Friday, May 26, 2006

Fear of Success

You know it's always hard to recognize that one of your particular behaviors might be a real personality defect. Alcoholism runs in my family, and, although I quit drinking years ago, my work pattern is definitely that of an alcoholic. I work at a job for a while, think how good I am at it, and decide that I can do better or different or elsewhere. I move on before I have a chance to be really successful.

Now, that I'm retired, I can look back at that pattern of great promise spoiled by leaving before the good news and wish I had gotten into a recovery program when I quit drinking. Thirty years of self-destructive or at least self-abusive behavior might have been changed.

I was always too good for the job, too good for the money I was making, too good to stay there long. Moving on, moving up, moving out - that was very popular in the 70s; so no one challenged my changing jobs frequently. I can't even remember how many jobs I've had, and I certainly couldn't keep them in order. And, I was good at most of them. I learned quickly and learned well. But, I didn't stay with them long enough to become truly proficient.

Today I listened as others described the same pattern that I have; most of them were younger than me. Most of them didn't realize that changing jobs frequently might be a symptom of that deeper problem that's related to alcohol or drug abuse. I wanted to lead them in ways that would help them see what life would be like 20 or 30 years down the road. Maybe someday I'll be able to share that insight and experience.

I knew I was not worthy of real success, and, if I stayed in one place long enough, someone would find out that I was not worthy. Someone would discover that I could make mistakes and that I wasn't as good as I said I was. I knew how flawed I really was, and the only way I could keep everyone else from knowing was to keep moving on. Change companies, change fields of work, change locations, change my name, change everything except my ability to accept that I might not be the best, but I was certainly worthy of and capable of success.

I knew that someday someone would see through my mask, would see who I really was, and I was afraid of being lost. I knew that I'd lose what little of my self esteem I still had if anyone really knew who I was. I was the child of a drunk, the neice of a drunk, the sister-in-law of a druggie, the poor farm girl from Mississippi, who really didn't know anything about anything.

So, I never been an expert at anything. I never became really good at anything. I dabbled in a lot of things. I took lots of courses, I got a couple of degrees. But, I never really let myself succeed. I wonder what my life might have been like if I'd found a recovery program in my 30s. Would I have been a success? Or would success have meant less than relationships?

I'm grateful for every day that I can live without being afraid of failure and everyday that I don't have to worry about someone else's opinion of me. Thanks be to God.

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