I was prepared for over there. While the idea of traveling solo still made me nervous, it wasn’t my first visit to the British Isles. I’d taken a bus tour with my husband a few years before. It was a trip that started in London, took us up through Scotland, across to Northern Ireland, down to Dublin, and across the water once again to Wales, where we visited Cardiff Castle.

WWII poster in Cardiff

I found this cautionary sign rather amusing at the time. Where’s the trust?

Tunnels beneath the castle grounds had been converted into a museum dedicated to the Welsh soldier and featured exhibits from over three hundred years of conflicts. As we walked into an area detailing World War II, speakers hidden in the walls played radio broadcasts of the times broken up with the sounds of air sirens and bombs falling. As I looked at posters and read placards I could only imagine what it must have been like to live through times like those while being told to keep calm and carry on while chaos and fear played so loudly in the background.

And yet carry on they did, with a stiff upper lip, going on to produce many of the smiling faces and open arms which eventually greeted this relative stranger from across the ocean without fear or hesitation. As I was welcomed out to meals and into homes as if we’d known each other for years, I reflected on just how appropriate the conference’s theme word of the year – connection – really was. I might have met them first as allies, as it were, in the field of writing, but we departed as friends. (You can ‘meet’ many of them or learn more about the event itself here courtesy of Hugh’s Views and News.)

While we got to better know each other over books, blogs, cocktails and chocolate cake, I found it interesting to hear the most recent attacks referred by the locals as “that business on the bridge,” when our American headlines read terrifying things like ‘Britons Reeling’ and ‘London on Lockdown.’ Neither US headline was true as evidenced by the thousands of people who filled the London streets as I walked around town or by the banners proclaiming “London is Open” as part of a campaign following the EU referendum (also known as the Brexit vote). This is not to say the people I met weren’t concerned about safety nor viewed the loss of life as any less tragic, they just weren’t beaten by the news or willing to hide away in their homes.

The contrast in our headlines was also a reminder about the power our words can bestow or take away from events as well as people. Which is why it is all the more important we use our words wisely and never, never give in to fear.

While I may not be able to attend the Bash every year, I hope my reasons in the future will be limited to economic or scheduling ones rather than the alternative. We live in a world made smaller thanks to constant connection which is good and bad. It may at times feel less safe, but that is because news travels faster now. The fact of the matter is there have always been those who wish to strike fear into the hearts of others, which is all the more reason to go out there – explore, connect, to expand your worldview and find strength in numbers. To keep calm and carry on. For while it may be difficult to overcome fear, it is harder still to live a lifetime of regret.


While I loved meeting so many, I’d like to extend my thanks to Sacha, Geoff, Ali, and Hugh in particular for their incredible generosity as well as their hospitality. Truly, while I may have suggested in this post that it was my duty to attend the Bash, know it was my pleasure and privilege to do so as well.

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A bump in the night and why not to be afraid

A bump in the night and why not to be afraid - www.alliepottswrites.com

background image courtesy of http://www.pexels.com

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

My eyes snapped open. The room was dark, except for the clock’s display which showed it was only a few minutes past three in the morning.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

My heart raced. However, my husband’s rhythmic breathing to my side was a clear indicator that the sound from the downstairs hadn’t yet penetrated through his dreams as it had mine. It wasn’t the first time I cursed the sensitivity of my ‘mom’ ears.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

I sat up as I tried to imagine what could be causing the sound. We’d had unseasonably warm weather recently, enjoying a weekend of open doors and windows. Could an animal have gotten inside? It wouldn’t be the first time. I still recall the time several years ago when a neighbor’s cat managed to sneak through a pet door only to become confused and disoriented inside. But, I reminded myself, the pet doors were now sealed.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

My imagination expanded in the darkness. While the sound was quiet enough to be caused by an animal, it seemed unnaturally controlled and repetitive to be caused by something wild, but still not out of the realm of possibilities. I turned to my sleeping husband. Someone was going to have to risk the unknown. Someone had to go investigate. Someone needed to wake up.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

It seemed my preferred someone had developed an immunity to my glares over our years of marriage. I debated shaking him awake. Reminding myself that I am a strong woman capable of fighting my own battles (or at least screaming loud enough to alert the neighbors), I decided against it. It wasn’t as if I was going back to sleep without knowing the cause of the sound. While telling myself the sound could be a mouse, our dog or maybe even one of our children, as I’d caught Kiddo sleepwalking once before, I left the bed and slowly opened the bedroom door.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

Swallowing my fear, I crept toward the staircase and peered over the banister.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

Movement caught my eye.

Bump. Muffle. Thump.

The sound was coming from . . . I squinted in the darkness . . .

Bump. Muffle. Thump.

. . . the robotic sweeper vacuum I’d received for Christmas, a device we’d programmed to clean while we slept. An array of blue LEDs appeared in the darkness as the white disk-shaped robot attempted to maneuver its way out from under our dining room table. Bump. Hitting one of the chair legs, it rotated a fraction of an inch and tried again.

