On the fear of success

Today I’d like to share with you one of my favourite quotes:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
– Marianne Williamson

I like this quote because it points to an important facet of the human experience:  While failing sucks and none of us want to experience it, succeeding is just downright terrifying.  I wonder how many of the people who never take any risks isn’t from a fear of failure, but a fear of success.

When you succeed, people notice you.  They start watching you.  They wait for you to mess up.  Because you will, eventually.  Sometimes it’s easier to just do nothing.  That means you cannot fail.  More importantly, it means you can’t succeed.

Why am I waxing philosophical this Tuesday?  I’m running the risk of succeeding and I’m terrified.

Last night I received a call about that job for which I had applied.  As the job is 1200 kilometers from where I currently live, they arranged for a Skype interview next Monday.  Needless to say, it took me forever to get to sleep last night.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to go to a job interview.  The last one was in 2007 at the school where I worked until January this year.  And that wasn’t really an interview.  When they called me in they had already decided that they wanted me, but just wanted to at least meet me before they offered me the job.  There was no competition; I didn’t need to convince anyone to hire me.

I have not been invited for an interview for any position for which I’ve applied since.  In 2011 I applied for a job at a church and two of the ministers called me for “informal chats”, but even there I didn’t make it to the interview stage.

So the apprehension is a bit unnerving – I’m not really sure what to expect.  All morning I’ve been mulling over questions they could possibly wish to ask me and questions that I want to ask them.  I updated Skype and checked that my webcam still worked (I haven’t used it since my folks went on a European tour last year when we Skyped with them some evenings).  I was terribly unproductive due to a complete inability to focus.

Then my phone rang.  It was them again.  Change of plans:  Skype was no longer going to cut it.  They need me there in person next Monday.  They’re flying me down to Cape Town for the interview.

I know I should be ecstatic, but I’m terrified.  What if I don’t get it?  What if all this excitement comes to nothing?  I don’t know if the wife and I will be able to handle the disappointment.  I mean, I’m already mentally sorting the household contents, what to pack and what to get rid of.

What if I get it.  That thought terrifies me even more.  Am I even able to do the job?  What if it turns out to be terrible?  What if I suck at it?  What if people think I’m so good they keep on expecting more of me while I stand there paralysed not knowing what to do?

And the very idea of moving – while I’m very outspoken about my dislike of the town where I’ve been living for the past twenty years, it’s hard to imagine moving away from here.  It would also mean moving very far away from just about all our relatives.  We’ll very literally be on the opposite side of the country.

I think I’ll now include the rest of that quote:

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson

Whether or not you believe in God, you cannot deny the central truth of this quote: that we exist in order to shine.  Our purpose in life is to succeed, for only then can we help others to also succeed.  That is what I’m trying to do – to help others – and this job will enable me to do that.  This is the thought of which I must keep hold.

Easier said than done, though.

Note:  The passage quoted in this post is often attributed to former South African president Nelson Mandela.  In the ongoing campaign to correct the internet, please take note that it was written by Marianne Williamson in her book A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles published in 1992.  On the official website of the African National Congress you can find the full text of 695 speeches made by Nelson Mandela between 1962 and 2007.  No part of the quoted passage occurs in any of his speeches.

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