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Thursday, June 16, 2011

In a comment to my last blog, ELALYR pointed out that fear of commitment might translate to fear of failure. This thought has been nibbling at the back of brain sense I read it. I’ve been tackling my fear of failure head-on for some years now, and I’ve had some success. Cooking helped- cooking is an excellent venue to fail spectacularly with no significant consequences. I followed this up with karaoke. I’m a terrible singer, but I get up on stage at least once every time we go out. I let my shaky, nervous voice out of its cage and sing something fun. I never quite succeed there – my nerves show every time; I forget words; I can’t even begin to find the key. Again failure without real consequences.

At work, I throw myself again and again into the breach – asking for interesting sounding assignments, requesting work above my tenure, asking for things for myself because I want them or need them to do my job better. The stakes are a little higher here, but still manageable. At worst someone will tell me “No.” I don’t like to hear it, but I have heard it often enough that it has mostly ceased to sound personal. More often, I hear, “Not right now.” That’s livable. I do worry that asking and asking and asking might get me labeled as a trouble-maker and malcontent, but I’ve been labeled those things before when not standing up for what I want and need, so… meh.

So, at least I’m making some progress in this fear of failure thing – right?

But, ELALYR’s comment remained on my mind because it’s true. When I think about completing a 5K, I just kind of freeze up. I’m like a rabbit mesmerized by a snake. “Oh, hello, snake. I’m terrified. Please just eat me and get it over with.”

And that brings up another set of questions and thoughts about what failure IS – what failure means.

Here’s the deal. I’m a quitter. I hate this trait about myself. In fact, it’s probably what I hate MOST about myself. I quit. Job gets boring? Find a new job. Relationship gets to be too much work? It’s over. I have no real staying power.

What terrifies me about racing is not that I will do poorly, it’s that I won’t finish at all. It’s that I’ll sign up for it now, and by October, I will decide not to even start. I don’t want another thing I could have done if I had only tried on my list.

And there’s this other thing… people run 5Ks all the time. My husband ran his first marathon last year (which is the equivalent of 8.5 5Ks all at once). Many of my friends are runners – hardcore. It’s a little embarrassing to set such a simple goal in this milieu where so many people I know and admire are so much more advanced. It’s not that I feel like I need to compete with them, it’s just that my goals seem really slight next to their accomplishments. I know, KNOW they would be supportive and cheer me on, but I can’t convince myself that walking a 5K is something that I deserve to be cheered on for (even though I get totally excited for other friends when they do it). It’s less embarrassing to set my goals in different arenas. It’s both a reminder that I am so, so out of shape and a fear that people won’t get why this is important to me. And that last fear translates to one of my big, bad closet monsters – the fear that people don’t GET me.

I could probably write a whole angsty post about that. Who couldn’t, right? I think most people fear that they are misunderstood. It’s so painful when someone misunderstands my motives or words. When someone I think knows me well teases me about the things that I am most sensitive about or doesn’t give me the benefit of the doubt when my blunt style means something comes out all garbled and wrong.

It’s worse because I try so hard to live my life with honesty and forthrightness. So, not only is being misunderstood painful it’s also…

Wait for it…wait for it…

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  • no profile photo TAZOBERRY
    Thank you for writing such an honest post, Terri. Reading this I just have those Buffy words of S5 coming back up in me, that "the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it." The fear of failure or of being disconnected from the people around of because of being misunderstood or for whatever other reason just runs so deep... sometimes it feels so surmountable, and sometimes I feel like these are things I'm going to be wrestling with in my core till the day I die. No easy fix. But to just keep going and hope that all this chipping away is eventually getting us somewhere.

    And for what it's worth, as much as you are haunted by all the things you can think of you haven't stuck to, I find myself admiring all the things you *have* stuck to and built up in your life. You're a very accomplished woman Terri and have created a great life for yourself -- so definitely let yourself feel good about that.

    And as for the 5k, like you've reminded me before: we are where we are. Playing the comparison game doesn't do anybody any good, and it proves what exactly? The thing is to beat ourselves. Comparing myself to other people at whim without regard for all the paths our lives have taken, our differnt burdens, our different blessings... it's such a faulty form of anaysis. If I can be a more advanced version of myself than I was a year, two years, ten years ago -- that's what counts. So try not to let yourself minimize any of the joy you're feeling for being in this place now. I for one am very happy for you for having now gotten yourself to here. :)
    3614 days ago
    Oh man...I am so there with you. I'm working on overcoming something sort of like social phobia, which is rooted in the fact that I just hate feeling like people don't get me, that misunderstanding. That's why I'm a much better writer than conversationalist...because I like having time to review what I'm saying and see if it actually communicates what I want to say.

    On the 5K...what jumps out at me is your phrase - "it's important to me." IMO, that in itself is reason enough to do it. It's something that you've never done before, so it's a totally legitimate goal. And if you get to October, and for some reason it doesn't work out, the time is not right for you to finish that goal..."not right now" is just as acceptable here as it is at work. emoticon
    3614 days ago
    Thanks for being so candid with this post. I, too, have several friends who are successful runners and therefore feel very insecure about by attempts at running. I've been posting updates on spark but have intentionally NOT told anyone other than my husband and my trusted cybersphere specifically because I am afraid that I will not follow through.

    The thing that is difficult for me is that I know I will NEVER be competitive with other runners. Even at the peak of my physical fitness (on the rowing team in college) I was a TERRIBLE runner.

    I reading your honest struggle and reflecting on my own, I think I need to commit. The appealing feature of running (or swimming or cycling or anything that involves distance) is the "personal best" time. Goal #1: finish a freakin' 5k. Goal #2 do better than I did the first time. We have all got to start somewhere.
    3614 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7670724
    I still say you should do the 5k. We are so alike its almost scary. I worried that I wouldnt even show up for my 5k but I picked one that was for a good cause (puppy rescue) and got on a local spark team with people who had never done one either. I also knew that I would show up because I dont like throwing money away. I went out and bought new shoes for the event too so that I could "fit" the mold of a runner. Either way, it was the best time. I still have my "number" posted on the wall cause its one thing that I look at that tells me that I didnt quit. I wanted to, but I didnt. Dont worry about the people that have done more, better or faster. Thats them, this is your life. You can and should do it. And if they dont "get you" thats not a failure on your part sweets! Its a failure on theirs for not being open minded enough to accept us. :)
    3614 days ago
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