Bump. Whirl.

The robot turned once more, disappearing once again under the table only to return a moment later for another attempt at escape.

Adrenaline fled my system, as my body reminded me exactly how early it was. Now that I understood where the sound was coming from, there was no more reason to fear. Instead, it became no more than white noise and something I could ignore. I returned to bed as the robot continued its chore.

It seems that we are being bombarded by new things to fear. Things to lose sleep over. I am reminded often of the words of Franklin Roosevelt who said during his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But there is even more to the speech than this one memorable quote. He went on to call this fear of fear a “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

He called upon the American people to recognize that it was fear, above all, that was the nation’s enemy and introduced the policy of the good neighbor – “the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others.”

History has a way of repeating itself and I find the words of this particular speech as true now as they were during the time they were first spoken. It is only the size of the stage that has changed.

We are in danger of losing our ability to respect the views of others – those that live differently, speak differently, pray differently or in cases, vote differently and in doing so jeopardize respect for ourselves. We are in danger of losing the battle with fear. And so I implore you, no matter where you call home, or side of an issue’s spectrum you take, to never lay awake in fear at the sound of a bump in the night. Instead, get out of your comfort zone. Investigate its source so that you might better understand it from all angles.

That bump in the night may prove to be something terrible, to be fought, but it might just as easily be something or someone trying to help you as best they can. You’ll only know for sure how best to react if you first break the paralysis of fear, step forward and risk a look.

A tale of fright and fate on one crazy night

Spiderweb

Image courtesy of Sebastian Gerhards and http://www.flickr.com

I’ve written before about my family’s Friday night routine. How we typically crank up the music and dance like no one is watching. But not this past Friday. No, this past Friday was not our typical Friday at all.

It all started earlier in the week. Kiddo complained that his stomach hurt. A kid had accidentally kicked him earlier that day. Boys, I sighed to myself while I took a look. His skin was red and swollen ever so slightly. “Did you get bitten by an ant or something?” I asked Kiddo, not really expecting an answer. The raised area was larger than the typical mosquito bite, but then again it was located near his waist line. His clothing could easily have irritated it to a larger size, especially if he was scratching it, but it looked more like a larger insect bite.

“I did see an ant on my tummy,” Kiddo advised. “It could have gotten stuck.”

After Kiddo went to bed that night, I looked up images of fire ant and poisonous spider bites as well as medical articles their associated effects on children. An ant bite can result in a rash in some children for up to a week one article said. Another said three days. Another said to consult your child’s physician. It was the usual mixed of contrary information. We decided to simply monitor bite for the next few days, treating it with a mix of hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl.

The following day, the bite still looked ugly. The surrounding raised area seemed to have grown smaller, but the bump in the center had grown larger as if troops of bad news under the skin were amassing for a larger assault. However, because there had been at least some positive change, we decided to monitor and treat at home for another day.

Friday rolled around. The bump now appeared like an epidermal volcano compared to the flat plane that is typically Kiddo’s abdomen. Lamont would take Kiddo to the doctor’s office. I expected a phone call to say that they’d given him a steroid shot or something of that nature, thinking that it had to be an allergic reaction. It was not.

Instead, I received a call from Lamont. “We’re going to the emergency room.”

That bump proved to be a golf ball sized abscess (and not a bite at all) and required immediate treatment involving light surgery. My mind instantly went into pure what if panic mode. “What should I do?” I asked while my mind desperately sought a lifeline to cling to. I wanted to be there, but what about my other son? An ER is no place for my 4yo.

“I’m with him,” answered Lamont. “You, take care of LT.”

“If he has to stay overnight, I’m staying with him,” I informed Lamont, although I wasn’t yet sure how we’d manage the child swap. Either Lamont would have to leave Kiddo and meet me at the house or I’d have to somehow find someone to watch LT, last-minute, on a Friday night. Then it hit me. My dad, stepmom, and brother were spending the evening with us. We’d set it up weeks ago. My other brother was moving into his new place and our house was to serve as a hotel.

My dad’s other title is Doctor and my stepmom’s is Nurse.

My dad’s first question upon arrival was, “would you like me to go to the hospital?” He looked at my face. “Or should I ask, do you want to go to the hospital?”

“We are happy to stay with LT,” my stepmom added. “Whatever you need.”

Just knowing that had options was a balm to my nerves in and of itself. LT rounded the corner, just as frantically hyper in activity as were my thoughts just seconds before. A three to one adult to child ratio might not be enough to contain him in this state. I realized there was little I could offer in the hospital room beyond what Lamont was already providing. The procedure could well be over before I even arrived. “I’ll stay here for now,” my logical side ultimately decided. “But if anything changes, I’m going immediately.”

My dad continued to rattle off a slew of medical questions and terms as the time progressed. My brother asked if I understood anything our father was saying. He laughed when I shook my head. He hadn’t either. And like that, things began to feel, if not more normal, at least more manageable.

