Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Fear of Success? — Time To Let It Go

43 Comments

photo courtesy of Elowyn Allanketner

These times require that all of us with rainforest minds step up. These times require that our fears of success and anxieties over failure be damned. These times require that we do whatever it takes to heal the wounding that has kept us from being our True Selves.

Normally, my message is gentle and respectful. I believe that kindness and empathy are important keys to helping people change. That said, today, I’m gonna push.

Some of you need a push because you’re oh-so-close to radiance. Oh-so-close to compassionate power. Oh-so-close to intuitive awarenesses that could rearrange and reconfigure your perceptions of reality. But you can’t quite get there because you don’t believe in yourselves or you have “memories” of being burned at the stake in one form or another or you don’t know how to tap into your Wisdom.

Well, then:

•  Believe in yourself. Come on. You have a rainforest mind. That means that you’re a quick learner, an analytical thinker and a sensitive soul. What’s in the way of your self-appreciation? Critical voices from your past? Start journaling to explore the voices. Get to know them. Draw them. Write letters to them. Ask them what they’re protecting you from. If they’re very convincing, find a good therapist who can help calm the little buggers and get them to ease up on you. Then you can start to see who you really are.

•  Risk the burning. I know. Easy for me to say. If you carry “memories” from traumatic events in other times (metaphorically speaking or within the collective unconscious or in a past life), particularly when you were being powerful, you might hesitate to step into the limelight now. I understand. But maybe it’s time to join the other “witches” and go for it. You can use your creative mind to visualize where your strength and insight live in your body, then, go there regularly. Imagine that protective animals or guardian angels or spiritual back-up singers are around you, cheering you on. Tools that can help are hypnotherapy or shamanic journeying.

•  Tap into your Wisdom. How do you find your inner guidance? Through a meditation or spiritual practice? Through a martial art? In nature? Yoga? Writing? Painting? Dancing? Hiking? Dreaming? Praying? Do you need to read about developing your intuition? Or take a class in mindfulness? Find a support group on Facebook? Whatever works for you, find your way and tap (dance) into your Wisdom (also known as your True Self).

These times require that all of us with rainforest minds step up. These times require that our fears of success and anxieties over failure be damned. These times require that we do whatever it takes to heal the wounding that has kept us from being our True Selves. 

____________________________

To my bloggEEs: What are some of the ways you’ve overcome your fear of “success” (however you define it) and what holds you back? Some of you may be unhappy with my references to what could be construed as New Age-ish ideas. I hope that you’ll hang in there with me anyway. The rainforest mind has incredible variety and nuance so we won’t always agree on every little thing. Take what works for you and leave the rest. OK?

 

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Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rain forest to describe this population. Like the rain forest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore.

43 thoughts on “Fear of Success? — Time To Let It Go

  1. Pingback: Fear of Success? — Time To Let It Go | helenjnoble

  2. Thank you for the push. It is needed from time to time 🙂 I will share this one with other free rainforestminds – if we show our true selves we will overcome our difficulties (being misunderstood, ignored or bullied)

    Marlies, Amsterdam

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yay! I choose “Find a support group on Facebook”!!
    Funny…we must be on the same wavelength as I just published a post on readying yourself for challenges too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For me, “fear of success” is not that at all: it’s actually fear of failure, which gets translated into “fear of trying.”

    I have experienced true fear of success, which came about because I had chosen to succeed at something I really wasn’t suited for, and that made me deeply unhappy. I felt bound to it by the internalized expectations of others, and that was very hard to sort out, because I was, in fact, on a path to unhappy success. Once I did sort out who was talking in my head, the solution was simple, and an enormous relief — I simply decided to do something else.

    The fear of failure/trying is a bit different. What helps me most is to adopt a WTF attitude, and to recognize the impermanence of it all. I remember my father, not so much my grandparents, and my great-grandparents I did not know at all. My children will remember me, my grandchildren will vaguely remember me, and my great-grandchildren will not remember me at all. I’m a bit of a character, so there may be some stories (which will grow in the telling) that float a bit further downstream before they, too, are forgotten.

