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

 

 

One Nearly Foolproof Way to Achieve Absolutely Nothing

One Nearly Foolproof Way to Achieve Absolutely Nothing - www.alliepottswrites.com #beach #sharks #quotes

“There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.” – P. G. Wodehouse

While the cure for gray hairs might only be death, spending a weekend at the beach accompanied by a handful of close friends, a box of wine, and neither kids nor spouses in sight, sure goes a long way toward treating its spread.

We’d arrived after work Thursday afternoon. The sky was blue and the air was still warm from the midday sun though occasionally gusts kept it from becoming unpleasant. Half of the group had arrived earlier and were already well into relaxation mode as I let the sand fill the space between my toes. I looked out to the sea. We meet again, my nemesis.

The sea waved back.

A surf shop at the beach swears by Sharkbanz, which I also refer as my bat-shark repellent. I can’t say it works, but I can say it hasn’t not worked when I’ve worn mine. Image will take you to affiliate link

To be clear, it is not the ocean I have a problem with, but its denizens. Even so, I looked out to the horizon determined. This was the year. I would go swimming with my friends rather than sit on the shore watching their antics with envy, helpless against my galeophobia (that’s fear of sharks) which seemed to have only grown stronger with every year, exponentially more so since my children were born.

I wasn’t always like this. I am sure once upon a time I was able to view a shark and see it the same way my children do – as merely a large meat eating fish rather than the soulless killing machines they are – a predator so perfect it stopped evolving back with the dinosaurs still roamed. I can blame part of it on my teachers in primary school. You see, and some of you may be shocked to read this, I wasn’t exactly the best-behaved child in the classroom. As a result, I was given the opportunity to earn a bit of extra credit by writing a few research papers. Unfortunately, while the teacher’s changed, the topic didn’t – sharks.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” – Albert Einstein

I’m sure as far as my teachers were concerned the topic was harmless enough. They probably even thought I would enjoy it. After all, sharks are fascinating as the popularity of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week proves. However, my teachers didn’t anticipate the scope of my imagination. When I read that some sharks, such as the Bull Shark (a highly aggressive species) can swim quite happily in either salt, brackish, or freshwater, my young mind immediately came to the conclusion that they could be lurking in all lakes, regardless as to size or how far a particular body of water happened to be from the ocean.

I became convinced that there was a shark living in the lake near my father’s house. Not wishing to be the only one stuck on land, I convinced my younger sister that there was an invisible shark living in our mother’s pool too. (If you are reading this, sis – love you and happy birthday again).

“Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life” – Charles M. Schulz

Yes - it's a shark in the roof.

Okay – so technically this is not the aftermath of a real Sharknado, but the Headington Shark in Oxford does illustrate my point nicely. Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

You laugh, but it could happen. There are several species of animals with transparent skin and much that we haven’t discovered yet leaving underwater. Also, Sharknado isn’t as fictitious as it sounds. Sharks have, in fact, been known to fall from the sky.

You might be wondering then why a person with issues a phobia like mine would enjoy going to the beach as often as I do. All I can say is this – it is the beach.

The sand, the sound, and breath-taking sunsets call to me like a siren. While it very well could lead to my death, I’ve found no other place where the command to sit and enjoy the moment is so strong. I love the mountains too, but while I may be cut off from civilization, I am still compelled to be constantly on the move – to hike, to explore, or to otherwise look for the next spectacular view.

But the ocean is different. Though you might sit for hours in the same spot, the view is never the same. Sands shift and tides change.

The ocean is a good reminder that everything changes with time. People too.

After spending most of my annual weekend ridiculed (gotta love good friends) and afraid last year, I decided enough was enough. While the fear might never go away completely, I would not let it rule me. Watching my friends in the water, I’d remembered a trick for handling my fear. It worked too. As long as I kept my eyes on the horizon and never looked into the shadows, I could wade out as deep as my shoulders. I could even swim a few strokes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t recalled this until it was nearly time to pack up and go home.

But that was last year. This year would be different. I just knew it. I went to bed that night convinced I would stun them all in the morning.

