Thursday, January 13, 2011

Failure, Fear, and Being Empathic

For months before I left for college, I was horribly horribly anxious. I would put off any and all work that needed to be done to even get into college. I did no searching for scholarships. I put very little effort into the admission form and papers. I did just what was necessary to send it back. I was always so scared of not getting in, so scared I wouldn't get into college, and end up homeless, living in a box, under a bridge, starving to death.

That was my greatest fear: living in a cardboard box, under a bridge, starving to death. No job, no friends or family, no food. Slowly wasting away, alone.

I received my admission letter a little while later. I was accepted. Still, no searching for scholarships, and no work being done for the college at all. I got very lucky in finding a room in a dorm not on campus, but very close. It was one of 8 rooms left out of several hundred. I got very lucky. A nice nice room, and the dorm is very close to all my classes. And yet, I was still so scared I'd receive a letter saying I missed something important, and that I was not able to attend the university. And that I'd end up, under a bridge, in a box. My greatest moment of elation was during orientation, when I was registering for my classes. There was a teacher's assistant standing nearby, and I asked him if I could be denied still. His answer was, "Nope. If you're here, you're one of us now!" It was like god touched my heart, took it and cradled it. In that one moment, I didn't fear living in a box.

Then I got to college, and slowly got adjusted to my classes. Everything started out well. However, things slowly got worse. I started skipping questions on homework assignments. It was all online though, so it really didn't matter. My grades were all still rather good. Then I started skipping entire homework assignments. I slowly started feeling like it didn't matter, that it was too hard. I started sleeping in class, and even sleeping through class. I never studied. I started justifying my missed homework assignments with thoughts like "It won't make a difference, I'm going to fail anyway." I made the same justification for classes I missed. When I noticed my grades declining downward, I started fearing I'd fail out. I overheard a discussion on grades, and how if your GPA was less than 1.5 in your first semester, you were out. The box returned. But it was too late for me to try anything at that point, doing homework made me anxious, because I feared I'd fail, then fail the test, then fail the class, then fail out of college, and wind up in a box under a bridge. No logic could save me from that fear. I saw my grades getting worse and worse. B's to C's to D's to F's. And as I saw my grades start literally failing, I saw my fears coming to life. This terrified me to no end. The more I saw my fears begin to live, the more scared I got, and the less I did. The self-defeating cycle started to spin faster and faster, twisting up my stomach and heart more and more.

At the end of it all, I walked away with a D and a C- from two classes I fully expected to fail. In the former, I did a grand total of half the homework, consistently made C's on tests, and failed the final exam with a 30 out of 100. In the latter, I consistently failed the tests, did half the homework, and don't even know what became of the final.

But what followed me throughout the entire ordeal was that box. That fear. The box that represented my fear. Fear of being a failure.

That box, the idea of being homeless and alone is a metaphor for failure. It was my mind putting into a picture what I was afraid of. Homeless: financial failure. Alone: relationship failure. Starving: survival failure. Death: failure at life.

I was so afraid of failure that I wouldn't even try. If I didn't try and failed, it was because I didn't try. If I tried and failed, it meant I was a failure. It was too painful to have no excuse other than myself for failure, so I didn't even try. I put out the minimal amount of effort possible to protect my fragile ego, and what remained of my self esteem. That way it wasn't me who was a failure, it was my effort.

This may not seem like a relevant topic to empathy and being an empath. However, it strikes to the core of what many with empathy experience.

A fear of failure results mainly from a lack of self-esteem, which can stem from abuse, which can engender hypersensitivity, or as it is better known, being an empath. Thus, many empaths may have a fear of failure, which is very closely related to a fear of rejection.

To fear to open yourself up to another person, to fear to read to deep into another's mind, to fear to show any disagreement or frustration with a loved one, that is all a fear of failure or rejection in some form or another. And these are all fears most empaths deal with on a day to day basis.

So think about it. This isn't a blog about helping you overcome a fear. This is for you to perhaps see that within yourself. And if you can see it, and acknowledge it, you can learn from it, and overcome it.

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