26 Apr Distraction, Procrastination, and the Fear of Success…
Ever since I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a novelist. I started reading at 2 years old and thus, my love affair with books began. When I was 8, I started devouring books daily. I started with the Bobbsey Twins, then Nancy Drew, to Sweet Valley, R.L. Stine, then Stephen King. For years, in elementary school, I would be at the library every morning even before the librarian opens the door. At 10, I would write a daily short story that was circulated among the children and adults who were part of my daily commute to and from school. By the time I was 14, I had already read Gone with the Wind (over 1,000 pages) at least 3 times. I was a published author at 16, when an op-ed I wrote about colonialism made it to the leading English language newspaper in the Philippines. It was my ultimate dream to get my novel published by the time I was 25 years old.
That seems so long ago now.
I got married at 21 and divorced at 39. My self-imposed publishing deadline fell in between those years. The only things I have published recently are medical papers in scientific journals as well as three pending textbook chapters in dermatology. I sporadically publish erotic fiction online under a pseudonym, but does that count? My book? I have barely a whisper of a first chapter.
I don’t know why, but every time I think about sitting down and focusing on starting this book, I almost always end up either distracting myself with something “more important” or procrastinating. This made me think that I somehow have a block when it comes to directing my energy to something that seems really important to me. And I realized, that if I am being truly honest with myself, though the fear of failure is always there, nothing is scarier, more monumental, more looming, than my actual FEAR OF SUCCESS.
This is the reason why I engage in self-sabotage activities such as procrastination, distraction, and numbing my mind (by rewatching the entire library of Friends episodes). I even decided that perhaps I am not ready to start on my book, that I needed to take more writing classes (AKA a higher form of procrastination). Sometimes, no amount of cajoling could convince me to sit down and write. This is a huge obstacle to accomplish what I truly want to achieve and be able to fully appreciate what I am capable of.
But there is a pathological pattern to this resistance and I am so determined to find out what it is, because as Carl Jung says, “What you resist, persists”.
So I decided to start doing some shadow work.
According to Carl Jung, the shadow is everything outside the light of our consciousness. It may be positive or negative. Most shadow aspects are negative because most of us tend to reject or remain ignorant of less desirable aspects of our personalities, but they could be positive too, as in a person with low self-esteem, where they are unaware of truly beautiful qualities or talents that they may possess.
If I really dig deeper, I see that there are parts of me that think I do not deserve success. Because if I am being completely honest, the uncertainty, change, and chaos that could be brought on by success makes a big part of me feel unsafe and unprotected. I think: how do I know that what will happen in the future will be good for me? What if I end up unhappy? I love my life right now, why rock the boat?
This is why I have always played the games I know I could win because I already know what the outcome is.
But when you think about it, what kind of a life is that? It is like having an actor play to a script that you already know how it’s going to end. What is the point? That is not living.
And truly, I write because I love writing. Writing allows my soul to speak. It brings me joy. I don’t do this because of what other people may say or do, or if they like it or not. So, why am I so attached to the outcome that it paralyzes me from doing something I love?
Then I realized that THAT is it. In Buddhism, attachment is the root of all suffering. An attachment to an outcome that is almost always never guaranteed will cause suffering because the only thing guaranteed in life is change, which is something we can never control.
So I decided to just let everything flow. I will start writing and just write and write and write. It doesn’t have to be perfect or amazing, which feels very cringey to a recovering perfectionist like me.
But I want to live my life fully. I want to go to bed at night knowing that I did the best I could with the life that I was given, that I wasn’t afraid to try, that I didn’t worry about making a fool of myself because I was doing something I loved.
Finally, I realized that doing this is the best way to show gratitude for this beautiful gift called life.
Thank you for joining me in this incredible journey.
Lots of love,