Encore Anxiety

Psychologists who study high-achievers across fields have a dysfunction they call "encore anxiety." Most high-achieving artists and professionals suffer from it.

In fields where a person is rewarded (either tangibly or intangibly) by their performance, high-performers quickly and easily begin to attach their identity to their performance. Why shouldn't they? Everyone else attaches their identity to their performance.

The result that these high-performing individuals feel like every "performance" has to be as good or better than the last.

This quarter has to show higher earnings than last quarter. The applause at the end of this performance should go as long or longer. Sales numbers should top last month's  numbers. The reviews in the paper should believe my last performance was my best performance. And yes, my sermon this Sunday must be more profound, creative, deep, life-transforming than last week's.

(Come to think of it, maybe that's why the altar calls were so dadgum long in the church where I grew up. The poor pastor was paralyzed by encore anxiety and couldn't cut off the 14th stanza of "Just as I Am" until he topped last week).

It's a trap. We know it's a trap. But we go for the bait. And we find ourselves anxious for the encore. Performing for the crowd. As if our identity depends on an encore.

Maybe that's why Paul uses the phrase "in Christ" or something similar 9 different times in Ephesians 1:1-14; to remind those of us prone to encore anxiety that our identity is found in our position "in Christ," not in our performance in a task.