    Anything that I “accomplish” — books written, music written, software written, great words of wisdom uttered, insight in the core of the economic problems of our time, even saving the world from itself — simply doesn’t last. Philip of Macedon “civilized” a major portion of the Near East, and by the time his grandchildren were in their graves, it was all back to throwing rocks at each other. I understand that the Romans had a well-developed musical repertoire, including major productions with singers and instruments. We have no idea today what any of those works sounded like. The Denisovans, a species contemporaneous with Neandertals, were making beautiful jewelry on lathes forty thousand years ago; they had survived five ice ages as a species, but the sixth ended them, perhaps with a little help from the newly-arrived modern humans. What was their culture like? Did they write? Did they make music? Did they travel the world in sailing ships? We have no idea: thirty thousand years of ice followed by an interglacial melt is a lot like turning an Etch-a-Sketch upside down and shaking it.

    Oddly, rather than finding this dismaying or depressing, I find it very freeing.

    As a concrete example: summer before last, my employer imposed a two-week furlough, and I decided to write a symphony. I have to laugh as I write that: seriously, who decides to take two weeks off work to write a symphony? But I did, and it’s finished (it took more than two weeks). One movement, adapted for sextet, has been performed live, and I’ll be looking to get the whole thing performed. It might happen — it might not. It will be fun to try.

    Even while writing the music, I tried to keep it light. The second movement is subtitled, “Variations on a Theme of Nanny-Nanny Boo-Boo,” and it’s my wife’s favorite movement. I’m thinking the third movement should be “Minuet and two-thirds,” since it’s written in five, but it might be “Minuet and forty seconds,” which is a ghastly (and obscure) pun.

    The point is not that I wrote a symphony, or whether it turned out well or poorly. The point is that, had I taken it “seriously,” it would never have happened at all. In fact, the barriers to “breaking into the business” of writing music for a living are so utterly daunting, so frankly impossible, that I’d never have considered it. I’d have felt I needed to start with Juliard or Eastman, and many thousands of dollars of debt later, after running a gauntlet of authorities telling me I’m not good enough, as well as absorbing mountains of theory designed to make composing as obscure as possible, I’d have to “break into” the music scene and then “pay my dues.” Odds that I’d survive that? Zero.

    That’s not how you do it. That’s how other people want you to do it, so they can make money off your passion before you burn out.

    I suspect that a lot of rainforesty people see that, even if they don’t articulate it. Their reluctance to walk that path may like fear of succeeding. It’s more nuanced.

    My trick is to ignore all that, and just write the music. Maybe it’s as good as Mozart, maybe it’s not. Maybe it will get performed, maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll make beer money off it, maybe I won’t.

    In a century, it won’t matter. In forty thousand years, it REALLY won’t matter. So I don’t have to take it seriously. Which means I don’t really have to face the fear of failure.

    I have no idea if that’s helpful to anyone else, but it’s how I go about it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Fascinating. I hope some readers respond to this with their thoughts. Thank you for sharing this perspective. I hope to write more about fear of failure/trying.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I like what you are saying. I often fall down that – I really want to do this, but I’m not trained enough- hole! I want to code an ai for my house, but I don’t know how. I want to write a novel, but I’m not sure I know what I need to know. Right now that’s not my problem, time is, but I can completely relate to this. Congrats on your symphony!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I just reread this comment again, themonthebard. I so appreciate the time you took to write this and explain your thoughts. I’m a little surprised you haven’t gotten a greater response but this particular post may not be as popular as some. Anyway, I wanted you to know I’m glad you’re reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

    • “In a century, it won’t matter. In forty thousand years, it REALLY won’t matter. So I don’t have to take it seriously. Which means I don’t really have to face the fear of failure.”

      I am of two minds regarding this. (As usual). I am in agreement with most of what you say including that perfectionism and fear of failure can be a crippling force and that it is better to put our perfectionism aside and finish our work at the risk of it being mediocre than to not finish anything at all. But I also think it is hard to deny that some peoples’ uncompromising perfectionism has benefited culture and society — even if it might have ruined their own lives.

      Stephen King once talked about his bewilderment that Harper Lee had (up to that point) only published one book, To Kill a Mockingbird. He couldn’t understand how such a great writer wasn’t compelled to write every day and publish reams of works like he had. And yet many consider that one book of Lee’s to have made a much bigger impact on literature and culture than all of King’s works combined, and of course he is no hack.

