April 1, 2014

Are You Sabotaging Your Success with Upper Limit Problems?


I had been prepared for failure, of course.

The fear of failure rises and falls like the tide in my mind, washing, coloring, rinsing my thoughts. When the old familiar fear bubbles up, I breathe into the feeling and analyze the sensation of it, noticing the textures and locations that it embodies.

It looks like this: “Interesting, today I feel a tightening in the center of my chest.” I’ve learned how to manage the fear of failure and keep moving forward, often pressing up against the fear in an effort to move past it—like nudging your way out of a hot, crowded subway car.

We spend hours and precious seconds collectively analyzing and bracing ourselves against the fear of failure, when what we’re often painfully ill-equipped to handle is success.

Upper Limit Problems: the almost paralyzing blanket of self-doubt, criticism and unworthiness that creeps up out of success.

Does this sound familiar to you? That thing, you know, the very thing that you’d been wishing and a-hoping and a-praying for finally comes through (the big promotion, the first private yoga client, your first yoga class at a major studio, landing a huge contract, writing the book, falling in love, giving birth) and after the immediate euphoria wears off there’s a feeling that starts to creep in.

A feeling that you might not be the right person for the task. A feeling that you’re really an imposter—not ready, not clever, experienced, skilled, beautiful, talented or smart enough.

In short: you’ll fuck it up, everyone will laugh at you/hate you and then you’ll die of shame.

When I first started teaching yoga, my teeny tiny classes didn’t make me enough money to pay my bus fare, let alone my rent, so I waited tables. At night I used to have these intricate waitressing nightmares where the restaurant would suddenly have four floors and I’d have 137 open tables that all needed their water refilled. Bosses would shout things like “Table seven has been waiting for five hours to order the food!”

Those dreams always remind me of Upper Limit Problems. Trying to manage success when our dreams actually do come true can feel truly overwhelming and scary.

What makes this especially tricky is that we’re not taught how to openly communicate our fear without feeling guilty or worried that the world will perceive us as ungrateful. This usually takes the form of, “I’m so lucky that X has happened to me, if I confess that I’m scared right now I’ll totally come across as spoiled and ungrateful.”

I know this feeling and it can be a lonely place to operate from. When a professional success happened to me recently—something I had been really dreaming about and manifesting hardcore—I thanked the universe and did a happy dance of joy! It was the aftermath of self-doubt and self-sabotage that crept in that left me reeling and wondering if I was indeed capable of following through and accepting the blessing that I had worked so hard for.

Upper Limit Problems can creep into unexpected situations, like when you accidentally oversleep on the morning of an important meeting, or come down with a cold before you give a speech. Self-sabotaging behavior stems from a shaky belief in our own capability, magnificence, brilliance and most of all our worthiness to receive the success that is coming our way.

I received a card the other day from a close friend and in it was a quote that read, “All your dreams are already coming true.” Happening, manifesting, boarding the plane, picking up their bags at baggage claim, getting into the taxi, ringing your doorbell.

The next step is up to you.

When your dream arrives on your doorstep, how will you greet it? Will you swing open the door, pull it in by its shirt and give it a passionate kiss or will you turn off the porch-light, dive into the covers and pretend you’re not home?

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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wiki Commons

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