When I think about my character defects, I generally try to relate them back to the seven deadly sins. This keeps me from coming up with more character defects than I can possibly work on. For example: I’m constantly late for work. Being late in and of itself is not a defect of character – it’s merely the way that my character defects affect my behavior. In looking at my constant lateness, I can drill down to two things: pride and sloth.
Pride, insofar as I feel I’m so special and do so much good work that I don’t need to show up at work when I’m supposed to. I consider myself above the rules. Now, I don’t think “I’m above the rules, so I can show up to work whenever I want” – but I stay up later than I should blogging and messing around on various social media outlets. What I’m doing is putting my personal desires and pursuits ahead of my responsibilities. To a certain extent, this indicates a lack of respect for my job, and maybe even my co-workers. Again, these are not explicit thoughts that I have, but my actions imply them.
Sloth, in that I’d rather lie in bed, hitting the snooze bar for an hour, than wake up when my alarm goes off. That’s just plain lazy.
Over the past few days, my considerations of my character defects (an ongoing effort) have led me to focus specifically on pride and fear. Fear itself is not necessarily a defect of character – it’s more of a catalyst, something that causes me to be more likely to act out on my defects of character.
Pride – in all its various incarnations – and its children, rationalization and self-justification is a constant struggle for me. It guides me subtly to places I don’t want to be – mentally and emotionally.
Fear gets me there faster.
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about fear of success and fear of failure. I have both. And I can tell you that both were instilled in me mostly by my father. (Have no fear, I’ll not get into a discussion of my Oedipus Complex here.) Teachers and male role models have also installed these buttons in me. I’m not going to lay this all at the feet of my father.
I’m the eldest of three children. When I was young, it was impressed upon me that I shouldn’t “outshine” my siblings. Failure was also not tolerated in my childhood household – nor, really, here in America (land of capitalists).
So I’m afraid of doing too well at something, because by doing so I’m necessarily doing better than someone else, and that’s not good for their feelings or development.
I’m also afraid of not succeeding, which translates into a kind of perfectionism on my part. Growing up, someone was always pointing out how I could have done something better. Whatever their intentions, I translated this to mean that I had failed at my task (in however small a way, failure is still failure).
The enemy of good is perfection.
When I dream (and remember what I dream), I usually dream about some sort of inability to succeed. For example, I’m running away from or toward something, but I just can’t seem to make my legs go faster. They’re just so tired. I know I’m well-rested and should be able to increase my speed, but I just can’t.
Or I’ll be in a fight with something and just can’t seem to hit it hard enough – or I simply won’t decapitate it, even though I know full well that my sword is long and sharp enough and that I have the skill to do so.
For the most part, when I’m dreaming, I know I’m dreaming. But for whatever reason, I never give myself cool super-powers; I never think “hey, I’m dreaming, why don’t I fly around for a bit?” (Sometimes I’m telekinetic, though – but only a little bit.) Being predominantly right-brained, my dreams are more holistic and deal with emotions – feelings – than actions.
Last night I dreamt that I was playing soccer on a team against a much superior team. There was no way that we could possibly win. We decided to go balls-to-the-wall and play as hard as we could, even though winning was impossible. When I woke up (or the dream ended), I think the score was like 2-1 (us).
I scored one of the goals. It wasn’t pretty or fancy or perfect, but it was a goal. In another attempt, I hesitated and hit the post.
I played soccer from elementary through high school – on school and club teams – and I don’t think I ever scored except in practice. It was an entirely new feeling for me.
So I think my dream indicates a kind of moving-forward for me, mentally and emotionally. My dad has a coffee mug on his desk that says “You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don’t Take”. And that’s exactly what I was like growing up. I never took any shots – mostly out of fear. Fear of success (that I’d be part of the reason why someone on the other team felt like a loser) and fear of failure (that I had to take the perfect shot in order to score). Pride plays more of a part in the former. Again, these are more subconscious thoughts than conscious ones.
I think my dream last night is an indication that I’m not so much afraid of failure or success as I used to be. That I’m more willing to take the shots than I’ve been in the past – whether I miss them or not. I can’t score if I don’t shoot.
If you’re giggling to yourself now, saying “heheee: he said ‘score‘,” well…so am I (a little), but sex isn’t all I think about.