The past several years I have felt I failed in every category. I moved and it was not what I expected. I had goals I did not achieve or even come close to achieving. I was fired for the first time in my life. I didn’t want to look in the mirror or have my picture taken. I was not a good friend, I was not a good wife. Looking back, my life was littered with tiny failures everywhere.
I fear failure at every turn. At my new job, I worry every meeting will be about the ways I am letting everyone down. I forgot what it was like to have people be confident in me and trust me and my skills and experience. It had been since I last lived in the city that I had this and it feels unfamiliar even though I know it well. I say I am good at something and people believe it. I say I am a writer, an actor, a creative problem solver and they trust I am not pulling their leg. I am all these things plus more. No one questions it. No one is waiting for me to fail.
But I am. I am waiting for me to fail. I place the blame on others but I am the one who keeps expecting a disaster. Because I felt I failed for so long, that’s how I operate. I expect failure until I succeed instead of the opposite. I used to assume I’d succeed. I had confidence in my talents and I entered every challenge with the positive outcome in mind. Now I enter the ring and only see the pile of rubble I will create when I am unsuccessful. When I succeed, I am shocked and surprised. When others trust that I can do something, I end up not trusting their trust. In my screwed up little head, I think they are setting me up. I think they are saying they are confident but in fact, they are not.
I think this because it has happened to me before. I think this because I am actually traumatized from it.
Failure is something I had hung around with but never affected me as it does now. Presently, it is like an old friend that has outworn its welcome. I know it so well and every time I think its gone, it pops up and waves enthusiastically at me from the corner where it is waiting me to see it and focus on it. And I do, without hesitation. I only see it there, in some sort of loud outfit that can’t be ignore, and I walk into the room with dread weighing me down. I steel myself for the negative feedback. I prepare for the words of how I let everyone down and I don’t have any of the skills I said I did. I am a fraud and they know it and now its time to cut me loose.
I am so terrified of being cut loose.
Whether it is in my job or in my friendships or creative activities, I am petrified it will all happen again. I know the majority of it all was not my fault. Actually, it was my fault for viewing it the way I did. Failure is part of life. I worked my ass off and still got fired. I tried so hard to make friends and it didn’t click. I crawled into another skin of a person and walked around because everything I did, I felt I failed. So why bother to try? I might as well accept this failing person was me.
I know it will fade eventually. The confidence will grow back with time and different experiences. The fear still grips me and makes the effort that much harder. It is a recovery and healing process. Like any trauma, it needs treatment and time. It almost made me laugh to realize how insanely anxious I was before a meeting yesterday and I had absolutely no reason to be. I sat rigid in my chair just waiting to the axe to fall and instead, it was an incredibly pleasant casual chat that was not critical in the slightest. It was the first of many lessons that I don’t need to see the failure up ahead. I’m sure it will come again; that’s life, we all fail from time to time. But that’s is how we learn and it won’t all be failures. Switching gears back to that viewpoint is challenging but without doing so, I am unsure how to operate day to day if I plan to always crash and burn.
I don’t think I can. I don’t think anyone can. I have to retrain my brain to see the win and not the loss. I have to trust again.