October 12, 2016 § 5 Comments
This post comes with a disclaimer. I’m not looking for advice (take note, mansplainers), or attention, nor am I fishing for compliments. I’m not trying to be dramatic, either. I’m just kinda thinking out loud, here on the page, because that’s what I do, and sometimes it resonates with other people and sometimes it doesn’t.
Because tonight, you see, I am completely paralysed by self-doubt. Again. I’m vacillate between tears welling in my eyes and full blown crying, my jaw is tensed, my chest is tight with anxiety, and my self-flagellation game could get a starring role in a film about mediaeval torture.
And whenever this happens – which is often, I should confess – I wonder why I can’t get past this thing. Because believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve read books, seen coaches and shrinks, collected compliments I’ve been given, tried positive thinking… It’s a long list of interventions.
And I’ll be doing fine for a while, and then one little thing will set me off and send me all the way back, till I find myself in this place again.
The litany of complaints is long and brutal. I say things I would never say in a million years to another human being, to myself: I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m clumsy, I’m useless. I’m too strict a mother, or I’m not strict enough. I’m lazy, I’m forgetful, and professionally, people are going to find me out any day now. I’m interfering and overbearing and weak. I cry too easily. I avoid confrontation. I shouldn’t back down so often. I’m too much a Jack of all trades. I’m definitely not a master of anything. I’m undisciplined. I procrastinate too much. I should read more… That’s just for starters. (I won’t bore you with the rest. I’m sure you have better things to do if you’ve even made it this far.)
And once I’ve finished listening to my own voice – which takes a while – I start to hear the other voices from my past, something a friend quite rightly admonished me for the other day. Because they’re in the past, you know?
But here’s what fascinates me. I do get plenty of compliments. People tell me I’m talented or clever or whatever. But the ‘whatever’ part should tell you what happens when someone says something complimentary about me. I say thank you, but I shrug it off. For the vast majority of the time I just don’t believe people. I think they’re just being nice.
Say something bad about me, though, and I will absolutely take it on. And I’m not talking about feedback or constructive criticism – I’m actually really good at working with those. I’m talking about insults – you’re untalented, you can’t string a sentence together, you’re stupid, your opinion doesn’t count, you’re lazy, you’re a poor example to your children – those are all actual things people have said to me, as examples. And I will walk around for days holding on to that insult, ruminating on it, and ultimately assimilating it.
Logically it makes no sense. I see that. I really do. But there’s a disconnect between my head and my heart. My brain tells me what I should be feeling; my heart has a mind of its own and clings to the old stories with a white-knuckled grip.
When I was in high school, I remember feeling that I really could do anything if I was prepared to put in the required effort. I remember feeling talented and clever andand attractive. I had the gift of the gab and confidence by the shovel load. And on nights like tonight, I wonder where it all went wrong, and where that girl has gone.
I feel her sometimes. Sometimes there’s a glimmer of her, and then she’s gone again, before I can grab her by the wrist and beg her to stay.
Because I really wish she’d return for good now. She was fun. I liked hanging out with her, and it’s been far too long.
* Reminder: please re-read paragraph one before commenting.