REJECTION and the fear of failure

April 5, 2010

So last night, Joe stayed up with me until about 3am talking. We were talking about all sorts of things but the one thing that really stood out to me was what a huge role the fear of failure seems to play in my life. I don’t want to think of everything in my life as pass/fail, but I think I do it a lot of the time.

Sometimes I’m not sure if agoraphobia is the right way to describe my situation. Agoraphobia is a fear of crowded and public places, and also of leaving a safe space, which I suppose I am. But I also identify a bit with anthropophobia, the fear of people and society. Maybe I’m afraid of crowded places and leaving my safe place because I’m afraid of people and society.

People really scare me. It’s been many years since I’ve made a real bond with another person, other than Joe. For some reason, I trust the men I date more than anyone else and sometimes more than I should, but I don’t trust anyone else. Most of my fear comes from the idea that if they knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me. I’m so terrified of not being liked, of failing to win people over, it dominates my being when I’m around other people. I’m terrified of their rejection, and rejection=failure.

I’ve noticed that when I’m around other people (even Joe and my sister) that I’m constantly scrutinizing everything I’m doing and saying. Did I laugh too loudly at that joke? Is what I’m saying interesting? Am I annoying them with my babbling? It’s really uncomfortable to be around people because I’m not myself. That’s why I need to be completely alone so often, because when I’m alone that noise stops. When I’m alone I don’t think about how I should be acting or what I should be saying or if my clothes look ugly or I’ve gained weight, I think about art and I dance to loud music and sing and talk to myself. I’m so happy and comfortable all alone.

Photo of me from my doll skit in Circo Mutante by Kathryn Wilson at

Before this got really bad, before I stopped going out and started having panic attacks, I lived a very full life. I was traveling, hitch hiking, living in a van, playing music on the street, performing in a circus. I was outgoing and friendly, but I wasn’t really living 100%. I always had that part of my brain that was scrutinizing, picking every little situation apart. I was never sure if the people I called my friends were really my friends. I couldn’t tell if they really liked me or if they were just being polite. I still feel like most of the people I know aren’t really my friends. When Joe tells me about people in town who miss me and like me, I don’t believe him. Those people barely know me, how could they really like me? And why would they like me? It’s safer to stay far away from all people then to risk being rejected.

One of this biggest problems in my previous social life was music. I play accordion, well I used to play accordion. I haven’t really played in so long. When I started I was so proud of myself, because when I learn something new I tend to obsess over it completely and I can learn very fast. But I hit a point with my music where I felt like I wasn’t good enough.

Photo of me busking in Asheville in 2007 taken by Anoldent at

Most of my friends were amazing musicians, making money busking or playing at bars. They write fabulous music and at parties they capture everyone’s attention, playing all night long. I’m terrified to fail, to hit a wrong note or make a sound that’s not perfect so when I was learning, I played by myself. I would try to find a secluded spot to practice where I couldn’t annoy anyone if I sounded bad. So because of this, I never learned how to play with other people, how to improvise or even relax. Most of the time I don’t even enjoy playing because I’m so worried about not being amazing. This made me nervous and awkward around the people I know who are talented musicians. It seemed they were better than me, and I felt that I had to walk on eggshells around them, in case they were to realize that I didn’t deserve to hang out with them.

Sometimes I feel these fears when I’m with Joe. I know he loves me and that is an amazing and wonderful thing. He’s stuck by me through all the good and awful times. When I hear that voice in my head that tells me “he’s only there because he’s a good guy” or whatever, I try to remember the love I KNOW is there. To say that he’s only with me because he’s too good of a person to leave me when I’m so down and out does an injustice to him, I think. Because he truly is a wonderful and amazing person, and I know he loves me.

When he looks at me like this, I know he loves me ♥

So I know that I have all these fears and I know that they are unreasonable.  I know that it’s ridiculous to be afraid of what other people are thinking of me, that I shouldn’t care, and believe me I wish I didn’t care. But for anyone who can relate to these fears you know, it’s not that easy. When I see my therapist this week, I’m going to talk about this stuff. Not that we haven’t talked about it before, I just didn’t realize until last night the importance of this stupid word “failure” and what it’s done to me. For now I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, trying to reason with the unreasonable voice in my head, tell it it’s wrong when I have the energy and try to ignore it when I don’t. That’s really all I can do at this point.

I know it sounds totally cheesy but what I need is to love myself, and that’s the hardest trick of all… I wish I had a clue how to do it.


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