The other day I let the world (or my small blog readership) in on my issues with failure and success. Issues I’m hoping to lay to rest. A root cause of being obsessively achievement oriented can certainly be a fear of failure. I think another key component is a deep desire for validation. Knowing that someone, somewhere out there thinks I’m okay. Which makes me believe I’m okay.
The problem with growing up as an achiever is that you get used to receiving pretty consistent validation in the form of trophies, grades, awards, etc.
This can become addictive. And in this post-trophy-for-breathing “adult” life, it can leave you other-oriented.
I fancy myself somewhat of an independent person. If the crowd goes one way, I want to go the other. I avoid best-seller lists (what do the masses know about a good book?), group exercise classes, flash mobs (for many reasons); I always sought out the most esoteric, obscure lit courses in college and it drives me nuts when other people at the cafe are similarly working on a blog, essay, or some pet project. Cue 5-year-old Sara tantrum: I want to be the only one!
At the same time, I’m a total hypocrite.
When it come to life decisions, I’m frequently desperate for someone else’s example to assure me that what I’m doing – or about to do – will turn out okay.
For instance, one of the more agonizing decisions I’ve grappled with since college graduation is whether or not to go to business school. “Everyone’s doing it” – which should mean that I avoid it. And yet, I find the validation of an MBA to be a bit tantalizing.
Truth be told, I’d much prefer not to go to business school. I don’t think I need it and I don’t think I’d like it. But I can’t just make that decision and be done with it.
I have to google “Why I didn’t go to business school,” “You don’t need an MBA,” and, my favorite, “successful CEOs without an MBA.” Obsessively. And then I have to scan my Facebook friends and see who else is surviving without an MBA. Which inevitably leads me to discover three more people who were just accepted to a top 10 B school. And then the googling starts again.
Why does it make all the difference to know that someone else made the same decision as me – and didn’t wake up 20 years from now at 3 am, drooling on some Manhattan sidewalk, sipping flat beer and thinking If only I’d gone to business school!
Always ahead of the game, US Weekly identified this emotional weakness long ago with “Stars… They’re just like us!” But I think this goes a little deeper than taking comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who pushes a shopping cart into the grocery store wearing sweatpants, uggs and a baseball hat (while body guards lurk in the health food aisle). Although – noted.
I think I’m scared of being wrong. I’m hoping that as I grow more comfortable in my skin and as this life I put on every morning molds even more closely to the curves of me, I’ll place increasing weight on my own, singular convictions. And learn to trust that it’s not the outcome that matters, but the way you live the choice.
To call on the greatest of cliches – life is a journey. What’s particularly nice is that it’s a journey without really any finish line and you can switch to a different path at any moment. And besides, to call on the greatest of graduation speeches – the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself.
The decisions you or I make are our own. They are what make us different. Perfectly different. There is no right or wrong. They key is to dive in. Learn to swim in the decision. And be the example you are so desperately searching for.