We continued talking in between updates from Lamont, the conversation keeping the worst of my what if fears at bay. Kiddo had been given a sedative. Kiddo’s procedure was underway. The medical team is awesome. My parents would nod with each report. They would have treated the same. Kiddo was resting. Kiddo was coming home. When it was all done, I was mentally and emotionally tired, but I knew deep down could have been much worse. Kiddo’s prognosis could have been less favorable. I could have been alone with my what ifs.

The next day, released and back at home, Kiddo was healing as he should (my dad verified). As I waved to my departing family, it hit me once again just how fortunate I’d been. Of all the times to stay over, they just happened to visit me during a medical emergency.

Whether the timing was a lucky coincidence, fate, or blessed intervention, I make no judgment. I wrote last week about my fear of sharks not then knowing a much more immediate threat lay waiting at home. I wrote about my father’s advice to mentally combat the ups and downs not then realizing how soon I would have to put that advice once again to the test. I continue to marvel at the interconnection of things, this web more comforting to see especially after experiencing a spider’s bite.

In this case, the how or why doesn’t matter. All I know, all I care, is that my son is already acting like his normal, goofy, lego-dinosaur-and now Pokemon-obsessed self, and for that, I am grateful.

 

Fear and Loathing in the Hot Days of Summer

ocean courageI took an extended weekend on the beach with a handful of friends. We’ve known each other a long time and they pretty much know everything there is to know about me. Including my near irrational fear of getting added to a shark’s sampler pack as I dabble my toes in the water.

“If you get eaten by a shark, I’ll be sure to take everything I’ve ever said back at your funeral,” one would say before diving head first into the breakers. Because equal parts support and ridicule are just what friends are for. I watched enviously from the shore as they floated on their backs, looking oh, so, carefree. I’d forgotten to pack my shark repellent. Shame on me.

A battle launched in my brain. My logic side shouted – Just go. My creative side rolled its imaginary eyes.  Don’t you know what can happen out there? One accidental nibble and it will be open season on us.

The chance of that happening is next to nil and you know it.

But not zero.

Not zero, but still. . . Go on. What’s the worst that could happen?

I get bitten. Duh.

Is that really so bad? Think about it. Most attacks this close to shore are survivable. Sure, you might not be all in one piece, but you’d have a story to tell. You could get on the news or even the talk show circuit. Imagine the improved visibility. That shark bite could be just what you need to launch your writing career into the stratosphere.

Yeah. Um. I think I’ll stick to my existing plan.

Bah. Well, then we have a problem to solve then because it is only getting hotter out here.

“A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.” – Michel de Montaigne

Pressured by my body’s aversion to excessive heat, my brain got to work. I tried to look at the problem differently. What was it that usually sent me running back to the shore while my friends passed beyond the breakers. My friends aren’t dummies. They are fully aware of what calls the ocean its home. What did they do differently? They don’t look down, I realized. They look at the top of the next wave or just out ahead.

I always looked into the waves, looking for a shadow to appear, and once spotted, my imagination filled in all the terrible things that could be that shadows cause (other than a cloud). My imagination, that thing that works so well for me most other times, was holding me back. So, stop looking down, I told myself.

“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.” -Ruth E. Renkel

I focused on the horizon and not at the waves around me, a trick my dad had taught me years ago to combat seasickness and took a step. Then another. The water hit my knees. Then my waist. Then my shoulders. I lifted my above me and dove into that blue-green water and swam.

I only managed to stay out there a few minutes, but it was longer than I had the day before.

But apparently, not everyone’s weekend was as relaxing as mine. While I was away, there had been an incident at the shopping mall near my work. My neighbors, a family of four, were lunching in the food court when they heard a “thunderous sound.” Crowds of people began rushing to the exits in a panic. A man reported seeing a gun. Others reported shots fired, but no casings were found, nor victims of a shooting. However, that doesn’t mean that no one was hurt. At least eight people were transported out of the mall with injuries, likely caused by falls and or the press of terrified people as they tried to make their escape. In this case, fear was the more destructive weapon.

My neighbors were not among the injured, but instead now have to explain to their sons, one of whom is only as old as mine, why any of this could happen. Why things like this (and worse) keep happening.

Fear. That’s what it comes down to.

Fear is what kept me from enjoying my time with friends fully. Fear is what causes me to see danger in each unexpected shadow. Fear drove ordinary people to push their neighbors. Fear is a root cause as well as an end result in a seemingly never ending cycle. Seemingly. It doesn’t have to stay that way.

“F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.” – Zig Ziglar

I am so tired of being made to feel afraid. So while I am aware of my surroundings and recognize the things their shadows may hide, I will try to keep my eyes on the horizon, of what can be, and not look down. And maybe, just maybe, if you join me, we might just get through these breakers, one step at a time.

quotes attributed to http://www.tinybuddha.com. photography is my own.