Fear of Failure

August 11, 2019

So, every now and then, my trainer and I get into these really deep introspective conversations.  He is a good trainer and supportive in many ways, but, let me tell you, he pulls no punches.  None.

This week, we were talking about food and behaviors around food, and he got all up in my feelings.  To tell you the truth, I was mad, but he told no lies, so I couldn’t be mad at him. Plus, it made me take a hard, deep look at the role of fear in my journey back to health.

Passionate and frustrated, he scolded me, “You know so much! You have all this information about the human body, food, behaviors and all this other stuff,  just off the top of your head! You don’t even need to look it up, anymore.  You are way past the average person who walks in the door. Why are we still here?” (Meaning, why am I still struggling to lose weight). He went on, “I mean, you winning the exercise battle like a pro.  What is going on? Only you know the answer to this.”

I shrugged, feeling ashamed, exposed, uncertain.  “I don’t know,” is all I could muster in the moment.  Then, in a moment of jaw dropping vulnerability, I actually said it out loud. I said that thing that hovers in the back of my mind, but is never allowed to manifest into actual conscious thought, let alone into audible words.  

“I’m afraid.”

“Of what?!?!”, he exclaimed with an almost parental exacerbation.

“I am afraid that if I lose this weight, somehow, that I will gain it back and, then, never ever be able to get it off again.”

See, I have cycled up and down many times in my fight for health and wellness.  On the upswing of each cycle, I gain so much knowledge, insight and growth. Each time, I reach new levels of fitness and make lasting changes in my diet and lifestyle. Heck, if I knew in the beginning what I know now, I might’ve never had a problem.

On the other hand, when I fall, I fall hard.  New health issues seem to percolate weekly. Injuries, aches and pain abound. Then the dreaded weight packs on and is often fifteen to twenty pounds more than what I’d lost.

If, in the past, I worked out with a trainer, drank protein shakes for breakfast and ate nutrient dense foods, I would have rivaled Serena in my muscle mass in 6-8 months. Okay, maybe not, but you get my point.  

But, this body has been through some things.  This body has fought many battles and has a little wear and tear. My metabolism is sluggish and my adrenals are withering from years of chronic stress.  With each rotation of gain, the loss becomes exceedingly more difficult. In fact, it seems near impossible.

This round has, by far, been the most difficult. I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my entire life (yes, even pregnant), and I am working harder than I’ve ever worked to get it off. It seems as though my body is fighting against me, willing me to stay overweight.  Sure, I know many of the physiological reasons this is happening, but that doesn’t change the fact that my BMI seems to stay the same no matter what I do.

So, I think somewhere along the way,  in the back of my mind, I have unwittingly decided that if it were a choice between losing only to gain more and staying here, I would choose to stay here.  I would choose to surrender.

This is where my trainer got all in my preverbal %$@!.

He said, “You mean to tell me that you are so afraid that you will not be able to maintain a healthy weight that you won’t even try to get there, anymore?  You are so afraid of losing that you won’t even step in the ring? Is that what you are saying?”

“Yes.” I’m not gon’ lie. It was kind of a revelation for me, too, in that moment. Like I said, I’d not let these thoughts grace the presence of my highest levels of consciousness, before.  Now, I found myself uttering them out loud…to my TRAINER no less.

My fear of failure was so great that I wasn’t even willing to get in the fight, anymore.  Suddenly, frozen by anxiety and shame, I waited for the onslaught of judgment to follow.

Instead, he said offered a solution.

“Maybe you just need a little help. There are plenty of ways to help you get to and stay at a healthy weight, but you can’t even explore that if you are not willing to receive the help. Everybody needs help. Everybody.”

The good ‘ol one-two punch...

First, I expose myself as having debilitating self-limiting fear and now… he calls out my pride.

See, I also felt like, not only did I need to reach my health goals and effortlessly maintain them, I had to also do it alone.  Somewhere in my mind, I’d formed the idea that through sheer grit and determination, I should be able to press through all by myself.  No help required.  

Just thinking out loud here, but that could be part of why I have cycled so much.

A few weeks back, a good friend of mine posted this short survey on Facebook:

Which is hardest for you to say:

1. I apologize

2. I appreciate you

3. I need help

4. I love you

5. I was wrong, I’m sorry

An overwhelming number of people indicated “I need help” is, by far, the most difficult thing for them to say.  

Fear and pride are two sides of the same coin.  They are both designed to keep you immobile, afraid to enter the ring, all the while assuring you that, if you do dare to venture forward, you must go it alone.  Hogwash.

I need help.

And so do you.

You may not need help in the same ways I do, but we each need support and assistance in our areas of struggle.  What if this is the last cycle for me? What if this time, it sticks? I mean, the Israelites took 40 years to make an 11 day journey. It’s not like they didn’t know it was supposed to be a short journey.  I can’t even imagine the frustration and despair they experienced.

How did they know that last time was the last time? They didn’t. They just had to keep pressing to make it to the Promised Land.

What if this is your last cycle, too?  Your last round of chemo? Your last dating disaster? Your last job hunt? Your last hospitalization? The last time you will fail in this area? Your last trip around whatever mountain you’re creating a mote around with just your bare feet? I know that previous  failures and loss seem like  clear indicators of future, but they are not.  What if the only thing standing between you and the Promised Land, at this point, is fear and pride?

What if you just need a little help?  A little support?  A little guidance? Maybe you and I can encourage each other, share our stories, our triumphs and failures, so we can learn from each other and press through to the other side.

I mean, I love Moses and all, but I don’t want to go out like that. I actually want to see the Promised Land in this life and the next! And, to do that, I think I may need to let go of my deepest fears and ask for help.

How about you?

Questions to ponder:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how difficult is it for you to ask for help (with 1 being not difficult at all and 10 being not even if there were only 2 people on earth, and I was hanging off a cliff, would I ask for help)? Why is that? Would you like to change that?

2. On that same scale, what is your level of fear with stepping into the ring and fighting a battle which you may have previously lost?

3. In western culture, we are encouraged and often rewarded for achieving goals independently.  Do you agree with this ideology? Why or why not?

4. Sometimes it is difficult to ask for help, because it puts us in a vulnerable position.  How do you feel about being vulnerable?  Do you have someone you feel comfortable being vulnerable with?

5. Sometimes asking for help can be difficult, because others around you also need assistance and you seem to be the designated helper.  In an effort to avoid burdening our friends and family, we do not seek out necessary support. Does this sound like you? Is there another place, outside your immediate circle, where you can find the help you need?

6. How might life be a bit different for you if you had a little help?

7. How might life be different if you gave voice to and actively addressed your deepest fears?

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