I almost left the house angry yesterday, because I felt like a failure.
A is sick. Very sick. Sick enough to land him in the hospital, but thankfully not sick enough for anything more than prescription drugs. A and I have very different ideas about what it means to feel taken care of while not feeling well. I’m not good at taking care of him the way he’d like, and yesterday I almost chose to leave and not try instead of staying and feeling like a failure.
Avoiding that which we’re not good at is human nature. I’ve seen it over and over; kids who take band instead of PE because they’re not physically inclined, people who dive deeply into work because they feel unsuccessful at being a parent or spouse. I’ve seen it, I know it’s human nature. But it’s also human nature to deny that which we find unpleasant in ourselves.
Not to sound conceited, but I’m used to being good at things. I expect to be good at whatever I try, which is why I’m so eager to try new things. So it’s unsettling to realize that sometimes my decisions aren’t motivated by logic, by what’s best, sometimes my decisions are motivated by avoiding that which I might fail at.
I avoided exercise for a long time until I did something unexpected and felt successful.
I avoided the idea of marriage until two weeks before A proposed because I didn’t believe I could be good at it. Until I did. ( A long story for another post.)
I avoid reading C.S. Lewis because I’m used to being brilliant at reading comprehension and he makes my brain feel small.
I avoid talking to people about God because I’m afraid I’m not good enough at apologetics.
I avoid going back to school, when I’m very good at school, because I’m afraid of feeling like a failure when I’m in front of an academic advisor.
I almost left A when he was sick because arguing was making him feel worse, and I already feel like I fail when I try to care for him.
It’s very human. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
See, the problem with avoiding that which we’re not good at it that we can get stuck in these bubbles that give us a limited definition of success. One way I define success is growth. If we don’t try things that we might fail at, how do we grow? If we’re so afraid of feeling like a failure that we don’t reach beyond ourselves and try, we’ll never grow. I want to go back to school, there’s a whole new life that will open up once I do. By avoiding it because it will mean facing the dreaded academic advisor’s office I’m cutting myself off from a whole future that I want, not to mention all that I will learn and grow by going back. I almost lost out on the greatest love I’ve known apart from God because I was afraid I would suck at being a wife. And I can’t even go into how bad I feel that I almost left A (albeit temporarily) when he needed me, all because I felt I’d failed and wanted to run away instead of facing it.
So I want to be different.
I’m good at not lying to myself, once I figure out that I’m doing it, and I’ve never been one who was content to let my life be ruled by fear. That’s part of why I not only made a 30 Before 30 list, but put it up online; if I fail to cross everything off before November 10, 2013, everyone will know that I’ve failed. Not only is that a great incentive to complete the list, it’s also an exercise in putting it all out there fearlessly and deciding to be ok no matter if I’m successful or not. I want to live that way all the time, not just when I put things on a list. So I’m going to try to differentiate between the decisions that move me forward and ones that just move me away from something I’m afraid I won’t be good at.
Have you ever found yourself avoiding something you’re afraid you won’t be good at?