I suspect this isn’t necessary. It’s probably obvious from my writing: I’m afraid of my own shadow.

Not everything scares me, just every time I open myself to any kind of judgement. It’s the reason why I’ve rarely commented on news stories or blogs that I read. In the last year I’ve tried to change that a little, challenging myself to take a risk (like leaving a comment on a news item on Newsvine is some great big risk). I’ve done reasonably well at work for 12 years, working with angry/frustrated/despondent (take your pick) parents in child support cases that bounce back and forth between court hearings… so why should I be so afraid of all of you?

Well, if you’ve been here a few times I’m probably not really afraid of you. Sometimes it’s liberating to pretend to be more self confident than I really am, making assertions I’d never have the confidence to make in a room full of anonymous people. But you’re a known quantity (sort of). You’re kind. It’s that vast sea of total strangers that I fear. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? Why should I care what strangers think? It’s almost completely irrational, and yet there it is.

I posted a comment the other night that I was sure would either get me my head handed back on a platter, or would be dismissed for saying nothing new. (It hasn’t escaped me that it’s a bit odd to be afraid of both.) Again, why do I care? I don’t know any of them. They don’t know me. It’s crazy. A part of me knows that my comments will most likely be seen for what they are: just one more opinion out of many. My words are not wholly original, but not without a small piece of merit either. If that small piece of me could convince the rest, I’d be o.k. with that. I don’t harbor fanciful dreams of renown or influence. I’m not ambitious; I’m satisfied with being average. That probably doesn’t sit well with motivational speakers or publishers pushing “success manuals,” but so be it. So why am I so afraid?

You know what? Maybe it’s not the comment I posted that really has me concerned. A couple of the tools I’ve worked on at the office have been distributed statewide, but only a few of my closest coworkers have used them locally. Ah, but on Friday we’re rolling out a database that most of the service center local office will touch at some point, and many will rely on it daily (minute by minute). And you guessed it, it’s 100 percent me. This week (tomorrow) I’m training everyone. Friday it’ll get a trial run, and I’m sure I’ll start to hear the grumbles, but I’m expecting the damn to burst on Monday. There are over a hundred people at my office, and starting Monday I’m the database guy… for better or worse. This distinction could be a crown or a noose. The crown would be nice, but praise always seems so fleeting. Being known as a fool tends to stick. I’m hoping the noose will be loose.

And you know what’s even worse? Some people have seen it, and they’re talking it up like it’s the next killer app. It’s freaking bad enough I’ve got to overcome self-doubt… now I’ve got to overcome unrealistically high expectations too? Every time I turn around someone is heaping praise, and ratcheting up expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I know they mean well. A lot of people would be reassured by this – you know, the early praise. Alas, I fear my only hope is the natural lack of faith in management decree… and that expectations are not as high as I fear.

By the way, sorry about putting you through another pity party. You’ve gotta wonder why someone would complain so much. At some point you have to wonder why the person doesn’t do something about it. Personally, I wonder if low self esteem is analogous to drug addiction or alcoholism. There certainly seems to be a correlation between them, although I’m fortunate that they seem to have no appeal to me. I bring them up because I’ve heard that overcoming addictions require constant, never ending effort. It’s hard to imagine low self esteem being addictive – there’s nothing pleasant about it. But like addiction, I suspect there’s a genetic or biological component; and overcoming it means fighting your body’s “natural state.” Like much of medicine, there are remedies that can treat the symptoms: exercise, healthy diet, and as a last resort – medication. But I wonder if I’m left with the underlying disease, prone to flare-ups whenever the triggers become stronger than my arsenal of symptom suppressors.

I do try to believe in myself. I try self affirming exercises. I try to remember personal achievements. I think of the things I have and try to remember how lucky I am. I try new things and I take a few (moderate) risks. And yet there are still days like these when I have a weak moment and it all comes crashing down.

I may not say it often enough, or well enough to express my gratitude, but I really appreciate all of you. Your comments here, and the kind words some of you have shared in person, do not go unnoticed. It’s reassuring to me, seeing that I can overcome a little bit of my fear. It shows me more than my own capacity for change, but that perhaps the big, scary, and at times fatally flawed world out there can change a little too.

I’m happy to say this exercise has made me feel better. You have my apologies if it’s had the opposite effect on you.

I was reading a few old entries that made me feel a little better. Maybe you’ll like them better too.

On behalf of mankind, we welcome you to Earth

Not so fine print

Give the gift of words.