      Who knows why Harper Lee hasn’t published more? What if it IS perfectionism or fear of success? And if so, had she been less perfectionistic and more ambitious career-wise, and regularly churned stuff out with the attitude “meh — this is good enough…”, would any of it had the impact that To Kill a Mockingbird has? The same question goes for many other great works of art, philosophy, science, politics etc. Without the perfectionism of some people throughout history, where would we be?

      I have been both comforted and inspired by works so ambitious they attempted to reach a target that others at the time could not even imagine let alone see, and yet those works somehow still reached that target (I borrowed that metaphor from an unknown author). So I can say at least my own life has been greatly enriched by the existence of great works, though I know I am not alone.

      I’m like Harper Lee in that I have a very low output. Most of my time is spent experimenting, so few works of mine get finished before I am on to the next experiment. It is a process that constantly makes me anxious, especially since I am a “multipotentialite” who is not a master of any single discipline, so I am constantly afraid I am merely a dilettante in denial. Currently I am attempting to “knit together” a bunch of different disciplines into a cohesive work that aims pretty high. Maybe my creations will never come close to making any real impact, but somehow I feel that aiming high is worth it even if there is a high price to pay. But that’s me.

      Anyway thanks for the kick in the pants Paula. I think your “burned at the stake” metaphor is perfect. It is indeed time to cozy up to the fire. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was once accused (by a professor) of being a dilettante. Given that I considered his ilk pathological monomaniacs, I actually took it as a compliment, though I didn’t say that out loud.

        We are all amateurs. Umberto Eco once responded to critics who called him “inconsistent” in his philosophy, with a biting comment to the effect that he could think of nothing worse than to have formed all his opinions by the age of twenty, to spend the rest of his days just repeating them. Any “master” of a creative talent is someone who has already died — either literally, or artistically. Beethoven was an amateur his entire life, and died creating things that were beyond his reach as a young man.

        I’m not an advocate of being prolific. If that’s what your Muse calls for, by all means, be prolific. But each person and Muse have, between them, a natural pace, and it’s intermixed with chopping wood and carrying water and having children and going to a Super Bowl party with friends and grieving lost parents and all the other stuff that happens.

        Someone once groused, “In the past, if you did a great thing, they called you a great man. Today, they ask, ‘So what did you do for me today?'” That’s the creative INDUSTRY. It makes money off your creativity, so (of course) it wants you to produce. Like a milk cow. I’m certain that Stephen King’s publisher occasionally says in closed-door meetings, “Why is that man so SLOW?”

        I advocate being attentive to the natural pace of your relationship with your Muse. If you have a Muse — not everyone does, and that’s also fine. If your efforts result in one partially-completed work in a lifetime, well and good. If it results in a masterpiece a week, well and good.

        In forty thousand years, it really won’t matter at all.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Much here to think about. Thank you. Love that idea about inconsistency. (I think my blog should win an award for “most thought-provoking comments.”)

          Liked by 1 person

        • “In forty thousand years, it really won’t matter at all.”

          I beg to differ. As some scientists have recently pointed out, we may be living in (and/or causing) the sixth great extinction, meaning this may be the first time in human history that we have the opportunity to consciously evolve or perish.

          If this is true, then people living 40,000 years from now will likely be enormously grateful that we did not cynically shrug off the opportunity to take our destiny in our own hands.

          Does that mean we should fret over every word or note or brush stroke we create? No. But by the same token I think we should be careful what we do put out into the world, especially now that everything we say, do and create has the potential to live on for eternity.

          Liked by 2 people

          • You are, of course, invited to differ! 🙂

            To mangle Umberto Eco’s comment a bit, I can’t think of much worse than to have acquired all the right answers by the age of twenty, to spend the rest of my life listening to people agree with me. 🙂

            You are right: we’re at one of those critical points that comes along from time to time, where small choices lead to big destinies. But I’m less convinced we can see the outcome of our small choices, because they are all amplified in strange, unpredictable ways.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Mark. I missed hearing from you on this one. Thanks for chiming in. Always helpful to hear your many thoughts and have you in on the dialogue.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hear hear! For the selection this time (our push, or nudge), and the responses.
    Even though my mind is rain forest, a fluke of illness when I was a child impacted me pretty severely.
    I have come to realize that I have succeeded short term at a number of different tasks.
    Long term, my spirit is using this lifetime as a rest. I am learning how to rest.
    Oh what a great task it is! I get to enjoy the fruits of the labors of others.
    tee hee

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thanks for another insightful post. I’ve always been more afraid of succeeding than of failing. Mockery was big in my family. I can almost hear my sister’s mocking voice every time I accomplish something. She was and is bitterly competitive. I can also remember how the 6th grade girls decided I couldn’t hang out with them because I was too smart and my grades were too good. You can probably guess how I handled that for the rest of middle school and the first couple of years of high school.

