I made 2 mistakes today. That I am aware of. And now, I am full of anxiety.
I can feel it bristling on me like magnetized filings standing on end, tugging my skin as if to lift my body into action. Fight or flight. But it’s a phantom, because the threat I’m reacting to isn’t as immediate as that. It’s nothing I can do anything at all about right now. So the anxiety is a waste. Useless. And still too real.
I try to use breathing, food, distraction. I engage with the kids only to have a sudden jolt of extra-hard anxiety wake me up to the danger again. My mind keeps a background process of worry running and distracting my attention. Scenes play themselves over again, the exact moment of a mistake, the back-and-forth of a heated conversation. In the background I am continually watching those scenes, pausing and rewinding over the moment I am at fault, with always a hope that I’m not and a wave of shame to, once again, discover I am. Faulty.
I feel that people who don’t love me will be unforgiving of my faults, and I can’t blame them, but that doesn’t make it any easier to be less faulty. I do my best, I pay attention, and once in awhile I miss something. Occasionally, especially if I’ve been under any amount of stress, my emotions rise and I speak too quickly, too honestly, too starkly. I lose the ability to both think and enact my social manifestation, and people see the true me. Including the faults.
People pretend to be forgiving of faults and will rarely tell you what they think. Having been the listening ear for many a talkative manager of people, I can assure you that judgments are swift and harsh. A couple of mistakes too close together, and they’ve lost confidence in you. It only takes one major screw-up to take a person who was on the fast track into the next no-future mid-management “promotion.” Three mistakes and it’s a performance improvement plan – PIP for short. That is how fast the world judges failure.
I live in perpetual fear of failure, by the way, in case that wasn’t clear.
The way I feel after failure is so out-of-control bad that it can incapacitate me. As long as I succeed, I am safe. Even a mild failure trips me off my game, but a big one – well, there have not been many, let me tell you. I won’t let that happen. I’d rather go through labour again. Failure is simply not an option until I figure out how to experience it without coming so close to the edge. Which of course won’t happen without practice, which I simply cannot allow.
One thing that gets in my way is that my ordering of the universe seems to rank priorities differently than many other people. So I have to fake it, and practice, and mess it up and have the terrible, horrible pain of anxiety drill the lesson into me until I internalize the concept and stop making a fool of myself by showing my faults to people who don’t love me. When you do that, you may never live it down. You may never be allowed to have grown beyond it. Reputation must be guarded.
But none of this means I don't risk. I take risks, try new things, jump into complicated problems about which I can't predict the solvability. And I damn well better succeed. Or at least not fail.
I am full of anxiety. It’s ridiculous. It’s embarrassing. It’s the secret to my success.