Strange Reaction to Success

(Originally published Mar. 21, 2007).

People often tell me that I project confidence. I’m glad I do, truly. Sometimes I even feel confident. More often, though, I don’t, but plow ahead in spite of insecurity.

This week, I found myself nose-to-nose with a disturbing lack of confidence, which caused me to pose an interesting question to myself: Why do I find it so difficult to accept accolades, especially when I crave them the way an addict craves the mind-altering substance of choice?

A few months ago, when friends warned me that a book release was an incredibly time-consuming proposition, they didn’t mention was how uncomfortable all the attention would make me feel.

How could they possibly warn me? I don’t think my reaction is normal. Or, then again, maybe it is.

Please don’t misunderstand. The release of my first book is a wonderful, heady time of my life — planning a book launch, approaching local establishments for book signings, developing promotional materials (flyers and invitations), acquiring addresses, sending out individual invitations, answering and tracking responses, approaching the local newspaper for press coverage, sending notices of my book release to out-of-towners, planning a private party for close friends, and much, much more.

Response to my announcements and invitations has been overwhelming. Some people have even cancelled other engagements to attend my launch.

So why do I feel so uncomfortable? Why is my stomach in a knot? Why can’t I glory in my success?

Over the last few days, I’ve given my strange reaction a lot of thought.

I believe it all boils down to a deep-seated feeling of unworthiness, a remnant of childhood, a feeling I thought I had dealt with long ago. Obviously, there are still some more layers to pull back.

My head knows I am worthy, but my heart … not so much.

Upon analysis, I decided that the most obvious reason for my discomfort is that I hate being the center of attention, especially at a personal level. All those people gathered together especially for me, all the attention focussed on my accomplishments — good grief, I’m getting squirmy just thinking about it.

At a deeper level, I made another self-discovery. I feel that I am imposing myself on other people’s busy lives to celebrate and, let’s face it, to sell a very personal product — my book. A book I have poured my heart and soul into for three years.

What if people buy my book and don’t like it?

What if I’ve wasted not only their time, but also their money?

What if people feel I’m imposing on our friendship?

Bottom line, what if people don’t like me? (Aha, now there’s some juicy food for thought).

When I mentioned my misgivings to a friend, she pointed out that my twisted thoughts were totally irrational (I already knew that). All my friends are thrilled for me, and are eager to celebrate my success. She also said I was an inspiration to others and that my accomplishments are worthy of recognition.

When I hung up the phone, I realized I would be delighted to celebrate someone else’s success with champagne and chocolate.

Surely, I deserve the same consideration from myself.