Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fear of Success

This post is dedicated to my friend, Ashli. Ashli is my friend from church. She is the one who got me hooked in to Music Team. She is the one handing me down lovely pants and dresses. See, she is also working on losing a few pounds and shrinking in size and getting more fit.

This week, she posted on Facebook about fear of failure... or maybe even fear of success. It's been sticking in my mind ever since. She said that she thinks she has a fear of success and that leads to self-sabotage as she gets closer to her goal.

I totally understand. I've certainly done that before. And I've certainly thought about it over the last month or so.

I can't possibly understand what goes on in Ashli's head. But I can share my own experience from my own perspective.

Is it fear of success or is it fear of the unknown?

Personally, I enjoy success. I like to achieve goals and I like how I feel when I accomplish something.

In my moments of weakness, when I am struggling inside my head and fighting the urges...

Here's what it sounds like, my self talk. "This is such a pain in the rear. I'm so tired of cutting up veggies, I don't have time to plan my dinner, I'm bored with grapefruit and spinach. It would just be easier to get a Big Mac. I deserve a Big Mac! I have been so good for so long and it would totally be ok to just go crazy for a day."

Then the fear talk starts up. "If I have a Big Mac... and fries... and soda... what if that is the end of the success I've had so far? What if I'm not really as in control as I think I am? What if a Big Mac leads to chimichangas and tacos and whoppers and deep fried everything?"

Then I remind myself... that this is an ongoing journey. I will slip and even fall and I will always have the option to make a different choice the next time.

So I think it isn't so much, for me, that I fear success. I think it's more a discomfort with the unknown.

For the past decade, my life has been all about fast food, sweet treats, and achieving a type of pleasure through food. Knowing that I could always grab a Big Mac or drive through for a milk shake or pick up breakfast at Chick Fil A. That was my normal, my comfort level.

And here I am, working really, really, really hard to create a new definition of normal.

And that can be overwhelming and, honestly, scary.

I think back to when Jeff and I brought Teagan home from the hospital... and we were suddenly overwhelmed and scared. But there was no out. I couldn't quit being a mom. Yes, I could take a break from time to time and it was good for me to take a break from time to time. But being a mom was and is always top priority. Even when I take a break.

I also think about parenting and how I parent... Do I focus on the long term goal? Am I set on what the outcome of my parenting choices will be? Am I determined that I will reach a certain goal of what kind of adults my kids will become?

No, I'm not. In all honesty, I usually focus on just getting through the day.

It's not that I'm going blind in my parenting role. I know what kind of mom I want to be and I have philosophies about parenting my children that are important to me. I study and read and seek to improve and work with my husband on the hard choices and the easy choices.

And I guess it's kind of scary to think about my relationship with food and exercise to be that way, too.

As I get close to a goal or a breakthrough... it gets scary to think about this change, this new way of living, about having this be my new long term. Kind of like the adjustment I made to becoming a mother.


I do think that it's also possible that how we treat ourselves and how we think of ourselves and how we talk to ourselves plays a big role in how we approach our bodies and our goals and our desires. In my past, even though I wasn't overweight at the time, I didn't treat my body with love and respect because I didn't feel I deserved it. I felt shame, anger, resentment towards my body. So I punished myself in my own way- messing around with a lot of other guys. Not sleeping around, just to be clear.

I've known people who have expressed that they fail at weight loss or getting fit because they get to that point where they are really seeing the changes and feeling better and stronger... and they don't feel like they "deserve" to feel so positively about themselves.


I also think there is something to be said for living life waiting for what's next versus appreciating what's already here. What if we applied that to being healthy?

I believe in living in this moment because this moment is what I have. When I am feeling overwhelmed, the best thing I can do is focus on this exact second, this exact minute, this one task in front of me. I have to focus and channel my mind, my energy so that I can block out all the what ifs and have-to-do's.

Perhaps the same is true with getting healthy. If all I focus on is where I want to be, then I'm not taking time to focus on what I have right now. If all I want is to fit into a size 8, then I won't be content with the size 14 I've already dropped down to from an 18. I'm dismissing the success I've already had, I'm judging it to be "not enough."

That doesn't mean we don't have goals and that we don't want to accomplish and push and try harder. But maybe we could all benefit from taking more time to sit still with what we have now.

When I look in the mirror, am I thinking about what the shape of my legs will be in 3 months? Or am I admiring the new shape and muscle tone that wasn't there 3 months ago?

I think it's pretty common in our culture to always be rushing and looking forward and finding what's next. And I think that can be damaging because then we miss out on what's already around us.


So those are my scattered and rambling thoughts on the fear of failure, the fear of success, the potential for self sabotage.

I need to remember that this is a lifetime, lifestyle change and that it will take time to adjust and get used to it. And that, again, like parenting, the changes will keep coming. There isn't a final destination where everything is just done. Life will continue to change around me and I have to be able to adjust with it. I have to remember to treat myself kindly, with love and respect and admiration. And I have to remember to focus on what I've accomplished so far, what I have right now, and not get bogged down with where I haven't gotten to yet.



Shell said...

Your posts are always so thoughtful.

I love the last line. Really sums it up. :)

Thanks for linking up!

Kori said...

I have SO much I could comment on in the first paragraph alone-so instead of taking up your entire blog with my own musings, I will say that for me, fear of success and fear of failure exist in equal measure, I can sabotage ANY good thing in my life because I don't think I deserve it, or am not good enough to KEEP it, and I also work really, really hard at living in this moment.

Ashli said...

Thank you Liz! You are such an elegant writer and have given me a lot to think about. I especially like the analogy of a healthy lifestyle to parenting. It is all about choices. I am a complete rationalizer so the Big Mac story hit hard too...For example, I just walk/ran the Mini so I should be able to take it easy for a while...constant motivation is what I need...right now, you are that for me...thank you my friend.

Katherine said...

Fabulous post. This sums up a lot of feelings I have about myself and doing things (and not just about losing weight.)

Amy said...

For me, there has been a comfortableness associated with my fat. For so long, it was who I was. So I get the fear of letting go -- even if the new new life I am reaching for is fuller and more wonderful. I wrote about it at Fit City here:

Garret said...

If I could take one thing from your blog entry it would be "lifestyle change". You're so right!

Missy said...

Liz, thanks for posting this one. I've always, always been overweight. Healthy, but overweight. My fear was (IS!) that when I lost weight, others noticed and made comments. I am not comfortable being in the spotlight, so for someone to tell me I looked good made me all squirmy. Add to that a fear of losing, then gaining it back and feeling others would make comments behind my back and I had a huge roadblock in front of me.

My daughter deserves a mom who can play outside with her, go on hikes, kick the soccer ball around, and have fun DOING things instead of watching from the sidelines. Your article reminds me I'm human and no different from any other person who wants to be healthier. Thank you.