“Everybody’s got plans… until they get hit.” – Mike Tyson

The next day rain pelted down courtesy of a tropical depression that had made landfall in Florida earlier that week. It would appear my plans for phobic domination would have to wait.

Proving if you are looking for one nearly foolproof way to achieve absolutely nothing all you have to do is count on the weather.

What are the Odds of?...

and may the odds be ever in your favor…

Infographic courtesy of Visually.
Quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com

 

A dose of well-deserved medicine

A story about charitable giving and a response to a Tzedakah Challenge - www.alliepottswrites.com

It was Sunday evening. I was sitting on the couch, enjoying a little quiet time while mentally readying myself for the week ahead. I happened to notice my husband typing on his phone with a self-satisfied grin on his face. I was immediately on alert. To be clear – this is not a look to be trusted. Not when it is on my husband. The only way it could have been worse would be if he had that grin while typing on my phone.

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” – Groucho Marx

I glanced at my phone, but the only alerts showing were a slew of news headlines, which were anything but grin worthy. Nope, we definitely weren’t looking at the same thing. I navigated to Facebook. My feed is set to show my husband’s actions and reactions at the top, so within an instant, I could see he was being particularly active that night. Yeah. This can’t be good. I braced myself for impact as I clicked on the link.

The status update belonged to my cousin advising she was participating in a Tzedakah Challenge. For those not familiar with the word *raises my hand* Tzedakah roughly translates to charitable giving. Per her status update, she had to give to an organization of her choice based on the number of likes and comments she received in a 24 hour period. She pledged to donate $1 for every like and $2 for every comment and would reveal the specific charity after the 24 hour period expired. However, as it was Mother’s Day, she was willing to share that the donation would go toward helping women become better mothers.

Now my husband is a bit of a troublemaker/jokester by nature (and by a bit I mean even our friends’ kids knew by age three to always take what Mr. Potts says with a grain of salt), but he usually means well. Apparently, my cousin’s public pledge provided too good an opportunity to pass up. He commented on her post. Then he commented again, a reply to his first comment. Then again with a reply to his reply. Again and again.

This is who have to live with folks.

A friend of my cousin noticed my husband’s ‘enthusiasm’ and chimed in. What have you done? I shook my head. Don’t you know not to ever encourage him? It’s like saying ‘Beetlejuice’ three times – it sets him free. If she didn’t know what the consequences of her actions were at the time, she does now.

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

Either bored with his conversation with himself or emboldened by the (potentially misguided) encouragement, my husband went on to like and reply to more of my cousin’s friends and acquaintances like an internet troll with a one-trick agenda (but a happy, friendly, supportive troll).

The following day, we learned exactly where my husband had spent my cousin’s money. All $150 of it.

She had chosen to donate to Literacy for Life – a regional adult literacy program, but also a program that provides mothers, fathers, and even those without children valuable life skills. In their words:

“Literacy for Life has helped people with numerous individual goals, including studying for and passing the U.S. citizenship exam, obtaining a better job, learning to manage family finances, passing a driver’s license test, effectively communicating with medical professionals, and helping a child with homework.”

There are worse things trolling can do.

However, my husband’s bit of fun (as well as intentioned as it may have been) wasn’t without its own repercussions. After the day was over and the pledge complete, my cousin ‘thanked’ him for his support by naming him as one of her five nominees to carry on the challenge. As I would like to remain on speaking terms with my extended family, I’m here today to ensure he does just that.

I’ll leave the lesson of the day to another:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” –  Ernest Hemingway

Now, I don’t normally participate in these sort of challenges, but in this case, I am choosing to make an exception (I can be a supportive spouse too after all). If you would like to give my husband a taste of his own medicine or if you just want to support a charity of our choice (up to $150) please feel free to comment or like this post here or on Facebook. I’ll be sure to tell the hubby what he owes.

But be warned, because no good deed goes unpunished, I’m leaving the follow-up nominations to him. If you aren’t careful, you may just earn yourself a new friend.


The official time period for the challenge is up, so you can comment or like from this point on without fear of nomination. Thank you to all who helped me teach my husband a lesson – and helped me support a good cause. I will posting a follow up with the official charity we’ve chosen to support in a later post.

