Fear of success

I’ve been thinking about the fear of success a lot lately. I think can honestly say that I have quite a bit of this fear…in fact I’m kind of drowning in it.

I have all sorts of dreams and plans for my future and I want to make them come true. I want to find my way in the world and make a difference. Instead of making it happen I tend to just sit around and do little to nothing, instead of facing my fear and getting it done.

I’ve been asked several times what I would wish for if I had one wish and I could ask for absolutely anything. I wouldn’t ask for money, or beauty, or being skinny. Until now I’ve always answered it by saying I’d wish for the motivation and strength to do all the things I want. With enough motivation I could lose weight, I could work hard, I’d be successful…and it would all be mine, not just something given to me. Asking for money or weightloss would make me rich/skinny but I’d still have to live with myself and all my insecurities and fears…they are so much more debilitating than being overweight or broke.

Last night I realized that my problem isn’t lack of strength or motivation. I have those things, but they’re drowned out by my fear. If I were offered this one wish now, I’d ask for my fear to be taken away. It’s this fear of success that’s stopping me from really doing what I want to.

In the article I linked to at the top there are a few “symptoms” of a fear of success, such as procrastination, and negative thoughts and behaviours. I’m very familiar with these. Usually when I’m supposed to be working on my school work I put it off for hours, even days, and spend my time doing absolutely anything else. I’ll clean the kitchen from top to bottom rather than write an essay. I’ll watch movies/TV shows all evening until it’s too late to get any reading done. I’ll even procrastinate on going to bed because lack of sleep is an excuse to not get up and go to class. I’ll even sit at the library with the school books and papers right in front of me and spend hours putting together a stupid blog post on prank videos. :P

My fear is a mix of two things:

  • it’s easier to fail because I didn’t do the work than it is to fail because I wasn’t good enough. It’s like I’ve spent a large part of my life fearing that I’m actually stupid/worthless after all, even though I have more than enough evidence to tell me it’s not true.
  • my future plans are very intimidating. They involve lots of work, lots of responsibility and lots of challenges. If I don’t succeed I don’t have to worry about that. And yet, at the same time my fear of not succeeding, of being nobody, of letting myself and others down is equally paralyzing.

This tug of war between these two fears (of failing vs. succeeding) causes so much stress and strain that I have physical symptoms.

So where do I start to overcome these fears? I don’t believe this is just a personality trait. I don’t believe that it’s just that I’m lazy (I am lazy, just not this bad). I know this is a problem that can be overcome. I just don’t know how yet.

Even just writing this post is an act of procrastination. I have a paper due on Friday and I haven’t even begun working on it. Everyone procrastinates, but this is pathological.

Today I went to the University’s Counselling Service and made an appointment. I have somehow gotten away with giving in to my fears for too long now and I’m afraid that it won’t work much longer. So now I’m going to do something about it. Wish me luck?

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Lets talk about pranks

For some reason I spent a large portion of last Saturday watching videos of people torturing other people with pranks. I was hungover, that’s my excuse.

I’m not generally much of a fan of pranks. For the most part I think they’re a low form of humor, often they are humiliating for the victim and sometimes they can even be traumatic. Pranks can however be incredibly funny…if done right and thought all the way through.

One problem I have with many pranks is that they have quite a bit of potential for serious injury or even death. Anything that involves causing people to fall, such as slippery stuff on the floor, removing furniture that would break a fall (this one does make one wonder seeing as the victim seemed to have something of a death wish already) or scaring people while showering (slippery bathtubs/shower stalls anyone?) are simply spectacularly stupid. I do wonder how many people have died as a result of such pranks. I also have a problem with deliberately hurting someone simply for laughs. A swat on the ass is mostly all right. Punching someone in the face (or in this case making them hit themselves in the face), hitting people over the head with solid objects and hitting men in the balls. Not so smart. People have been known to die from head injuries (duh!) and a solid kick in the balls can be quite dangerous.

I also have a problem with pranks that all about scaring people by messing with existing fears or phobias. A real phobia is no joking matter. Using a person’s fear/phobia against them in such a way is not only not funny but also incredibly cruel. Using a real (or even fake) tarantula to prank me like this would not only probably scare me to the point of a real panic attack, but also create a serious trust issue between me and the pranker.

