I’m painfully ambitious.
It’s one of my greatest qualities because it’s helped me achieve goals my peers often thought impossible.
But it’s also one of my greatest pains. I keep moving countries, cities and apartments, always looking for the next amazing thing. I keep changing jobs, though not actual jobs, rather different approaches to a writing career.
In short, I always want more and actively look for it.
But as I’m growing older, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so. I have a family now, I have a mortgage, and drastic changes and big dreams must have strong logical foundations or they cannot be pursued.
In a way, I feel like I’ve distanced myself from who I really am to have a family and a little certainty.
But the other perspective is that I jump from one thing to the next because I have fears that keep me from committing to anything — location, career, relationship.
What if wanting more is a way to escape into a fantasy world where you live for and in your goals and dreams?
The irony is that it’s precisely that lack of the ability to commit which keeps people like us from achieving really amazing results.
Sure, we’re good with the short-term goals.
But when it comes to shooting for the stars, we fail.
Instead, we keep “wanting” the stars.
So, is it normal? Is it healthy? Should we do something about it? Can something be done?
It goes back to your mother.
In her book Heal Your Wounds and Find Your True Self, Lise Bourbeau talks about the five wounds of childhood that play a vital role in forming a person’s character.
Of course, they’re not the only thing that makes you who you are, but you’d be surprised how much of your fears, beliefs and behaviours are predetermined from things that happened to you when you were a child.
The five wounds are Rejection, Abandonment, Humiliation, Betrayal and Injustice.
While I encourage you to read the whole book, for the purpose of this article, I’d like to talk about the Rejection wound.
The Rejection wound develops between 0–3 months.
I’d like you to take a moment to consider this. You developed a psychological wound that still affects your decisions when you were a tiny baby.
According to some psychologists, the first 3 months of a baby’s development are best described as “the third trimester”. It’s when a baby still needs to be as connected with the mother as when he or she was in the womb. It’s when a baby is completely powerless, unable to ask for help or describe what he or she needs.
It is this helplessness that requires constant physical touch and presence: if mommy is here, then everything is alright. If she leaves me, I will die. That’s the most accurate, though rough, way to describe what’s happening in a baby’s mind at this age.
A baby literally feels like he or she is left to die if there’s no one around to instantly respond to his or her needs.
Now, my mom is the cool type of mom. I love her, she’s taught me so much and we have a lot of fun together. We’re best friends.
But she’s not the baby-person type of mom. I know because I see her with my baby and toddler now. She tries, bless her, and is always here to help with anything she can, but it’s not her thing to hold and swing babies back and forth all day long.
Your mom could be something completely different and you could still have the same trauma: maybe you had to spend a few days in an incubator when you were born, maybe you had older brothers and sisters who also needed attention, maybe your mom read an outdated book and thought she was doing the best for you by “not spoiling you”.
Either way, if you didn’t get what you needed as a gorgeous little baby (and you were gorgeous, I guarantee it!), it comes back to haunt you in the form of a Rejection wound.
Rejected people spend a lot of time in dreamland.
For the likes of us, fantasy is way better than reality. It’s much less painful to always make plans for the future and pursue the next big goal than to live in the now.
I remember when this thought crossed my mind for the first time:
There’s a good chance I’ll never achieve more than what I’ve already achieved.
Wow, it’s scary to put it in writing.
But instead of running from it, which was my first instinct (“What? No! Of course, you’ll achieve more! Let’s look into…”), I allowed this to set in.
What if this was it?
Would it be that horrible?
A loving husband, two healthy boys who I adore, a comfy condo with a small yard near the beach, and writing for a living.
Is that so bad? Does it have to be Hollywood? Does it have to be J.K. Rolling’s success? Does it have to be owning a yacht?
As a part of me started to sink into gratitude for all the amazing things I already had, another part of me kept saying “Are you crazy? Why are you even wasting air if you’re going to settle for this? Why don’t you just die?”
You see? Fear of death. It always comes up when I’m too afraid to do something, or too afraid to not do it. Us, Rejected people, we fear death more than the rest. Partly, because we’ve already experienced it. That’s how it felt anyway.
What does “wanting more” really give you.
We tend to pursue difficult to impossible relationships, and then leave them. We reject the person before he or she could reject us, and because it would suck to reject someone worthy, we choose unworthy people. It’s our coping mechanism, so we repeat it again and again. I had to do a whole lot of psychological work before I managed to create a happy relationship.
But I kept my rejection-based thinking in my career. I aim for what I consider impossible so that when it doesn’t work, I don’t feel as rejected as I would have had I pursued something more realistic.
Or, if I somehow manage to get close to achieving this impossible goal, I immediately self-sabotage it with something stupid.
The great thing about the Rejection wound is it makes us more creative than the average person. We’ve created imaginary worlds to live in since we were very little.
How to keep the creativity and deal with the problem.
Always wanting more is a problem when you can’t appreciate what you have. When you can’t just relax for a while; when you don’t know how to be happy in the now.
What helped me is awareness.
First, awareness that this wound happened when I was a baby and while I had a good reason to be upset about it then, I’m absolutely able to take care of myself now.
Second, awareness that my mom loves me and that she’s always been doing the best she could. As a mother myself, I see now how easy it is to be blamed for practically every decision you take. The perfect parent doesn’t exist. I forgive my mother for not being the right type of mother for this particular stage of my life.
Third, awareness that I am enough. I am lovable. I am worthy. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.
Let me say that to you too, so that you can feel how powerful it is.
You are lovable. You are worthy. You are not a baby anymore and you can take care of yourself.
You can take the creativity that this wound has given you, and leave the fears of rejection behind.
Because you are accepted. By all of us. In fact, you are much needed.
And you are enough exactly as you are right now.
Now take some time to enjoy what you already have before you dive right into your next goal. Because I know you’ll dive into a next goal. But hopefully, you’ll approach it in a totally different way.
Which is why you’ll succeed.
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