The Fear of Success

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , , , , | Posted on 2:45 PM

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I suppose it makes sense that someone with my background would have intense fears of being valued, which is why I threw up in my mouth yesterday while filling out applications which I am qualified for, and which would place me in the top 1/2 (and more like top 1/4) of earners here in the US.

I have a surprisingly nice CV, once I add all the job skills I've had to it. I also pick up job skills quickly; my job situations tend to be 'toss you in the deep end to see if you drown' types, which has meant I've picked up whatever was necessary to support myself and others in the same situation.

Despite the nice CV, and despite all the nice pieces of paper which certify me as this, that or the other, the idea of being paid that kind of money makes me nauseous (and kept me up until 5 am this morning, despite the sleep medications I take.)

A lot of the training aimed at professional women tells them to learn to be more assertive, as if repeating a mantra about negotiating their salary 'like a man' is the root of their problems. I won't knock methods for getting by-- if the mantra works for you, use it-- but I have some serious problems with the idea that all which is necessary for women in the work force to enter these kinds of positions is just that they 'act more assertive,' something which is pretty poorly defined in the literature on the subject.

For me, applying for jobs at Fortune 500 companies is incredibly nerve-wracking. I will literally be changing my class identity, something which is a major part of my self-conception. I'd imagine this is shared with men, as well. I've spent most of my adult life in college, being paid pitiful amounts of money to do complex jobs, with little institutional support. I've learned to take pride in being able to pay the bills and, on occasion, afford to eat out. If I can pay all the bills and eat out once, I consider myself affluent.

I've learned to take pride in survival, as someone who's been homeless. Survival.

And now, assuming I get a nice job, I have to learn what to do with money enough to buy a house, to pay off  my student loans, to buy a car, to be able to go out to eat and buy clothes for everyone and  provide for them without skipping meals.

I'll have enough money to be one of the people I hated, the people whose families actually did something for them, who transitioned seamlessly from college to a job, the people who never involuntarily went hungry, who could focus all their attention on academic studies instead of working a 12 hour day on their feet five days a week, and walking two miles to class the other two days a week. I hated them because they thought I wasn't working hard enough to succeed.

I will look like those people, sound like those people.

I am desperately afraid of buying into the idea that all you need for success is work and merit. I am desperately afraid, despite a extensive list of skills, that I will turn out to be not good enough.

I fear no longer being me, but I'm applying anyway.

People who apply anyway, despite their impostor syndrome, despite the fear of becoming someone they no longer know-- magazine definitions of proper aggression aside, those people are being aggressive.

Trust me. *hork* This is an act of bravery.

Comments (1)

Hope you get the job you applied for Mouthyb. Try to keep your chin up, and tell yourself you deserve the success you have worked so hard for.

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