    So my fear is that people will hate and mock me for what I can do. Or will try to “take me down a notch” if I’m too powerful.

    What I wish I could turn off is the empathy. I’m so tired (literally) of feeling other people’s moods, and then wondering if I’ve done something to hurt or offend them. Intellectually, I know it’s not me. I’m not that important. But emotionally it feels like it is. And for some strange reason, I link my personal success with my friends unhappiness and feel I need to turn it down. Does that make any sense at all? Maybe linking my sister’s unhappy competitiveness in the past with emotions I sense in others today….even if they are emotions that are far-removed from me personally.

    Thank you for giving me something to ponder.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sarah. What you’re saying does make sense. Your experiences of mockery and competition in your family, your experiences in school, and your empathy would all contribute to your difficulty with success. Understanding that might make it easier for you to shine. It’s tricky, of course, because people in your present life might still be uncomfortable with your success. As usual, it’s complicated in the rain forest! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I relate deeply to the empathy part, and how exhausting it can be. I’m a teacher, and my strength and weakness in the job are both my empathy and the tremendous information it gives me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “What I wish I could turn off is the empathy. I’m so tired (literally) of feeling other people’s moods, and then wondering if I’ve done something to hurt or offend them.”

      I feel you on that (excuse the pun). I live in an inner city neighborhood where there is a lot of poverty, homelessness and addiction and it is hard to not be deeply affected by it. Earlier tonight I was walking down the street and a woman came out of a restaurant and yelled “hey stop!”. I turned around and pointed at myself as if to say “are you talking to me?”, and she ran up and said “would you have dinner with me? I really need someone to have dinner with”.

      I politely declined and wished her a good night — I am uncomfortable enough sitting in restaurants with people I know let alone with total strangers — but as I walked away I felt so guilty. She seemed so sincere, but sad and lonely too, and I felt like I was somehow letting her down.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Paula. It can be exhausting being me. My inner critic is loud, and abrasive. Sometimes, I have to remind her of how often she is wrong to get her to stop. I’ve noticed she amplifies the words of people I’ve given too much power. If I do the opposite of what my critic wants me to, it’s usually harder, but nurtures my soul.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, Jen, it can be so easy to give away our power to others. Good to notice that. Keep nurturing your sweet soul!

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is very relatable for so many of us I’m sure, Jen. You describe your inner critic so well. Mindfulness practice is finally helping me on my journey to get the abuser out of my head. Or… perhaps it is still there, but I don’t tune in to it so much any more. Wishing you all the best.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for the encouragement Ro! I think I have her in check until I try something new, take a risk, or her least favorite thing… show my vulnerabilities/ authentic self. I’ve been doing all three lately, and she’s been crazy busy. I’ve been creating visual reminders in my home to combat her nagging. Concrete objects are hard to argue with.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Someone once invited us (in a workshop) to identify all the critical voices clamoring in our heads. By voice. By name. Then they invited us to consider a very straightforward question: did we really respect these people’s opinion? On ANYTHING? It’s one way to address the inner critic: take her mask off, and name her. Very often, you find they aren’t worthy of the attention they’re getting.

      Another is a simple conditioning technique. We all make mistakes in the course of living, and the job of the critic is to blow these all out of proportion. I found that I’d internalized this so faithfully that I’d call myself names when my mind ran free, like standing in the shower: “What an IDIOT!” or “What kind of fool was I?” Once I recognized that I was doing that, I made myself a rule: any time I insulted myself, I had to apologize to myself — out loud — just as if I’d insulted someone else. It was very effective for me, and rapidly put a stop to the self-criticism.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am not a big pop music fan so I am slow to catch on to trends but I have recently become aware of the singer-songwriter Sia who has been around for 20 years but is only recently becoming a big name, due in part to her unusual recent habit of performing with her face covered with a long wig, or with her back to the audience.

