Acknowledgement is Only the First Step

It is now not only possible but positively encouraged to talk about (and often celebrate) topics that used to be carefully kept out of view.

Failure, famously, became modish to the point of absurdity. (I recall reading that so-called “failure porn” is metaphorically perfect: it bears as much resemblance to the real thing as regular porn.)

Next up might be impostor syndrome. As with failure, that’s good as far as it goes — now that we can accept it in speech, we can begin to accept it in ourselves, and feel less alone in our experience. And if that leads to somewhat less bluster, bombast, or isolation in the world, three cheers.

The challenge with this dualistic thinking is that it becomes a crutch. First, there’s you, afraid. Then, you’re able to distinguish between yourself and your fear (“this is me; that’s my fear”). But if you stop there, it’s easy to get stuck.

The essential next step is to re-integrate: “I feel fear and it is real, but it’s not me and I’m not it.” Or, better, as Roz Zander writes, switch but for and: “I’m afraid, and I’m in charge.”

We are none of us either our failures nor our emotions. But it’s not enough to talk about them if we still let them talk us out of being our selves and doing our work. We can talk about them and move ahead with them, too.