Raised in trauma with my earliest memories terrifying, I could list off a huge number of fears. Fear of the dark, fear of strangers, fear of stray dogs, fear of blah…blah…blah. The one I didn’t expect ever and was totally unaware of until counseling was a fear of success. I was puzzled for a long time as to why I would fear doing well, praise, anything and everything that looked anything like success. It took a final confrontation with my mother to fully grasp the impact on my life. I feared success because it was painful for me. My mother felt if I succeeded she was diminished. She didn’t want to be diminished so she took every success for me and made sure I suffered for it. Every praise came with an emotional backlash that let me know I was nothing. Every job well done was played down or the one single mistake was pointed out like it was my whole story. The same scenario played out in my childhood over and over and over. Training of this nature carries a long lasting impact. I self sabotaged to survive. If I didn’t succeed then my mother wouldn’t hurt me. How sad is that?
Then I moved away from home and discovered there are a lot of people like my mother. People that compete with others when the other person has no desire to compete with them. People that feel some how they are less if I did well. Because it was a known pattern to me I thought this belittling was ‘normal’. Then came counseling. My beliefs and patterns of a life time were disrupted. Those patterns needed to be disrupted. I came to counseling for the purpose of learning a new way of living. It would not do me any good if I didn’t change how I thought, behaved, and interacted with others. During this process my counselor pointed out I was afraid to heal, get better or succeed. I defined myself by my mother’s perception that I was less. I took up the banner and defined myself by what I was not. Hardest thing my therapist did was try to convince me that I was so much more than I ever believed. The thought terrified me. Here it is, if I succeed and I am still not happy, what can I blame for my unhappiness?
Today in the news we hear of successful people that are miserable and they are miserable because they have succeeded and still are not happy. Now what? What do you do if you are top of your field and your are still miserable? What do you do if you are wealthy, famous and looked up to but inside you feel like a total fraud and feel miserable? I am afraid of being noticed, pointed to as an example, being something more than what my past defines me to be, because a long my journey I learned that success does not equal happiness. Success requires me to stop letting my past define me. Success is a demanding task master because you are only as good as your last success, should you fail? You are thrown out of success. Luckily my counselor planted a seed, redefine success. Stop making my success about someone else’s expectations. What does real success defined by me look like?
A few years ago I found a box from high school. In this box I found a piece of paper with 5 goals on the list. The one that stands out in my mind was one of my goals is to be a happy grandma. I love being a grandma. I succeeded at one of my life goals. I love watching my grandchildren. I love interacting with them. I love watching their parents raise them, each so differently from the other. I am a success and no one can take that away from me. Yes, I feared success but it was the type of success defined by someone else. I feel no fear of the success defined by me.