    Some take this as an attention-grabbing stunt but apparently she really did want to retire from being a performance artist due to the pressures of fame, which nearly led to suicide, hence her idea to try and limit her exposure.

    I can relate — many of my own talents are in areas that can — and has — generated media interest, and despite my performing skills I have always been super uncomfortable in the spotlight. So Sia’s anti-fame manifesto resonates with me: http://www.billboard.com/articles/5770456/my-anti-fame-manifesto-by-sia-furler

    I am continuing to work at my own art and music which may be released soon, and yet I still honestly don’t know how the hell I am going to deal with any attention garnered from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mark. I’ll check out the link. It’s such a paradox, isn’t it? Wanting the freedom to express oneself but not wanting the attention. I think social media is making “fame” even harder because of all of the negativity expressed anonymously.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The thing is that I am not sure if it is me being in a hyper-sensitive state of mind — 20 years ago I was soooo much more brave and spontaneous — (btw, where IS that guy and when in the hell is he going to show up again!!!???), or if in fact the world really is a more hostile place with the internet providing a soapbox for the most vile, hateful voices that ideally should not have one.

        Anyway I had a bit of a laugh today thinking of an appropriate metaphor for the internet: a swarm of vultures circling a computer monitor that shows onscreen a figure stumbling through a desert, the vultures somewhat impatiently waiting for their chance to eviscerate the poor victim should they stumble or fall.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s quite a strong image! One thought is that the brave and spontaneous guy is still in there and you can talk with him and see what he needs. Maybe he will reappear.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Haha sorry, the writer in me is a bit guilty of over-dramatizing things. There are some wonderful things about the internet including of course this site which I am very thankful for!

            But for artists , while the internet has provided unprecedented opportunities to both develop and share our work, it can also be a frightening place where you are exposed to a lot of incomprehensible hate. Being sensitive and already prone to self-criticism makes it pretty hard to face sometimes.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes! Failure to succeed and fear of succeeding because of possible failure/ guilt for it is one of the hardest things I deal with. Not just the inability to accept that I might actually not be stupid, but also that I might actually succeed. I’m going to a new school now for people like me, and everyone is super smart. It makes me feel as stupid as I really am. So, I don’t speak up much because I’m most likely wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Sarah. This is so hard. I know people who were longing to be with other gifted kids but then when actually there, were terrified because of the “competition” or sense that suddenly they were no longer easily the smart person. And, if you’ve never actually thought that you were smart, this would be even harder. Try and remember the reasons why you might not feel smart. Look over the posts that talk about that. (if I’m so smart, why am I so dumb) Remember what it means to have a rainforest mind and how your sensitivities and empathy and depth can appear less smart and being highly capable academically doesn’t necessarily mean gifted. OK? (And in families where there is lots of dysfunction, that can influence your perception of who you are.)

      Like

      • Definitely! The problem is, to get into the school, you have to be tested as gifted, and all of the kids are. It’s great because I actually have friends (gasp!) and kindred spirits, but everyone has mostly been there and at other private schools so they’ve learned to come out of their shell. I still struggle with that. This is my first year in a private school, and it’s expensive. Most of the families are somewhat rich (think a few with multi-million dollar salaries, with maids, etc.) and then there’s me. Awkward. But their parents are talented, so they have great jobs. But, my parents didn’t feel money is their calling. They’re amazing. But I fear success, and I have trouble accepting that I’m not stupid. Ugh!

        Like

  10. I’ve appreciated reading the comments above, thankyou everyone. My experience with fearing success is that I seem to fear being trapped, which makes me feel really bad when I’m given an opportunity. Whenever I seem to progress in some direction, say, an acting agent offers to give me bigger parts or I’m given the phone number of a music studio that might like my songs, I immediately feel a sort of reluctance and anxiety. I fear being trapped in that thing or having to sacrifice doing other things, or other possible futures, other possible ‘me’s’. I fear letting down the people involved or misrepresenting myself, so I might appear unenthusiastic. Then the opportunities fizzle out or I sabotage them. Has anyone else had this experience?

    Liked by 1 person

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