Failure following success terrifies me. It’s one thing to be bad at something; it’s another to be good at it once and then fall flat on my face. If I fail to start with, people’s expectations stay low. If I succeed once and then bungle it, I disappoint everyone. As far as I’m concerned, no matter how much I like the word “bungle” on its own, when applied to me, it’s a catastrophe of epic proportions.
Today, I face that fear. By which I mean: I have bungled. And by “bungled,” I mean, “I thought I could have deep thoughts every single Tuesday, and today…I don’t.”
Today, the deepest thing I can manage is to share some of my fears with you in the hopes that maybe you can relate to some of them. So here you are, complete with charming Disney gifs to make up for my lack of depth: six of my top fears and how I kinda sorta once in a while face them.
- Being a disappointment
Please note I said “being a disappointment” not “disappointing people.” They’re basically synonymous in my world: if I disappoint someone, I am a disappointment. The emphasis is on me. My existence is a disappointment. That’s…big. And existential. I might need to go breathe in a paper bag.
My solution: …well, I have no great solution for this. But it helps to remember a few things: I am not defined by my mistakes or people’s reactions to them. I’m human. I disappoint people, but I am not a disappointment. I’m a pleaser. I like to say “yes”–so I practise saying “no,” usually with a frowny face for added courage. Tip: learning to say “no” in different languages helps, too. Try German or Russian if you want to sound angry about it.
- Being a fraud
It’s also accurate to say I’m afraid people will find out I’m a fraud. In most instances, I’m already resigned to faking competence and mostly afraid of being discovered. This applies to anything I’m moderately good at. If anyone has ever, at any point, said, “You’re good at that!” you can bet I’m convinced that I’ve managed to fake my way into looking halfway decent and someday the whole world will discover what a terrible liar I am. They will conclusively prove my fraudulence, scold me for trying to pass myself off as competent, ridicule me… and then I will probably drop out of school and live in a box on a street corner.
My solution: Sometimes I actually believe people. If enough people think I’m good at something, probably they’re right. It’s kinda rude to keep assuming they’re all either blind or lying to me. Putting it in perspective helps, too. I’m competitive, so if I’m not the best, I think I’m not good enough. But the truth is, I can be pretty darn good at something without being the best. And a couple mistakes here and there–they make me human, not a fraud.
- Being alone
Now, I like solitude. I’m talking about an existential alone-ness. I’m talking “dying alone with fifty cats and no friends or family” alone. I’m talking Ebenezer Scrooge alone. This fear creeps up on me at night, or when I’m stressed, or when everyone in a group seems to be sharing their hearts and I’m struggling to articulate “I care deeply about you guys” without sounding sarcastic.
My solution: I’ll be honest–I don’t have a real solution for this. But journaling helps. Talking to real, live people (horrors!) helps. Sometimes it helps just to remember that there are people who tell me things, which means I can’t be completely alone.
- Being annoying
Don’t laugh. I hear you. You’re either snickering because it’s true or else you’re snickering because you think I’m kidding, and I’m honestly not sure which it is. I have this deep-seated terror that I’m annoying to people around me. Maybe it’s because I find other people annoying or maybe I just think I’d annoy myself if I knew me, but I’m always worried people wish I would leave.
My solution: I think this is probably a cop-out solution, but I make people laugh. It’s hard to be annoyed when you’re laughing, so whether I irritate people or not, if I can make them laugh, I feel better. Probably don’t quote me on that. Probably your wiser friends will tell you it’s got horrible psychological ramifications as a solution.
- Being mediocre
Like I said–I’m competitive. If I can’t be the best, I don’t want to be (not a practical perspective, I know). I overcommit and then underperform: I sign up for everything and then don’t put in the effort to excel at anything. I like to say I have too many interests to devote much time to any of them, but my underlying fear remains: What if that’s just an excuse? What if I’m actually a mediocre person? Maybe I don’t put in enough time because I’m mediocre at practising. Maybe even if I put in the time, I’d still be mediocre.
My solution: I guess I could start actually putting in the time and effort to get better, but usually I just remind myself that it’s okay not to be the best. Lots of not-the-best people live perfectly happy lives, and everyone can’t be the best. Lots of people have to be average or “average” wouldn’t exist, and then where would we be?
- Bees, wasps, and other stinging things
This is neither existential nor personal, but it is true and it is probably relatable. I’m terrified of them. I tried to pretend I wasn’t for a long time, because I liked playing with the boys, and I thought I looked tougher if I wasn’t scared of bees. I’ve given up pretending. They are evil minions sent from Hades, and I hate them. (For the record, this does not include spiders. Spiders eat other nasty stinging things like mosquitoes, thus making them my friends.)
My solution: Run. Or freeze in horror. Jump around. Wave my arms. Duck behind the nearest human shield I can find. Make embarrassing, inhuman, girly noises of terror.
And there you have it. I’d love to hear your top fears and how you handle them–or if you have better solutions for any of mine!