by Kara-Leah Grant
Recently, I moved back to Glenorchy, a small mountain town where I’ve lived a few times previously.
I was exciting about the move, and also feeling some anxiety. Preparing to write my third book, Love’s Shadows, I felt called to come home to the mountains. Yet it also meant moving my son, now seven and at school, yet again.
We were meant to be staying put in one place now he’d started school. I was meant to be done with moving around. I was meant to be embracing a stable life, in Mount Maunganui, which I loved.
Then the call came.
I felt it.
And I felt it.
And I felt it some more.
This was a big decision and I wanted to make sure I was really being called, and not just running away from something. Because I was good at that – the running.
Finally, the decision was made, the move was executed, and we arrived in GY, as it’s affectionately known by the locals. I was welcomed back by the community, offered a beautiful place to live, and Samuel dropped effortlessly into school with some good buddies by the end of the first day.
Then why oh why, as I wrote a month ago, was I experiencing terror that was preventing me from relaxing and enjoying life?
I felt into this for a few weeks, edging around the abyss of terror, doing my practices to stay stable, feeling what I could bear feeling.
And then it came to me.
This was Fear of FAILURE.
Which was exactly what I felt when I first came to Glenorchy in October 2004.
Back then, I was a week out of Lion’s Gate Hospital’s Acute Psych Ward and my entire life had imploded.
I’d had two episodes of psychosis in one month, been diagnosed bi-polar, been dumped by my fiance, had no job, was in debt for the first time in my life with no assets, and had had to leave my beloved life in Whistler, BC where I’d lived for the past seven years.
Everything I cared about, everything I valued, everything I loved… ripped away from me, including my own identify as a sane person.
It was ten years since I’d left home at 19 years old seeking fame and fortune. Yes, I sure as hell was!
I was buoyed by excellent University marks (invited into THREE honours programmes!) after coming runner-up to Dux at High School. At 19 years old, the world was my oyster. I was going to make my first million by the time I was 25 years old, write a best-selling novel, break into the acting world, sell my first screenplay, BE someone.
And everyone I knew believed it too. Hell, expected it.
But here I was, mentally ill, with no prospects, completely alone and I’d let down my family by failing to live up to their expectations.
At least, that’s how I felt. Unconsciously. Because I certainly wasn’t that conscious of it back in 2004.
But here’s an interesting thing… sitting with this over the last month, including spending time with family, I’ve deduced that I equate Success with Love.
That is – unless I’m successful and do well… my family won’t think well of me, nor love me. They’ll tut-tut and shake their heads and look down their noses at me because I’m a failure.
I will disappoint them.
Back in 2004, I was so overwhelmed by a myriad of experiences – coming to terms with the loss of my fiancé, coming to terms with the loss of my life and friends in Whistler, coming to terms with the loss of my mental health – that all I could focus on was getting through each day. I didn’t have any internal resources for looking deeper and understanding what underlying beliefs had been triggered by by experiences – like the belief that my family loving me hinged on me being successful.
I didn’t notice that as I got my feet back on the ground I immediately swung into hyper-productive mode, motivated by this unconscious desire to be Successful so I could be Loved and so avoid the feelings of disappointing my family.
Thanks to hyper-productive mode, in 2005 only, I wrote a non-fiction book and submitted it to the Ashton Wylie Awards, I pitched a TV show to a local network and I pitched articles to local and international magazines and newspapers. While working. And healing. Anything I could possibly do well, I seized upon it.
Not because there was an innate creative expression flowing through me, but because I was trying desperately to prove to my family that I was a success so I could be loved.
And everything – all of it! – was therefore fuelled by a fear of failure. I was running hard as I could from the fear, because I didn’t want to go there. Problem was, my strengths of commitment and perseverance meant that I was also unconsciously ingraining a program into my psyche – fear of failure – even as I was starting up and launching a myriad of creative projects.
Including The Yoga Lunchbox.
This website was founded on that fear of failure – unconsciously I was trying to prove that I was good at something, that I could succeed, that I was someone, that I was worthy of love.
Success equals love.
No success means disappointing people. Letting people down. And not being loved.
A few weekends ago, I had an opportunity to be with family. One of my Aunts asked me what my third book was about.
Romantic relationships, I said.
She snorted with laughter.
‘Because you’re so good at them!’
I knew she didn’t mean to be cruel.
I knew she didn’t know how much that could have hurt me.
I knew she didn’t know about the journey I’ve been on with relationships over the last decade, nor about the relationship I’m now in with Ben Ralston (yes, we’ve finally gone public).
There was a flicker of a shadow of that old hurt, as I calmly responded, focusing on staying heart-open.
‘No, I haven’t been, in the past.’
It was the truth. And I stood in it, as the conversation moved on.
This was why I’ve been feeling terrified since moving back to Glenorchy – a move I felt called to make to write this third book, Love’s Shadows.
My family doesn’t like my gypsy lifestyle and I knew this move was going to disappoint them. Coming here, knowing I was yet again disappointing my family, triggered that terror – the one I didn’t fully feel back in 2004, when I was FIRST in GY. That they wouldn’t love me.
But in that conversation with my Aunt, I knew that it didn’t matter. She does love me, even if she doesn’t understand me and is judgemental about my choices. And even more than that, I am strong enough now to survive without the love of my family.
When I was growing up, my parents and my aunts and uncles all seemed like such Goddesses and Gods. I admired and respected them deeply. They led interesting, courageous and powerful lives and I secretly hoped that I would grow up to be like them.
Unknowingly, I had put them on a pedestal.
Now, I see them for the fullness of who they are – their strengths and their weaknesses, their shadows and their light.
No longer do I crave their approval.
Well, ok, I would still really like that approval… but I can live without it. Mostly, I can live without it unconsciously driving my actions.
Thirteen years I’ve spent running from a fear of failure, trying desperately to prove I was successful so I could be loved.
All I had to do, way back in 2004, was to sit still and feel the truth of my experience.
But I didn’t know that then.
I didn’t have the insight back then.
I didn’t have the internal resources.
This time around, back in Glenorchy, feeling the same fear, I had a chance to redo the past, and so create a different future for myself.
And in doing so, I’ve finally excavated and uninstalled an old programme from childhood that no longer serves me.
Success does not equal love.
Love is unconditional, it is exists whether we are successful, or whether our lives implode completely.
It sees no difference between the two. Both are just experiences, both are just rides in the great theme park of life.
I’m no longer afraid of failure.
Now, about that fear of success…
A Detailed Process on How to Work with Fear (Or Other Challenging Emotions)