A tale of two vines – how hardship led to better growth

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Ignoring the fact that my name isn’t Mary, nor do I consider myself contrary (well – at least, not most of the time), my garden may have looked better in prior years, but at least it is back in bloom. Thanks for asking!

A few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure that would be the case.

February and March were rather dramatic months around here weather-wise with temperature fluctuations that were extreme even for North Carolinian standards. One day would be warm enough to turn on the air conditioning and let the kids run outside in their swimsuits – the next day cold enough to pull out the parkas. Is it any wonder then that I fell ill?

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative” – Oscar Wilde

I don’t remember asking you Oscar, and really, what part of I was sick last week did you miss? Now, back to my story. Our news reported that much of the commercial plant life was equally confused and budded too early, causing several crops to be considered a total loss after the frost returned, which is a bummer as I always look forward to picking strawberries with my kids in May. Therefore I was delighted to notice green leaves and white flowers on the vines that grow in my backyard (kids there’s hope for us yet).

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need – Marcus Tullius Cicero

I’m not sure I completely agree with the statement above, but I appreciate where the thought is coming from. For years now I’ve been growing grapes as well as blackberries, among a few other foodstuffs, but though they grow side by side, the vines are as different as people.

blackberry blooms

thornless blackberry blooms

My blackberries, for example, barely needed to be covered in earth before they took off on their own, with several shoots of new vines popping up in other beds independent of my plantings. My grapes, on the other hand, required a little more attention.

The first year we were together, the vines grew, but never produced. The second was more of the same. I considered letting the blackberries take over, but decided to give them one more chance while doing a bit more homework.

“The more help a person has in his garden, the less it belongs to him.” – W. H. Davies

That may be true, but I think, in this case, my plants appreciated the phone-a-friend. I learned that grapevines produce best when pruned while dormant and the weather is still cold. In my area, that means late February.

I remember the first time I clipped away at the vines (which look more branch-like than vine-like at that time of year). I thought to myself how the practice must seem to the plant. Here they were, having barely survived the harshness of winter, they then forced to suffer further as their limbs were hacked away.

During such times, I imagine that if my grapes were people, they might cry at how unfair their life was compared to that of the blackberry. If they were religious fruit, they might also wonder if they were being tested and rage against their gardener. I understand what it must seem like for them, but still, I continue snipping away in the cold of winter year after year, not because of some cruel game, but because I care. I do this so that when summer finally arrives, they will be the best they can be.

“In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.” –  John Churton Collins

grapevine

in between the heart-shaped leaves, tiny buds that will one day transform into the most delicious jam are already appearing

And when summer does arrive, the situation in my garden is quite different. My blackberries, having produced small clusters of berries in the spring are only shadows of their former glory. Several of the vines, hunched over, touching the ground under the weight their leaves, as small as they are, are more brown than green and most vines will be forced to give away to the next generation of shoots now breaking through the dirt’s surface on either side.

“When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.” – Ray Kroc

My grapevines, however, will remain strong even under the weight of heavy bunches of fruit. The fruit itself will be protected from the cruel sun by gorgeous full leaves wider than a handspan or two, but not so protected they cannot ripen fully thanks to their vine’s earlier sacrifice. Meanwhile, tendrils of new vines, still growing, will stretch and twist around nearby surfaces, as much the bully in their newfound success as the blackberry once was.

The point is my grapevine should not envy my blackberry for its easy start (as tempting as that might be at the time). The grapevine that experienced and overcame hardship will bear fruit much longer. It will be made stronger in a way the blackberry, by its very nature, will never appreciate nor understand. That grapevine will become capable of withstanding the next extreme with a confidence felt to its roots, returning year after year in steady growth while others might rise quickly only to fall. It’s a lesson, and eventual outcome, I try to keep in mind when dealing with my own hardship or two.

While both plants produce their own delicious fruit in their own season, in terms of success per individual vine, there really is no comparison.

quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com

A vindicated truth and the downside of being right

A vindicated #truth and the downside of being #rightEarly in my high school experience, I had the joy of returning to my locker only to discover that someone had broken in and stolen not only my bag of gym clothes but a stack of three ringed binders as well containing all my homework.