When planning a prank it is also important to make sure you really know the person you’re pranking. Some people find this sort of thing funny, a lot of people don’t. Some people react violently, and as in the second example sometimes they are pretty much justified. Sometimes people react badly to fairly innocent pranks.

The worst pranks though are the ones where the victims are children! I saw quite a few of those and in all of them the perpetrator was the parent. Why would parents deliberately scare their children into tears? I don’t understand. The most common ones were parents filming their children while they play games online that end with that famous picture from The Exorcist and the screaming. You know the one? Yeah. It’s cruel. Here’s one, and another one, and another one, and another one. These aren’t funny, they are horrifying. In the last one the kid is crying and the dad is still laughing!!

Then there’s this one. I can’t even begin to describe how angry this one makes me. Tricking a poor kid into thinking he’s getting an Xbox when he’s not and then laughing at his humiliation? Disgusting. Some people aren’t meant to be parents.

There was one video I saw on Saturday which really, honestly made me think “this is going to have a lasting effect”. A woman is tricked into a basement where she sees a hanging body. Who thought this was a good idea?! She’s obviously seriously traumatized!

BUT! That’s not to say that I don’t have a sense of humor. My sense of right and wrong is simply stronger. :P I did find quite a few videos hilarious. Such as the snow in the shower one, wrapping everything in pink paper one, filling the room with newspapers one, almost all water+flour ones.

Basically my message is this: pranks can be funny, if done right. A lot of the time they aren’t.

To end this all on a good note, here’s a video of laughing babies. :)

Polyamory and evolutionary psychology

I read this article about polyamorous relationships where Michael J. Formica suggests that such relationships might be more natural than monogamous ones. I’m a very open-minded person and I absolutely believe that people should be able to enjoy any kind of relationship that makes them happy (as long as all members are able to consent). I don’t however like this obsession with trying to claim that something must be more “natural” than something else. As if nothing can possibly exist or be accepted without some kind of iron clad “scientific” justification.

Proponents of evolutionary psychology are prone to doing this. They keep trying to justify/deny certain behaviours based on some shaky idea of what humanity was like thousands of years ago. Flewellyn was able to put the short-comings of evopsych down quite succinctly right here.

1. Human brains evolved. (Right! We know that.)

2. Human psychology is a product of human neurology. (Makes sense.)

3. Therefor, human psychology must have evolved in concert with our neurology. (Okay so far…)

4. In evolution, traits which are adaptive (or neutral) tend to survive, while traits which are maladaptive tend not to survive. (Again, not controversial.)

5. Human psychology definitely counts as a trait, if not many. (Fair enough…)

Here’s where they go off the deep end…

6. Therefor, human psychological traits must, on the whole, be adaptive. (Well, hang on a second, all of them? Some might not be neutral or even maladaptive? And what about cultural influence? Hey, are you listening?!)

7. Therefor, all behaviors that we observe in current human populations MUST have been adaptive traits that carry over from our savanna-dwelling ancestors, and biologically determined! Cultural norms of today are of course adaptive traits, and therefor there’s no point in trying to change them! (Wait, WHAT?!)

Formica uses evopsych to explain how polyamorous relationships are probably more “natural” than monogamous ones. I don’t know enough about the issue to make any claims against his arguments, but as far as I’m concerned we shouldn’t need these sort of justifications.

Formica says: “Infidelity, whether actual, emotional or objective (e.g., porn, strip clubs, etc.) is almost a given within our culture.” To him this is an indication that we aren’t naturally monogamous. Maybe. But at the same time there are plenty of people who are perfectly happy being monogamous. The point to me is that we should be able to choose what works for us personally. Like Flewellyn says evopsych doesn’t make proper allowance for the effects of culture. Most people in the West are monogamous (or try to be at least). It’s probably not because of their “nature” but because that’s the norm. Religion plays a large role in controlling people’s behaviours. In other cultures monogamy is not the norm. Who’s to say which culture is right? Homosexuality, polyamory and many other “deviant” life styles have been dismissed/outlawed for centuries. Not because of “human nature”, but because they are sinful in the eyes of the church or because many people find them to be disturbing or disgusting.

