As open as I am on this blog, I’m sure that you can tell that I’m just as open of a person in real life. I am more than willing to share my feelings and be vulnerable from a sensitivity standpoint. Sharing my emotions is very easy for me, and I am always happy to articulate how I feel and encourage others to share as they’re comfortable. However, opening up about situations where I might potentially fail can be difficult for me. I enjoy sharing my life with my friends, but every time that I want to talk about a new freelance opportunity that I’ve applied to or a new article that I’ve put in for publication, I feel uncertainty deep in my gut. What if I don’t get that opportunity? What if I fail and I have to feel the shame of telling everyone?
As someone who was always praised as a young person, I struggled when I got older and was not instantly good at everything I tried. Just like my young success made me feel proud, the perceived failures I faced as I got older made me feel ashamed. While my childhood brought academic, thespian, and social success, my teenage years were spent constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering if anyone would out me as a fraud. I never felt good enough anymore, but I didn’t want anyone else to know that. I avoided doing any extracurriculars where I could feel rejected, whether for my skill or my social life. I didn’t want to feel any sort of embarrassment, so I avoided it at all costs. I would rather be cold and harsh than be vulnerable.
After being praised for my successes for so many years, my failures made me want to slink away and hide. I struggled to find a way to fit in and responded by becoming distant and projecting a disgusting amount of fake confidence. I didn’t want anyone to see weakness. Between watching over-dramatized teen shows and reading YA series like the Clique series (series that really encouraged emotional distance and a toxic amount of pride) the message of “fake it until you make it” wasn’t just accepted, but expected. Looking back, I know that influences like this made me feel as though I couldn’t show any vulnerability or I would seem weak.
I know what you’re thinking — this is how all high schoolers are! That’s normal! That may be normal for the average teenager, but this overly-proud state of mind stayed with me long after high school. After spending my entire high school career hiding my weaknesses, it took me several years to learn that it was okay to be vulnerable with others. In college, I finally started to apply for different positions and audition for various clubs. I knew that applying meant that I could be rejected, but the thought of getting accepted was just too appealing to pass up. While I was able to secure some of the jobs that I applied for on campus, I was still hesitant to tell my friends when I applied for anything because I didn’t want them asking me about it in case I was rejected. I was too proud to give people the opportunity to see me fail.
I even struggle with group activities because I am afraid that I will make a fool of myself. While my FOMO makes it so that I feel as though I need to go out when my friends want to do an activity (and I do honestly enjoy going out with them), I still have a sinking feeling in my stomach knowing that I could be terrible at the activity and become the butt of the jokes all night. My new office has a pool table that I basically refuse to touch because I don’t want anyone to see how bad I am at pool. When I go axe throwing, I need to ease my nerves in order to be able to get out of my head and be even half decent at it. I do so many escape rooms, and although this isn’t true, I feel like I mess up in every single one and slow the whole group down. That’s right, sometimes I can’t even speak up in escape rooms for fear of seeming like a failure. I’ll never turn down the opportunity to have fun with my friends, but I definitely could do without the sense of dread that I get that tells me that I’m going to fail and be a joke.
The other aspect of this problem is that I pride myself on being a reliable person. Because of this and my fear of failure, I struggle to tell people about my projects or ideas until they are fully in motion. Every single time I post on social media about something that is only a possibility for the future, I suffer from crazy anxiety. I tweeted about guest posting last year just to gauge interest, and I had a long internal debate. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m unreliable or that I can’t get things done. I’ve let a lot of projects slip through the cracks because of my depression, and it embarrasses me and makes me feel like a failure every time. But I think it’s time to reverse that thinking.
Recently, my personal goal has been to reach this level of vulnerability. I’ve let all of my friends know about the pieces I’m sending out to literary magazines. If I’m taking a risk for myself and my future, I try to be open about it with those around me. I’m well on my way to being able to share my vulnerability without inwardly (or outwardly) cringing.
While I’ve made some progress, especially on the goals and success front, I still have a long way to go when it comes to sharing about my personal life in a vulnerable way. I didn’t even tell my family that Dan and I are engaged! Seriously, I hardly directly told anyone. And when I did directly tell anyone, it was after I had given Dan his engagement ring, a full eight months after he originally asked me. Some members of my family found out when they read my post on Medium back in September, but I would imagine that there are plenty who still don’t know…
After having been polyamorous and not a fan of marriage for so long, it felt like I might seem fake going back on these beliefs. Plus, I didn’t know how people would react to hearing that we’re engaged and still living at home with my parents. I was so worried about being judged that I refused to share one of the most momentous occasions of my life. Instead of celebrating with the ones I love most, I was dodging questions related to me and Dan’s future because I was afraid of judgement.
No one wants to face judgement or feel rejection, but it’s just a part of life. Not everyone is going to approve of how you live your life and you can’t succeed at everything you try. The best that any of us can do is to live our lives to the fullest and abandon this fear of failure. It’s a good thing that it’s so simple…
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/