Have you ever had the experience of wanting something, imagining something, craving to be a part of something, work and work to get there, and when you do, feel just a little let down, or unsure that you even want it anymore? Imagine you’re taking a trip to the Grand Canyon: you’ve thought about it, imagined it, Pinned all of the images of all of the views, saved your money, bought the ticket, and finally put it all into action – only to show up, question “is this it?” and think “oh; here it is. Guess we can go for tacos now.”
There is this natural and backward feeling “phenomenon” that tends to happen to many of us when we finally get what we want, and what we’ve been waiting for: we freak the f*** out. And it doesn’t feel “great.”
Our freak out can come in many forms: self-doubt, boredom, imposter syndrome, and my personal favourite and longtime default reaction to good things happening, self-sabotage. You see it in athletes who achieve major league success, and start to self-destruct with substance abuse, you see it in celebrities who burn too hot too fast and fall apart with doubt over their creative abilities, and I bet you see it a lot closer to home in your own life too.
You’ll recognize it because the freak out tends to show up just as something good – and likely something great – is happening in your life:
+ you struggle for years with infertility and the many layers that go with it, get approved in the adoption process or have success with IVF – then start to resent your baby
+ you work and work to build your brand and career, start to realize the strides you’ve made professionally, then find ways to push back deadlines, under deliver on projects and ultimately start to tank the progress you’ve made so far
+ you battle weight gain and body image, find a fitness and nutrition plan that suits your lifestyle, start to see the results you’ve been waiting for – and promptly binge on a whole whack of foods that you know will undo your hard work
+ you hope and pray for the partner of your dreams, they finally show up and make you feel seen, heard, loved, appreciated, safe, and secure – so naturally you push them away and start to run screaming in the opposite direction, listing “all the reasons” this won’t work.
We are a strange breed, my lovely, a very strange breed. This kind of a reaction usually stems from a dark and shadowy place that many of us – even the most self-aware of us – aren’t fully aware exists. And the painful part can be that this dark and shadowy place tricks us into believing something we can see with our own eyes isn’t true, but just can’t seem to convince ourselves of otherwise.
You see, even if you’ve done “the work” and practice a deep love of self, there can be some icky, and damn near painful, subconscious beliefs that start to rear their ugly head when things start to go well for you. That’s the voice that pops us when you’re thiiiiis close to getting what you want, and tells you on some visceral level “this is not for you,” and makes it feel as if you are being forced into acting in a self-destructive way. I had a friend (who had a Ph.D. in psychology) who told me that anytime one of our internal systems changes, we go through a massive transition, and as you likely know by now, transition is painful and hard – it’s an adaptation for us as we move from what was true in our lives, to what is true in our lives, and it’s uncomfortable AF.
When he told me this, I think I rolled my eyes and protested in doubt – because how is it possible that we could react negatively to something so positive? Well, it turns out it’s very possible.
I’ve written a lot about fear before, and about establishing patterns of behaviour in our earliest years; in those early years, we create attachments that are either secure or insecure, and those inform the patterns of behaviour we engage in for the rest of our lives, until we consciously choose to do otherwise. And if you are someone who developed an insecure attachment as your baseline pattern, then what feels healthy, normal, and good to you is very likely unhealthy, dysfunctional, and bad for you. No pressure, right?
The issue with having an insecure attachment is often that unless a person, environment, situation, or experience causes you to feel a little uneasy, like you might be rejected at any moment, that you’re probably not good enough to have whatever it is you’re having, and you sure as hell aren’t worth the time, energy, or effort someone or something is awarding you, you will feel a little out of your element. Because in the presence of these (hella dysfunctional) feelings, it allows you to look for and complete your confirmation bias that yes, you are in fact, unworthy of love and attention. And that – as f***ed up as it sounds – is what keeps your subconscious brain feeling happy and satisfied. That is the pattern of baseline security it has always known, even though it isn’t healthy, and that is where it wants to stay.
So when you, my magical creature, have the audacity to dream, act courageously with intention and bravery, explore, create, inspire, love, be loved, and stand with confidence and pride in your truth, your subconscious brain engages you with the tantrum of a lifetime. This is your subconscious mind’s way of begging and pleading with you desperately to stay in the space it knows intimately – even if that space is what keeps you underwhelmed and unhappy, feeling like you’re constantly walking in circles, unable to find the thing you’ve been searching for.
Told you – we’re a very strange breed.
What’s more, if you are even the least bit self-reflective about your thoughts and feelings, on top of the tantrum your ego is having on the inside, you’ll likely see how actually crazy it is that you’re freaking out about something good happening. And when you are aware at the absurdity of freaking out over something good happening, you’ll likely start to experience those big and powerful feelings of shame to go on top of it all: “who am I to have these feelings? I’m upset about my success? I finally meet the man of my dreams and now I’m not so sure I want this at all? I just invested two years of my life writing a book that I don’t even want to publish anymore?? What the f*** is wrong with me??” So now, on top of battling the fear of being “found out” as afraid, and of rejection, and of loss of self and identity, you’re dealing with shame – easily the most destructive feeling we can experience.
How do we move through this? How do we face the fear of getting what we want? The good news is that you’re already here and reading this. The good news is that if this resonates at all with you in any way, you are already naming the thoughts, fears, and feelings you’re having, and that, my darling, is a great thing. Brene Brown says that “shame thrives in secrecy,” so by naming your experience, and sharing it with your journal, a trusted friend or therapist, you are already attacking the negative patterns and behaviour that are hell-bent on making you their bitch, and taking back your own power.
The challenging – but critical – thing to remember here is that those old patterns and beliefs are not real. Read that again, my lovely: those old patterns and beliefs are not real. You are allowed to write your own story and create your own life and your own narrative – in fact, I would argue that to live a truly engaged and enlightened life, it’s your responsibility to write your own story, and stop letting your past control your future.
Talking to a therapist or coach is an excellent support to face these fears, and to come to terms with your worth and magnitude of significance. The only person who can convince you of this is you, and ultimately it is you who needs to do the legwork and the undoing of the old patterns – but seeking out support as you do so will have you standing beside your own Grand Canyon, tacos in hand, taking in the resplendence and the wonder that you alone are worthy of.