All the same, Formica’s article makes me happy. Not because he’s telling me anything new or because his arguments are persuasive, but because he’s discussing the issue. Homophobes tend to argue that legalizing gay marriage will lead to polyamorous people wanting to get married. It often makes me wonder why that’s such a big deal. Why can’t three people who love each other get married?

I feel that this is an issue that needs to be discussed more. I don’t feel that polyamory (or homosexuality for that matter) is in any need of justification. What we need is a society where people are allowed to make these choices for themselves without being denied the rights granted to the “regular” heterosexuals. Why does it matter whether homosexuality is natural or not? It exists, get over it.

Image from here.

Feminism, disability and fat acceptance

There’s very little going on right now, so I don’t have much to say. I was going to go to a lecture at the Reykjavík University today at noon. My thesis instructor sent me this announcement of the lecture a few weeks ago. It says:

David Sanders, Professor and founding Director of the School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape, (U.W.C.), South Africa, is a specialist paediatrician with postgraduate qualifications in Public Health. He has almost 30 years experience of health policy and program development in Zimbabwe and South Africa, having advised both governments as well as OXFAM,WHO,UNICEF and FAO in the areas of primary health care, child health and nutrition, and health human resources as part of health systems development. He has published extensively in these fields as well as on the political economy of health, including on structural adjustment and development aid, having authored or co-authored three books: “The Struggle for Health: Medicine and the Politics of Underdevelopment,” “Questioning the Solution: the Politics of Primary Health Care and Child Survival” and “Fatal Indifference: the G8, Africa and Global Health”, as well as over 30 chapters and monographs and approximately 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. In 2004/5 he was Heath Clark visiting lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he was also an Honorary Professor. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for International Health at the University of Bergen, and was a Visiting Fellow at the Globalization/Management Department, Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Canada in 2005.

Dr. Sanders was on the Steering Committee of the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition from 2002 – 2006. He is on the editorial boards of and is a reviewer for several international journals. He was a member of the Knowledge Network of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health. He is on the Global Steering Council of the Peoples Health Movement and was a managing editor of the recently published Global Health Watch 2. He is recipient of the Nutrition Society of South Africa award in 2002.

I didn’t go because for some reason I couldn’t fall asleep until 4 or 5 am and then I could wake up early enough to catch the bus and mom went out so I could get the car. The universe was clearly conspiring against me. I guess I’ll just have to find something dr. David Sanders has written and read it.

A friend of mine has been sharing a lot of interesting links of Facebook/Livejournal lately and I thought I should pass them on.

Five Geek Social Fallacies

Within the constellation of allied hobbies and subcultures collectively known as geekdom, one finds many social groups bent under a crushing burden of dysfunction, social drama, and general interpersonal wack-ness. It is my opinion that many of these never-ending crises are sparked off by an assortment of pernicious social fallacies — ideas about human interaction which spur their holders to do terrible and stupid things to themselves and to each other.

This is so very interesting and so very true and probably plays a large role in making geekdom a really difficult place to navigate.

“I’m not like the others”: nice guys, self-flattery and the myth of uniqueness by Hugo Schwyzer.

Because “boy talk” in American culture so rarely focuses on romantic love, a large percentage of teenage guys who are romantically as well as sexually inclined may begin to flatter themselves with the notion that they are “unlike all the rest.” They do what all teenagers do: they compare how they feel on the inside to how others look and behave on the outside.

I had a conversation with my dad about feminism and how he feels men are being left behind in this battle. While women are fighting the idea that they all have to be so feminine, men are still in many ways stuck with always having to be so “masculine”. I told him that feminism and the fight for equality is supposed to be about all of us, the ubiquitous gender binary hurts us all and if men want change then they have to join the fight. He said something like “but in this era of political correctness men aren’t allowed to say anything, it’s so difficult to get started”. I pointed out that when women started fighting for their rights, it was difficult too.

To many men I think it seems like women have gained more because they are allowed to dress pretty much however they see fit, while men’s choice in clothing is much more limited. We can be strong, weak, “masculine”, “feminine”…but if men show any weakness they are “girly” and “sissies”. What they don’t realize is that this is an issue that touches us all, just the fact that men are sissies when they show “feminine” traits reflects the general attitude that society has toward women. If this is going to change we need to work together, not against one another.

