Wednesday, February 27, 2013

#26 - Fear of Failure

-- Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.
          --  Margaret J Wheatley

No happy joy joy thoughts today.   I am pondering deep thoughts and fears this week.   It was during one of these moments that I remembered I hadn't blogged in awhile.  In an effort to record the good AND the bad, I feel I must notate some of my troubles here.  

I've been struggling with some very difficult thoughts and emotions for me.  They tie into the core difficulties of my journey, but they also influence the very heart of me.   I'm trying to come to terms with some very difficult truths about myself.   These are not things for which I am proud.   Quite the contrary.   They are also not things that are easy for me to admit.  I have managed to spend the better portion of my life deluding myself that these things are not true and focusing on mitigating factors (some real, some imagined) that allow me to avoid the truths I am facing.  

Before I get too far into this, I must ask your forbearance as I indulge in a bout of self-loathing and critical analysis of me.   I am truly hesitant to share this because I am one who rarely shares the problems of my life. I have always been someone who keeps his problems to himself and tries to fix them on his own.  Many times, this has put me in worse situations than may have been necessary had I merely let someone help me.   This blog records the details of my biggest example of this phenomenon (pun intended).  Had my sister not "forced herself upon me", I might still be in a flabby funk.  That being said, I am not looking for your help, dear reader.   I appreciate the desire to help, but I believe I am going to have to utilize a targeted few aides rather than walk around in a well-meaning, yet ultimately futile and ineffective, barrage of sympathy and advice.  Your love and support is much appreciated but difficult to receive graciously at this time.

So, how to start?   Okay, ripping the band-aid is always easiest.   I am a failure.   Now, before you get all keyed up, I know that I have had a great many successes in my life.  So this statement is not meant as a definition of the entirety of me, but rather a single component that is currently a focal point of my depressive thoughts.

--  Failure is success if we learn from it.
          -- Malcolm Forbes

I have failed in so many things in my life.   I know, I know.  Who hasn't?   However, I recently realized that if you had asked 1990 Kevin what he wanted from life, you would soon have a nearly complete list of where I have failed.   So much to think about with this.  How could things have gone so wrong?   Have I just messed up in all these things?  Have I subconsciously sabotaged them in some fashion?   Are they all individual failings or is one of them a catalyst that tipped over the first in a line of dominoes?  I would like to say that I have the answers to these questions, but no.   These are merely listed as things to ponder going forward.

I have failed in love.   This is mostly a failing of my own making, but that is a topic for another day.   Suffice it to say that I have already identified a great deal on this topic and I am working on it.   No "fix-ups" please.  I am merely pointing this out in relation to what my aspired goals would have been in 1990.   I am a romantic so the idea of growing old with that ideal mate appeals to me.  However, that is only half the failing on this topic.  For most of my life, my sole and greatest purpose in life was to be a father.   People talk about their dreams.   Not just any dreams, but rather that Dream that is the driving force of their life.   The med student who doggedly chases their dream to be a doctor.   The musician who dreams of "making it big".  I didn't have many of those.  But I did want to be a dad.   I've always been good with kids and have thoroughly enjoyed teaching them, babysitting them, or teaching them what to do with the hardships of their lives.  At some point, I wanted to do that for my own offspring rather than that of my friends, family, and many others.  Granted, I'm not quite so decrepit that this is out of the realm of possibility.  It just means that I will be too old to pick them up.  Sorry, this is a stolen joke to lightened the mood.   But it illustrates a growing concern in this area.

I have failed in career.   I have failed to keep any job that I have ever had.  I have always managed to do good if not great work for my employers and my reviews were nearly all positive.  However, I have lost these jobs because I have failed to exemplify myself in the eyes of the employers.   I did not make myself indispensable or irreplaceable.   Inevitably, when cutbacks were needed, I would soon see myself back on the unemployment lines.   I would not say that career was ever a true goal in my life.   I wouldn't have dismissed it, but I would have had the more nebulous thought that I wanted a solid, reliable career.  This would've tied in with my idea of a family.   A firm foundation to make sure I could provide for them.   So, I find myself attempting to create a career in my late 30's.   It begins to feel like I have wasted the largest part of my life.   No career.  Heck, I'm 39 and I've never had to file anything other than the 1040EZ tax form.  I have very little in the way of retirement planning.   But unless I get the next failing turned around, that won't be necessary.

I have failed with regard to my weight.   This is a failing that I truly believe affects all the other failings.   However, it is the hardest to crack.   My struggle with weight has been the most vivid and obvious example of my failures for the past 23 years.   I have started and stopped so many times that I've lost count.   Now don't start the "look how far you've come" protestations.   I know.   I am very proud of how far I've come.   However, a few months of success do not erase decades of failures.   It is for this reason that every misstep on my journey sends me into a spiral of self-doubt, self-recrimination, and healthy dose of anxiety.   For the first 16 months, these missteps were minor and infrequent so the effects were minimal.  I was able to get things turned around rather quickly.   However, the missteps of the last few months have been more dramatic and sustained.   So I am finding it more difficult to get things back on track.   These difficulties are joined with overwhelming anxiety and fear that I won't be able to get things turned around.   In the moments that I am thinking about it, my brain SCREAMS at me.  You know what to do!  Just get back to doing it!   In the off moments however, I seem to make the bad choices of everyday bad habits.  It is this lack of thought towards it that scares me.

I have pondered these things all week.  It is as if the triad of them is effectively ruining my chances of succeeding at any one of them.   While I am concentrating on one, the others start to slip away from me.   It is as if I am trying to perform a symphony by myself.   I can't play the violin, the brass, and the percussion all at the same time.   And yet, they are all so intertwined that progress on one almost necessitates progress on the others.   I must learn to juggle.

-- ... when the whole group is together, each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.  Those are the golden sessions ..."
          -- CS Lewis

I don't remember if I've mentioned it before on this blog, but I have recently joined a support group within Square One.   This group is focused on aiding the mental health of those on a weight loss journey.   I believe it is because of this group that I have managed to slowly emerge from my "do it yourself" attitude.   For whatever reason, I have been able to share my concerns with much greater openness than I have with others in the past.   As a part of this group, we have done a small amount of cognitive therapy.   One of the exercises was about core beliefs.  What is the core belief about yourself that holds you back?   Mine was that I believe myself to be "unworthy".   I state it here because you can see how the failings above play on that core belief.   It is a difficult thing to change.   Just as I begin to make progress on feeling worthy, one of the failings will rear its ugly head to knock me back a few paces.   Cognitively, I know that I shouldn't let these set-backs ruin the progress I have made, but emotionally, that is very difficult to do.  

--  The heart and the mind has the shortest distance but has the longest journey.
          -- TS Eliot

So that is my life right now.   To put it mildly, I am struggling again ... in a number of ways.   Please understand.   I do not blog this mess to garner sympathy or advice from people.   I am merely trying to be more honest with this blog and, more importantly, with myself.  Our support group has discussed the need for keeping a journal of our feelings, thoughts and emotions.  I figured this might be one way to do some of them.   And maybe, someone can relate to some of this.  In either case, I hope to re-read this entry in the future and realize how far I've come from this point.   Of course, I will blather on and on about that in a future post should it occur.

Thanks for indulging me.   :)

--  Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
          --  Winston Churchill