Afterward, I took to carrying the full day’s notebooks, other day-to-day critical supplies in my backpack all day rather than trust the locker with anything that might affect my grades. Unfortunately, this left little room for my larger textbooks, which I would then have to load up in my arms and carry home separately as needed.

Therefore I was thrilled when it came time to study Shakespeare in my English class. My mom was (and is) a bit of a British History buff and possessed a huge volume of Shakespeare’s complete works, meaning I wouldn’t have to lug my textbook home for weeks. Oh, happy times!

The selection was Romeo and Juliet, specifically the balcony scene, and the assignment was simple; memorize the entire speech. For the next several nights, I read my mom’s book over and over, practicing the words out loud. On the day of the test, my pencil flew across my paper as I recited the lines in my head, and though I wasn’t the among the first to turn in my paper, I was fairly certain I’d aced it.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

Only when the tests were handed back, a large X crossed through a full section of my response. The words I’d used, well, they weren’t supposed to be there. Comparing my test with the others in the class, my response an entire extra paragraph and more. It was as if I had invented the lines, except, I know I am NO Shakespeare.

Flabbergasted, I took my paper home. Compared to my mom’s book, it to be a word for word copy. What in the world? I dusted off my textbook and opened it to the same scene. Sure enough, the words that I saw so clearly in black and white in one text were missing in the other. My jaw dropped as I realized my fellow students and I were being censored.

I struggled in light of this discovery with what to do. Surely my English teacher had to know the real contents of the play? He was supposed to be teaching it after all. But maybe not. Would he really accept that my version was the correct one? I’d have to admit then that I wasn’t using school approved books and the assignment had been to memorize the scene from the textbook.

In the end, I did point out to my teacher that my version was from another source, but didn’t challenge the grade further when my teacher didn’t immediately whip out his grade book in light of this evidence. It was okay, I told myself. It wasn’t like I was in any jeopardy failing the course over a few missed points.

Later, once we’d finished the section, our teacher rewarded us by playing the movie. The class sat back as the lights went down while the Montagues and Capulets exchanged verbal barbs. Juliet walked out on the balcony. A girl in my class started speaking along with the actress followed by another. I bit my tongue. The movie was suddenly exponentially more interesting.

The girls in my class stopped talking. However, Juliet didn’t. Instead, lines which appeared on my test paper, but not on theirs, poured from Juliet’s mouth. A general sound of huh? went up in the room. And there it was. I was vindicated.

But still my grade remained exactly as it was.

I found myself in the midst of another quandary. I knew I had just been indisputably proven right, but the only other person who knew that was my teacher. I could push again for a grade adjustment and shame him with the video evidence backing my claim, but in doing so I would have also proven the rest of the class, those that didn’t go rogue (for the sake of convenience) and memorize forbidden uncensored text, were as wrong as our teacher was. In short, I might get an A on one test, but I would have turned the entire class, as well of as the teacher, against me in short order.

I learned a long time ago the value of picking my battles, and this wasn’t one of them. Validation (this time) simply wasn’t worth the price.

I may have abandoned an unwinnable fight, but I didn’t, however, abandon my truth. The experience, so early on in my high school career, taught me the fallacy of believing everything you read, or trusting in one single source, no matter how credible they might seem. The truth is we are all human and humans make mistakes. And humans, even those with an education, a position of authority, and/or the best of intentions, can be equally lead astray.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

In the age of post-truth, it is easy to lock yourself in a bubble, surrounded by mountains of evidence that support all the reasons you know your truth to be right. So I challenge you this year to occasionally play devil’s advocate. Allow yourself to try out being wrong from time to time and see how it fits. Ask yourself, is your version of the balcony scene complete, or might there be other lines, unwritten?

While I don’t expect anyone to change their mind from the experience, I hope that by doing so you might be able to identify the gaps in your truth and become more willing to ask questions than accept a story at face value.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. – George Bernard Shaw

* quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquotes.com. Image courtesy of http://www.pexels.com