Besides, women aren’t really allowed to dress how they see fit. A woman who is too “masculine” is often rejected as a “dyke” and ridiculed.

No, we don’t have equality, and if we want to get there we need men to help. We need them not just to help us, but to help themselves.

Fantasy of Being Thin

Because, you see, the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming anentirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.”

My goodness, yes. I am terribly guilty of this way of thinking. I’ve told myself: “Once I’m thin I’ll have lots of friends”, “once I’m thin I’ll be more successful”, “once I’m thin I’ll be beautiful and everyone will want me”, “once I’m thin I can totally go to Hollywood and date Zachary Quinto/Chris Pine/whoever”, “once I’m thin I’ll be more comfortable with my sexuality”, etc. I’ve even worried that I’m too fat to work in developing countries because the heat would make me sweat a lot and I’d be so gross…yeah, fucked up.

Fat acceptance is about letting people be who they are and not hate themselves if they aren’t able to lose weight. There are fat people out there who are perfectly healthy and live a perfectly healthy lifestyle! We’re not all completely out of control pigs. I’m tired of hating my body and always feeling like my weight will stop me from being someone important.

Disability terminology: a starter kit for nondisabled people and the media

This problem is not limited to the media; a lot of people struggle with disability terminology. People want to use the right word, but they’re not really sure what the right word is, and sometimes some very intriguing circumlocutions and euphemisms are employed in the service of trying to be respectful.

Very useful!

Putting Gender on the Agenda

Biomedical research continues to use many more male subjects than females in both animal studies and human clinical trials. The unintended effect is to short-change women’s health care.

This is very interesting. I had no idea that there was such a big difference in the number of women and men (and female/male animals) in medical trials. It means that while a drug can be safe for a man, it’s not guaranteed that it’s as safe for a woman and that’s quite alarming. I also found the point about pregnant women really good.

I think I’ll let this do for now.

Icelandic nature and a bit of feminism

ThingvallavatnToday I took my brother with me on a long drive to Þingvellir and Geysir. I took lots of pictures and clicking on the picture here on the left will take you to my Flickr where you can see the rest.

It was incredibly nice to get out of the city and just walk around for a while. The weather was lovely, the sun was out and everything was so very green and bright and beautiful.

Right now my brother and I are watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I usually love the Indiana Jones movies, even the new one. I absolutely hate Willie, the woman in this one. She’s so very annoying and so very stereotypically female (in a bad way). I’m just sitting here hoping that maybe at some point she’ll shut the hell up!

Anyway, have a few links.

When Teen Pregnancy is No Accident

Two new studies have quantified what advocates for young women’s health have observed for years: the striking frequency with which it is in fact young men who try to force their partners to get pregnant. Their goal: not to settle down as family men but rather to exert what is perhaps the most intimate, and lasting, form of control. (“Control” may also include attempts to force both pregnancy and abortion, even in the same relationship.)

Abortion not used as birth control

A Flinders University study of 965 women over 30 who used Adelaide’s largest abortion clinic found 62 per cent were using contraception when they became pregnant.

Nursing and Midwifery researcher Wendy Abigail said the vast majority of the remainder of women also had not wanted to become pregnant.

She said they were not using contraception for dozens of reasons such as: cultural bans, thinking they could never have children, having been raped or having had what was thought to have been “permanent” birth-control surgery.

Ms Abigail blamed primarily male politicians for perpetuating the myth that women used termination as a convenience rather than for emotional and medical reasons.

And a video:

School, parties and links!

So school has begun. I have a feeling that my schedule this semester is going to be kind of mad. I have two research projects, one for sociology and one for geography. The geography one is a group project and next month we’re going on a 5 day research trip to Vestmannaeyjar. Before then we have to prepare pretty much everything. Then I have three other courses (criminology, sociological theories, and image interpretation and remote sensing). So I won’t have time to slack off. Rest assured, I will definitely be slacking off anyway. I’m stupid like that.

