My single greatest weakness is an inability to follow through.
It’s not apathy or distraction or immaturity. It’s debilitating fear.
I hate to do things I’m not good at. And if you tell me I’m not good at something, I have an unhealthy tendency to agree with you and shun my own perception.
I love(d) to sing. I was in choir, sang at church, competed at vocal association conferences, toured with a high school worship band, and participated in my high school pageant. But then I didn’t get into my college’s school of music. And I wasn’t selected for the co-ed a Capella group. And the first church I attended in college had an inhospitable-bordering-on-hostile worship team. And the community choir was full of prima donnas and angry old women. And it slowly faded away until I stopped thinking of myself as a singer, until I started telling people, “I used to sing” and “this is what I did.” All in past tense, a resignation.
I like(d) to write poetry. It began in high school and grew wild and frequent by my sophomore year of college. I received positive feedback in my intro to poetry class. I published regularly on my blog. But then I didn’t get into poetry workshops. And I was convinced if was because my poetry didn’t stack up. And I write now, a little, but the inspiration comes slow, painfully, with trepidation. With boundaries and boxes and prompts only.
I like(d) customer service. I was great at small talk and banter. I was intuitive, useful, understanding. I recognized the challenges of navigating interactions with strangers in an environment of economic exchange – how awkward it can be to maintain politeness when you feel you’ve been wronged, embarrassed, treated inhumanely. But then I was told I wasn’t happy/charismatic/friendly enough to do customer service. That I was hard to read and seemed unenthusiastic. And it flew in the face of everything I perceived about myself in the context of my work environments. And it challenged my social relationships. Do I make a bad first impression? Am I awkward or hostile or pessimistic?
It seems that the problem isn’t fear of failure alone, but fear that the negative feedback I receive is beyond overcoming. I want to succeed. I want to be a success. And the best way to do that is to prune away at my failings, to stop growth and redirect that energy to making myself look better elsewhere.
But the more I prune away, the less I’m left with. I’ve cut off all the buds before they’ve bloomed and I’m left settling into a darkness of my own making. And I’m browning and wrinkling and crunching under the feet of those who tread on my aspirations – my delights – in the first place.
I’m afraid of not being good enough. So my ears are trained on the voices that tell me what I fear. You can’t sing. You can’t write. You can’t interact. You aren’t happy. You won’t ever be good enough.
But I’ve freaking had enough! And maybe when I think about follow through I should imagine pushing through the brambles of criticism instead of resigning myself to an innate weakness. If I fail at the very end of that path to success (and who can determine an end anyway?), I’ll still have overcome the roadblock set before me by my critics.
I’ll still be better than enough.