I was going to post about this fancy-schmancy new diet I’ve been following – the Not-Crazy diet. I wrote about how I got to thinking about things, and how I was pulling things that worked from past plans, and altering things that DIDN’T work in past plans, and all that jazz.
And then I started to post some specifics, and my chest got all tight, and my stomach knotted up, and I thought, “But what if I post this and don’t live up to it?”
I’ve known for a long time that I do not like being accountable to others about my diet and my weight. When I went to Weight Watchers and weighed in, I saw other women who were overjoyed when they lost weight and discouraged but ready to recommit when they didn’t. And I never felt that way: when I lost weight, I felt RELIEVED. As though I’d passed the test, gotten an “A,” managed to prove my worth one more time. THAT week I was worth something. And when I gained (or just didn’t lose), I was crushed. I’d barely hold it together through the subsequent meeting, and then go home and sob into my pillow for hours before breaking out the Ben & Jerry’s, because CLEARLY I couldn’t even do something as SIMPLE as losing .2 pounds.
And when I thought about that later, I always said to myself, “Well, obviously, I’m afraid of failure. But WHY am I so afraid of it?” And I never really had a good answer. Oh, I had a lot of answers – I just never stumbled on that One answer, the one that resonated in my gut and made me think, “YES. THAT.”
And today, when my chest tightened and my stomach clenched, I thought, “Ok, how about if I don’t sabotage myself by posting every damn detail, but seriously, WTF is wrong with me?” And the answer floated up from somewhere inside, “Because I will be ashamed if I can’t do it right. ‘Doing it right’ is what I DO.” And I felt the PING in my spine, in my stomach: it’s not a fear of failure that stops me. It’s shame. Which I realize is pretty much the same thing, but the two things have two distinct feelings in my body, and it’s the latter that is the crippling one.
I still see myself as that kid with unlimited potential. And when I don’t live up to my own (admittedly extreme and maybe even crazy) standards, I don’t feel discouraged with a determination to recommit. I feel ASHAMED. In the same way that I would feel ashamed if I broke a promise to someone. In the same way that I would feel ashamed if I lied about something. As though I have presented myself as one thing, when in fact I am another. I am PERFECT, goddamit, and any failure to live up to that standard is something to be ashamed of.
And the first thing is that those “admittedly extreme and maybe even crazy” standards DON’T SEEM that crazy to me, deep down. I mean, I recognize RATIONALLY that eating 12 bajillion grams of protein every day and exercising EVERY DAY and NEVER eating ice cream AGAIN are absolutely crazy. But it was crazy that I could read before I was 2, and that I got a perfect score on math I’d never seen. Crazy has not been a barrier in my life, ok? At least not in my formative years.
And the SECOND thing is just that – I have a PRECEDENT for being crazy in a “perfect” way. For my entire early life, I was “perfect” in a way that was deemed valuable. It was absolutely a fluke of genetics, in the same way that my younger sister has a body that our society deems “perfect.” We both, in our own ways, won the genetic lottery, and we’ve talked at length about how those different lotteries affected our lives (and our respective neuroses). And we’ve talked about how our minds were shaped by the way that my “perfection” came early but faded, and the way that she started off without “perfection” and acquired it at puberty.
Um. Nice tangent there, huh? It’s not like the subject makes me uncomfortable and want to deflect it at any cost. 😉 But it is relevant, so I’m leaving it up.
That’s where I’m at right now. Realizing that the whole “fear of failure” thing isn’t really THAT so much as feeling ashamed. Feeling like an unwitting fraud: as though I were holding something valuable, and I put it down, and NOW I CAN’T FIND IT, even though I said I had it. Or worse: like a lottery jackpot winner who spent it all, and is now broke again, reliving my glory days.
*laughs* And all that sounds SO MAUDLIN. And I don’t really FEEL maudlin about it – or rather, the maudlin part is balanced out by a sense of detachment from the whole thing, by the feeling that it’s just another interesting problem to be solved.
Another interesting problem to be solved. Story of my life. *grins wryly*