Tonight I am going to a crazy tequila/singstar party. I’ve bought some Strongbow and white wine and I intend to enjoy myself immensely. How can I not? I will be surrounded by crazy slasher chicks who have no sense of shame. We have been known to discuss necrophilia, watch gay porn, and play Supernatural drinking games. We’re insane.

Then tomorrow I have to start packing. I have to clear out my apartment before Thursday and I’ve hardly begun. See? I’m slacking off already.

I have to go get ready, so here are some links to interesting stuff.

BartCop’s letter to republicans.

I’m sick of the way you try to destroy the whole concept of government. You’ve tricked the people into believing that government can’t do anything right, always being careful to exclude the army because you love your bullets and bombs but you’ve so destroyed the public’s ability to reason that they don’t even think of interstate highways, the space program, the national parks program, etc. Government is always great when it’s doing what you tell it and inevitably corrupt when it isn’t. Fuck you.

~~

Pfizer Agrees to Record Criminal Fine in Fraud Probe.

“When a drug is marketed or promoted for non- authorized, so-called off-label uses, any use not approved by the FDA — as was the case here — public health may be at risk,” Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said at a news conference in Washington.

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1/4 of teenage girls suffer physical violence, 1/3 sexual violence in relationships.

One third of girls age 13-17 have been forced or pressured into “unwanted sexual acts”, and a further one quarter have suffered physical violence by their boyfriends, according to a study by Bristol University and the NSPCC. A smaller number of boys reported being pressured or forced into sex or suffering physical violence in a relationship.

~~

FDA Draft Report Urges Consumption of Fish, Despite Mercury Contamination.

The Food and Drug Administration is urging the government to amend its advisory that women and children should limit how much fish they eat, saying that the benefits of seafood outweigh the health risks and that most people should eat more fish, even if it contains mercury.

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Interview with the author of Autism’s False Prophets, Paul A. Offit M.D.

It’s a statistic that’s quoted at parents constantly, almost casually: the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States corresponds directly to the increase in childhood vaccinations that’s taken place over the past ten years. Here’s the problem: it’s not true. Not only is there is no statistical correlation between the rise of autism and an increase in vaccinations, but twelve separate studies have shown absolutely no difference in autism rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

And here’s a bit of funny just because I love Zachary Quinto so much.

HOSTAGE: A Love Story with Zachary Quinto from Zachary Quinto

Bad science and research registration

I’ve been reading Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science lately. It’s not only incredibly informative, but also entertaining and inspirational. I usually consider myself a fairly skeptical person, but I had no idea how much of what I’ve heard around me and in the media is pure nonsense. I am now even more encouraged to be more critical about everything I hear.

But the book is not just about the media, but also the less than honest methods of some researchers, especially the ones whose work is intended to make money. One issue that really bothered me is how many of the studies conducted are never published or even registered. If the outcome isn’t what they researchers hoped for then it’s simply discarded. A negative outcome isn’t useless information. Whatever you find out, be it what you expected or not, is valid information and should be easily accessible to all. Especially when it comes to medical trials.

I have been thinking about my thesis for the last few months. I will likely study whether public health in Iceland has changed in the last few decades since globalization reached Iceland. I’m not 100% sure how I’ll go about it, but I will likely look at statistics of particular diseases and see whether they have changed significantly. I took a course last semester where for one project we had to come up with an idea for a study, plan it and then present it to our classmates. Some of them asked me “what if you find out there hasn’t been any change?” I got the feeling that they thought that if the result were no then the study were useless. I don’t think so. It would mean that something’s been done right in the Icelandic health care system and that’s important information.

In light of this I find this blog entry interesting. Larry Husten at Cardiobrief says that mandatory registration of clinical trials hasn’t worked as it should have.

They found that less than half the trials (45.5%) were adequately registered, which they defined as being registered before the end of the trial and with the primary outcome clearly specified. More than a quarter of the trials were not registered at all, while 13.9% were registered after the study was finished. In the trials that were adequately registered, the French investigators found “discrepancies between the outcomes registered and the outcomes published.” In the papers where they were able to assess the discrepancies, the investigators found that “statistically significant results were favored in 82.6%.”

So it’s clear that even initial attempts to address the problem have not been very successful. Hopefully a stricter policy will be implemented in the future.

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