He insisted that I hate to fail. I insisted that's not true, as evidenced by the fact that I'm pretty much one big, walking, generalized failure, and why that is not evident to absolutely everyone around me is beyond me. I'm revising the previous to post to say that I left the conversation feeling like this person cared about me, and feeling like I had some serious thinking to do about my own attitudes.
I've thought about this conversation a lot. Do I really hate to fail? I don't know. I seem to have a complicated, love-hate relationship with failure. I know for a fact that I'm terrified of being thought of as stupid, although something in me that will not die firmly believes that I am. I'm equally terrified of being thought of as smart, successful. Who needs that sort of pressure? I can't live up to that. I would like some sort of comprise--like total invisibility to the rest of the world. Yes. That would do nicely, thank you.
I think that what comes across as a terror of failure is actually a compulsive need to prove to myself that I'm not stupid, that I can function, that I can be normal, that I can handle whatever is thrown at me, that I can take it. I was considered a net loss pretty much at birth--I never learned how to truly succeed, so whatever successes I do rack up, I find impossible to take joy in. I can't internalize them. I can only sigh with relief, thinking that here's another bullet dodged, but next time--next time, my inherent incompetence will be revealed. I'm always just one step away from being exposed as the imposter that I am. They will find out all about me, the whole, terrible truth, and the gig will be up.
Then, I'll have to resort to my Plan B--becoming a high-rise window washer. I'm good at cleaning things, and I'm not afraid of heights. It would be a pure, simple life--breathing in the fresh air, squeegy-ing the windows, allowing a little more blue sky into the isolated, glassed-in lives of nature-starved but high-flying executives. You know--successes.