Monday, November 16, 2009

Fun With Atichyphobia

No, I didn't catch something from eating unpasteurised cheese, I'm just trying to rationalise my Fear of Poverty And Failure ("FOPF").

It's becoming both a cliche and a truism, in my view, that the FOPF in a person is proportional to their grades in school. Better grades, more FOPF. Worse grades, less FOPF. Except maybe for me, my grades were fairly mediocre once I discovered boys but my FOPF factor is and has always been really really OTT.

Especially now when I'm at a bit of a crossroad situation and trying to figure things out. How much does a person need to think before they make a decision? And is this before or after their head explodes. I have always faulted myself for not thinking hard enough before I reach a business decision - this time I'm really trying to make a decision only after seeing the pros and cons from every single angle, and even then I wonder.

Decision A - means I will have to, for once, take some fairly substantial risks financially.

Decision B - no financial risk, but it comes with its own cons too.

But the biggest thing about Decision A, she said, finally getting to the point, is that I have to inform my mother that I'm making Decision A. I will have to take the risk that she will look at me and the expression on her face will read something between horror and disappointment. Or rather, she will be squarely in horror territory, but within 100metres of reaching disappointment and finding a place for long-term parking. Shortly thereafter, all the relatives on my mother's side would be informed through a series of hysterical phone calls, and within a day or two, I will get a call from one of my favorite aunts, asking in sad haunted tones if I will be able to make ends meet and do I need any money to buy food for the children.

All my life I have felt like failure was not an option, and that, whilst a certain sibling of mine is free to walk the earth unemployed, shirtless and unshaven, unencumbered by pride or responsibility, it would be a grave disappointment to my mother if I should fail to show a stellar performance in anything I should try my hand at. In response, I severely limit the number of things I try my hand at that she knows about. Anyone who's played pool with me would suspect I might have some issues - I treat every shot like the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

I think about passing these values on to my children and I weigh the pros and cons. FOPF means they will, by default, end up reasonably successful having taken minimal financial risks and always career planning. Plodding along, working hard, doing reasonably well and being comfortable. They would also be pretty good at pool. No FOPF could mean crashing failure at some point(s), and if we look at real life examples within the family tree, a permanent establishment in the parental home with a mother who will chop his vegetables in teeny tiny little pieces so that her 34 year old son will not have to chew too much.

Is it all in my mind? I don't think so. We were not created equal, my siblings and I. Some of us are not given the option of failure, some of us are allowed to fail. And whilst I don't spend much time wondering what people think of me generally, I look around me during family reunions and all I see are mirrors.


At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if it makes you feel better, I have FOPF too, and while I have no siblings to compete with, it's more to do with ego and comfort levels.

I don't like "making do" options, so it's either make the best out of things, or nothing at all.

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i actually think this is a very singaporean characteristic.

that's why we so much less entrepreneurial than the chinese/taiwanese.

i say just go with the heart and not so much about the head!

At 11:53 PM, Blogger expat@large said...

I have FOPMP. Fear of pooing my pants. Probably also because of my mother. Or Sister Mary Briga.


If you play me in pool you WILL fail!

(Or Indy who is actually better than me, but don't tell him I told you so.)

At 7:13 AM, Blogger mariposa said...

Are you thinking of being a SAHM?

If so, to me, this is not 'failure' but a 'higher calling', and I'm daily thankful for the privilege that I can afford to be one.

For myself I have long rejected any form of expectations from my parents. In my mind, the moment I got my professional degree, I feel I have paid my dues to them and thereafter I can do with it however I please.

My sense of success or failure is long divorced from professional milestones, but rather more rooted in things like what kind of childhood my kids will remember. Even in this I have to take into consideration that when they reach the teen years, there is a high possibility they will go through a fairly typical phase where no matter how well I have done, I will still fall short in their eyes. Nonetheless, I am perhaps striving for a state in which there will be little I will regret as not having done where my kids are concerned.

I always try to keep in mind that barring the unexpected, my kids will always outlive me and will always have the last word in about me. Hence I try to do my best by them.


At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly as you said, you have come to a cross road, which means a decision has to be made. As both ptions have their fair share of pros and cons, the best you can do is to decide which set of pros and cons you can deal with with or be happiest with. Life is no bed of roses, we all take risks every day with the desicions we make at work, at play at home ... bottom line is no matter the decision, you are a survivor ... you just 2nd guess yourself too much ... but in the end, you know you will be fine with the decision you have to make.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Earthtone said...

I have the same guess as mariposa.

I made the swithch last year and feel comfortable. Mothering adds to the job experience. Do we stop growing as a person when we stop working? That's what I'm gonna say in my future interview.

Children so young should have their mom with them. And as moms, we have a natural urge to care for our own offsprings. Can't fight mother nature.

Be forewarned though, SAHM is a very new, demanding job with steep learning curve. Perfectionism gets a wake-up call.

I hope you finally decide to care for the kids ( then I can stop reading balckberry stories and power meetings which make me feel small :P ), I mean, do what the mom in you think is the right thing. Good luck!

At 6:19 PM, Blogger DilettanteP said...

Hi Smoot,

That's the problem with being the oldest child and living up to expectation. PLUS you are a lawyer, which means you tend to rationalise and over analyse and get bogged down by the nitty gritty... guess that's how you make a living...

I say, DO IT whatever it is! (are you thinking of turning into a pro photographer or stay at home mum????)

Whatever it is, you only live once (and I know it sounds cliche). PLUS the fact that you have 2 young kids and a hectic career working FOR someone else isn't really the way to go... why push for other pp's agenda when it's probably more satisfying to mind your own biz??? Plus your children will grow up before too long...

My folks eventually let me do it my way after giving up a seemingly good corporate career. Although I used to think I had the FOPF, now I am heaps happier even though the bank account is depleting... but I KNOW that I will make the $ back because I have faith in my abilities and passion for life!

U go gal!

At 11:03 PM, Blogger marke said...

Go for it, whatever it is. Otherwise one day you will be 51 years old wondering if you really did do the right thing taking the safe road....

At 12:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SAHM = Sexy And Hot Mamma?

That's so cool, aint bad decision at all. In fact, I think it's the best job in the world!

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Smoot,

there are always tradeoffs in every decision we make as you would have known by now. I suggest giving yourself a deadline of sorts (off the top of my head, 3 - 6 months?) to reach your decision. As a new mummy again, it's sometimes tempting to "give it all up for my babe" (after all, the babe's only young and helpless once? and why in the world am I working so hard for??) but I suggest to give some time for the rose-tinted glasses to be removed. During this time, speak to people who have gone down either path or considered a differing permutation (part-time? freelance?). That should help?
Best of luck!

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Err... not to be a spoiler or anything .... but I believe the spelling for that very big word used for fear of failure is Atychiphobia.

At 11:19 PM, Blogger gremlin said...

do I look like a failure to u? ;p

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