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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fear of...

It seems like such a simple choice, really.

So, time to talk about fears again. Seems like I'm doing that all the time.

But I've found that one of the truths of my life is that my fears do a lot more steering of my life's boat than I do. And I would like for that to no longer be true.

At one point, I'm relatively certain, I've spoken about the importance of acknowledging our fear. If I haven't, here it is in a nutshell, using the example of an audition or performance.

Walking into an audition or performance, trying to hide the fact that we're nervous, is a recipe for disaster. But when I not only acknowledge that I'm afraid, but WHY I'm afraid, things get better. The fear never goes away entirely, but it does diminish.

One of the fears we have going into an audition or performance is that we'll fail. We care so much about acting, and the terror of falling flat on our faces is almost crippling. And that's a real fear.

In another way, it isn't really. Because no matter how amazing our performance or audition is, it won't be perfect. And no matter how bad, there is more than likely some small gem in there somewhere, if you look hard enough for it. It really depends on where our focus is. If we're looking for the bad, we'll find it. Conversely... well, you get the idea.

Thing is, that's not what I'm talking about today. What I want to talk about is something far more challenging, I think. And also something far less obvious.

I want to talk about the fear of success.
No, no. You keep that filthy lucre to yourself, moneybags.

That's right. You did not misread that statement.

Some of you read that and said, "YES. That is EXACTLY what I'm afraid of. Thank you so much for articulating it." Others looked, scratched their heads and went, "Huh?"

How can we be afraid of success? Isn't that what we want? What we're shooting for? Don't we long for it with every fiber of our being?

Turns out, the answer to that last question is a resounding, "No." Because if that weren't the case, we'd already be successful.

We are powerful creatures, we humans. Capable of changing the world around us in massive, sometimes terrifying ways. We are not weak.

Except when we chose to be.

Okay. Enough metaphysics. The thing is, we sabotage ourselves all the time.

"But what is there to fear about success?" you might very well ask.

Well, if we're successful, then all of the sudden there's pressure to stay successful, isn't there? We start by thinking, "If I just had an agent, things would be fantastic." Then we get an agent, and from there it's, "Man, if I could just get a callback! I'm so afraid my agent's going to drop me." Then it's, "Okay, I am so SICK of day-player parts." "I'm over these guest starring roles." "Why can't I just break into film??" "What does it take to be a bona fide star?"

And finally... "How on Earth can I keep this career going?"

There's another part of it, too. Many of us are conditioned to see fame or fortune as inherently bad, as much as we may chase it.

I was struggling with my writing this last week. I mean, really struggling. I was writing, but I felt like I was slogging through molasses.

My writing partner suggested that maybe I was afraid of success. I agreed. This is something we've talked about quite a lot. She also suggested that I was afraid of money. Again, something we've talked about, although this one's harder for me. I have issues with money that I can trace back to some very specific experiences in my youth.

But even after the conversation, I was still having a tough time of it. Slogging along, hating my life, wanting to write well but convinced it would never happen. And on some level, wanting to forget it all and go back to being in real financial trouble. Because that's how miserable I was.

I was afraid of success and money, yes. But why?

And then it came to me. A flash of insight. I believed, on some fundamental level, that if I became wealthy, I would also become a bad man.

I had been taught, from an early age, two things that I had accepted as truth. One was that men were inherently evil. And the other was that wealth turned people into complete jerks.

Neither one of those statements are true.

Problem is, you can find ready examples of both. Are there men who do terrible things? Yes. Resoundingly yes. Are there wealthy people who are, for lack of a better term, jackasses? Again, most assuredly yes.

But being a man does not make me evil. Neither does being wealthy.

Wealth and success are not evil. They are tools. And when they are wielded in a conscious way, they can both achieve magnificent things.

Used unconsciously, they give us great power to destroy ourselves and others.

So the fear was... and is... real. And it's also a choice. I get to decide who I will be if I become enormously successful. And I do that on a day-in, day-out basis.

Once that came to me, I began writing faster than I ever had before. It's not like the problem is solved. I still don't love editing. Blech. And I'm sure I'll have days where it'll feel like I'm slogging along.

But I have another tool now.

So if you find that you're struggling, ask yourself if it's possible that you're afraid of success. And look at what a successful future might look like--the good AND the bad. And then figure out if you really want it, make plans on how to deal with the bad, and move forward.

And then let me know what happens. :)

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