Never Good Enough: the Epitome of Success and the Need to Fail
Why as Jews and as a minority do we take on the role of failures, as inferiors? We look at ourselves as our “Wiedersacher”, our opponents, our enemies see us. We have brainwashed ourselves and have allowed ourselves to have little or no self respect. Although we have arrived at many of our goals, have succeeded and excelled in our professions, are the doctors, lawyers, professors and leaders in our fields, we can never feel comfortable with what we have achieved. If we look objectively at our brethren, our fellow religionists, we find such men a Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Irving Berlin, Golda Meir, Felix Mendelssohn, Sigmund Freud and a host of others with great and unusual accomplishments. Who do we have to be and what must we do in order to accept ourselves? We continue to have the feeling that we are The Fiddler on the Roof who must run and who is persecuted no matter what. In short we are self haters!
This seems to be a cultural phenomenon – a self denigration of our particular religion, ethnic or racial group.
The above feelings can also be applied to individuals who are famous and have reached the pinnacle of success. As they reach higher and higher, they begin to fault themselves. This also may and does occur when a successful individual feels that he or she has come to the end of his or her talent and notoriety. Taken to the next level, such folk feel they can not take one more step and succeed in whatever grossly unrealistic or unthinkable “success” they have prescribed for themselves. Such individuals consider themselves flawed and have been known to commit suicide. If not that they become desperately depressed. One such example is Ernest Hemingway. His biography, written by his friend and associate A.E. Hotchner, described the successes that “Papa Hemingway” enjoyed; when he reached the pinnacle of his career he shot himself to death. He was a man who had authored unusual and great masterpieces, had everything a man could ask for, was lauded wherever he presented his phenomenal books and yet he felt like a failure who did not deserve to live. At times he was “übermütig” (manic). He judged himself with disdain and his works could not be “topped”. He felt that he could not keep the pace or the momentum that he felt he needed to “write the greatest book ever written”. Therefore he considered himself worthless!
For us as Jews we must remember that which was passed on to us from generation to generation. All the worthwhile tenets, the good and worthwhile things that our forefathers and we have experienced and accomplished, the blessings that each of us has been given and all that which has yet to come, if not now then in the olem habo and for those who live after us.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).