I Am Afraid of What You Will Think of Me

I am afraid. Terrified, really.

I am afraid that I’m failing. Afraid that my business will not grow, and that it’s my fault. I am afraid that the people in the best position to help me succeed don’t really understand what I do. And how could they? I have not explained it to them very well, if at all. I certainly have not endeavored to show them what I do. I am afraid to show them.

I am afraid to ask for help. Afraid to ask people I care about to pay hard-earned money for the service I provide. Afraid that I will offend them by asking or disappoint them by not earning the price of my work.

I am afraid to commit. Afraid to work tirelessly at a goal that I cannot clearly envision, let alone tangibly grasp. Afraid that I am wasting my time; terrified that I’m wasting others’ time.

As a result, I am ashamed. Ashamed of being a 38-year-old husband and father of two who does not earn enough income to support his family. Of being an adult son who still regularly seeks and accepts financial support from his father. I am ashamed of my shame, and that even it has not motivated me to do more to fill in some of our financial gaps.

I am afraid to admit all of this, especially what I’m going to tell you next.

I love my life. I would not trade it for anyone’s.

I am surrounded by people who love and support me. I have brilliant, curious, hilarious daughters who never cease to amaze me. My wife is an inspirational force of nature and my best friend. I have a good relationship with my parents, who have a wonderful relationship with my wife and kids. I have siblings and friends I can count on and I do work I love with people I care about.

You see, no matter what my successes, my comforts, my areas of strength and confidence, there is a voice inside my head, an inner critic, who questions whether it’s all worth it. He suspects I am not making a real difference, doubts that I have anything unique to offer, criticizes all of my shortcomings and warns that the world is about to realize what a fraud I really am.

When I indulge the inner critic and accept that he speaks for me, I am paralyzed, helpless and afraid. When I resent him and fight him, I grow irritable and take it out on the last people I would ever want to hurt. But when I see him for what he is—simply a part of my mind, my automated self-defense system, operating exactly as he is designed to—I am grateful and I am empowered to act, notwithstanding his message.

I can thank him, let him know I appreciate his work, and assure him that, at least for the next few minutes, I will not be requiring his services. I can then throw caution to the wind and do something that just might matter.

My inner critic would never let me publish this. He would insist that this stuff doesn’t matter and that, in any event, it is best to keep these sorts of things “in house.”

But he’s on his coffee break, and what he doesn’t know won’t kill him.

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