I’m hoping Kevin and David won’t be too pissed off about my essentially ripping off the title of their podcast for the title of this post. But being that this post is a response to their latest episode, I figured it was probably okay.
So on their latest episode they go significantly more serious than usual. One of the best things about Terrifyingly Beautiful is that they make it easy to laugh at our anxiety, and as we all know, being able to laugh at something takes away a lot of the power it has over us. But kind of like I say in my book, there are some things that just aren’t really funny, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t still need to talk about them at some point.
So on their latest episode, David talks about his anxiety about success. And sure to some extent, he means anxiety about whether or not he will manage TO BE successful, but it’s more about his anxiety about actually BEING successful. And as soon as I heard him talking about it, I was like “Oh my god, YES.”
My particular anxiety about “being successful,” is that I feel like I’m just perceived as successful. It’s like somehow, without even really intending to, I’ve managed to trick people into thinking that I am capable. I worry that it’s not that I am actually good enough, it’s just that I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who have helped me look good. But at some point people are going to figure out that I am incompetent and do not deserve to be where I am doing what I am doing.
Case in point, my prior post, 30,000 Foot View, was inspired by John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down as the post indicates. But what I don’t talk about in that post is that the actual imagery therein was based on what was going through my head at the time because of something that had happened to me earlier that day.
I’d been at an annual leadership conference hosted by my specialty’s professional society for the prior 4 days, and it had gone exceedingly well. I’d had some unplanned but really exciting opportunities. I’d risen above what had been expected of me and gotten a lot of accolades for that. And of the things I’d known in advance that I needed to accomplish while I was there, they went even better than I could have hoped. I was really feeling extremely confident and proud of myself.
As the last day of the conference was wrapping up, an attendee came over to chat with me. This isn’t unusual since it’s a small conference and a lot of people end up meeting me at some point. And he asked – so how can someone get to do what you’re doing – be so involved with not just participating in these but actually getting to facilitate and be involved at the organizational level? Before I could answer, he was like, “Oh wait you work at Hospital X with Dr. Y, right? (Dr. Y is amongst other things the director of this particular conference offering, at least for the last few years). Oh, that explains it.”
I let it go in real time, but I was thinking, “Hey, screw you buddy. He may have helped me get my foot in the door, true, but I’ve gotten as far as I have based on my own efforts and skills. So there, you sad and pathetic little man!!”
An hour later…. “I really am nothing but his shadow. No one would even want me here if it wasn’t for my working for him.” That’s right folks. Top of the world to I’m not even mold on a piece of cat vomit in an hour.
Welcome. To. My. Brain.
So I totally get David’s whole thing about being stressed about whether or not he is worthy for the success that he is realizing.
And then, he talks about being afraid to allow himself to succeed because putting yourself out there in what could be success could also be setting yourself up for failure. His example is that he believes he’s self-sabotaging himself for opportunities because deep down he’s afraid he’ll screw them up and it’s better to just not get the opportunity than to take it and find out that you’re not good enough. And I am so totally there.
There’s been a number of times over the past almost 15 years that I have looked for other options and a been offered opportunities that would have been, at least at face value, growth opportunities. And that’s the very definition of success, right?
I’ve never taken any of those offers. I like to tell myself that’s because I was looking at the big picture and seeing the long term positive things about where I was, even though there were certainly real-time negative things. But the reality is, after hearing David say it out loud, I have to admit that I’ve been in that exact same place as him. Those opportunities represented taking the next step, doing more than I was currently doing, but there was always the chance that I wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s a lot more comfortable to stay where you are than it is to take the chance that you aren’t capable of doing more.
So success…. It’s what we all want. The idea of not achieving it is a horrible source of anxiety. The reality of achieving it is a source of terrible anxiety.
Wow. Our brains really are screwed up, aren’t they???
P.S. I’m sure some of you are probably sick of me telling you that you really must go listen to the Terrifyingly Beautiful. Except you’d only feel that way if you hadn’t yet listened to it, because if you have actually listened to it, then you’re thanking me a million times over. Seriously folks, it isn’t rocket science. If you don’t already have a podcast app, or do not have a podcast app that lets you access this particular podcast, go to your phone’s Google Play Store and download the free “Stitcher” app. Then search for their podcast and Wal la! (If nothing else it’ll make this post make more sense.)