Category Archives: Self-discovery

Fear of failure – the perfectionist’s flaw

Anxiety and a sense of doom dominate me when I begin most tasks. It could be cleaning the house or starting a new job; my fear of failure kicks in and I begin to panic that I won’t do it well enough, won’t complete it, might let someone down and quite simply, won’t be the best. I suffer these debilitating symptoms of self-sabotage because I am my harshest critic.

When I was in my teens, I was a cocky little shit. I was sassy, confident and saw myself as a bit of an undiscovered genius. I even bought myself a “best at everything” mug. Being a jack of all trades had its merits; I was able to fluke exams, excel at new hobbies and access a variety of employment industries. However, as I entered my twenties, I started to realise that I wasn’t the “best at everything” and maybe I was nothing special at all. At least by my standards.

I was rather good at a lot of stuff, but because of my poor focus, limited attention span and itchy feet, I had never managed to get best at anything. I was a giver-upper. I lacked self-discipline. If I didn’t think I could be the best at something, I didn’t want to try at all. And anything I was good at soon bored me and I moved on to the next fad.

My all-or-nothing mentality meant I would throw myself into a new venture so enthusiastically it cost me more than I couldn’t afford physically, emotionally, in time, energy and money. As soon as something felt uncomfortable or like too much hard work, I would become overwhelmed, hide away, wallow in self-pity and skulk amid a mild depression. Then I would quit.

IMG_0082.JPGNow I flounder about, still filled with dread that I am not living up to my mother’s expectations; all the work she put in to ensure I was educated, secure, had access to opportunities – lost. I have two beautiful children, a gorgeous, supportive partner of 10 years, a house, car and three cats, but cannot shake the sense of shame that I have done nothing with my life. It’s a feeling of uselessness; wasted potential.

I didn’t establish a career before I had children, but I didn’t want to have them too late either, so I made huge sacrifices to be a mother. As many of us do. But almost five years later, I find myself starting from scratch. Although brimming with knowledge and life experience, and enthusiasm to contribute my Swiss penknife of skills, I am as good as on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder.

There is so much pressure on women to be everything, but if I am a “good” mother, invest in my family’s health and wellbeing by cooking from scratch three times a day and exercising, I barely have time to check my emails and Facebook feed, let alone use Twitter and have a successful freelance career.

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There was a light at the end of the tunnel once I knew the older child was going off to school and the younger one was starting pre-school, but as usual my plans were extreme and unrealistic. I became a nervous a wreck just at the thought of getting on with life, already certain that I would fail because there is just not enough time in the day to be: politician; blogger; singer/songwriter; local activist; mother; lover; friend; home cook; perfect housewife; interior designer; social media genius; entrepreneur; fitness enthusiast; and yogi.

How do people do it? If I have a successful week creatively and work out regularly, my house is a mess and the washing up won’t get done. If I nail the housework, plough through chores and homeowner admin, I’m lucky if I get time for a cup of tea and reach the school gates on time.

Everyone tells me I take on too much, not to be hard on myself, to prioritise, but all of these things are important to me. They all need to be done. And I want them done well. Whispers of my to-do lists within to-do lists play on repeat like, “Secure publishing deal, get rich, have time to complete me…”. I have slowly given up on perfectionism as I’ve learned it’s more important that something gets done, than not done at all.

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In an attempt to justify my serial procrastination, I’ve almost accepted that sometimes it’s OK to just do nothing – stuff can wait, my sanity cannot. But my guilt dictates that I at least multitask my “nothing” with checking emails, social media, online food shopping and eBay while boxset bingeing. I have simultaneously come to the painful realisation that unless you are very rich, well connected or just plain lucky, the only route to success is hard work. The magic is in finding the perfect balance.

The world isn’t what it used to be. The Internet has changed everything for the music industry, writers and world politics. So we have to be resilient, overcome challenges by adapting to new trends; hoping we can keep up and keep our heads up. At least not stick them in the sand.

So I have to let go of fear, learn when to say “no”, but more importantly when to say “YES”! I will take risks, seize opportunities and work my wobbly backside off, because I want a better future for my children than a Trump world promises – and the only person that can make that happen is me.

Do you suffer from perfectionism? Can you relate to this? How do you deal with negative feelings of underachievement and self-loathing? How do you measure success?

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Filed under Parenting, Self-discovery

Will I ever be godly?

20130227-152533.jpgIf cleanliness is really next to godliness, then I worry I will burn in the eternal fires of hell. Though a messy house can feel that bad, so perhaps I am already there.

It’s hard! I wonder how other people manage. I see them, with their children and their jobs and their clean houses. How and when do people find the time? While caring for my grandmother it’s surprisingly easy. I make a mess, I tidy it up. I leave her rooms tidy and kitchen spotless every day before I leave to come home to my pigsty.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but sometimes my house is so far from my standard of what I feel is acceptable that it makes me want to cry. But oddly enough, not clean up. How do people stay on top of it all and have any life left to live? I feel that I have failed as a woman (sorry feminists) to not be able to manage it all.

I have been known to cancel house guests because I’ve not had time to dust the skirting and polish the towel heater. I change plans with friends because I’m so scared they’ll judge the oil spattered along the back of my range cooker or cat hair on the carpet. Even having a “leccy” round to give a quote to fit a shower sent me into blind panic about the limescale around the bath taps and mess in the fuse cupboard.

Recently I got suckered into buying a steam cleaner plus all the accessories from a shopping channel. I used it once, the pad got caked in old dirt from a tiled floor, I panicked as I didn’t know how to wash it, and it’s been sitting in the dark ever since. Why, when I fantasised so vividly about the jet nozzle giving the grout a seeing to, have I not even used it yet?

I want to host, I want to welcome people into our home, but I worry so much about what they will think of how we live that I end up stifling my social life and avoiding so much as a cup of tea at mine. Surely this is not normal behaviour and I need help of some kind. Or I need to quit a hobby, watch less TV, go on eBay less, ping on a pair of marigolds and just get on with it.

The only time this strange obsession is put into perspective is when I visit other people’s messy houses and realise that it’s normal for a home to look lived in. In the way air-brushed cover girls wreak havoc with my body image, I expect my abode to resemble a show home and must have a distorted view of reality. It’s like anorexia but without the malnutrition. A kind of household dismorphia.

So, I have OCD but don’t do anything about it – what is wrong with me…? Maybe I’m just lazy. Should I hire a cleaner or is that failing? I fear failure more than all of the above. But that’s another post.

Please help.

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Filed under Family, Self-discovery

Focus

I’m still confused. What do I blog about? Yes, I’m sort of here to blog for the sake of blogging; to exercise my writing fingers, squeeze the creative juices and express my day-to-day woes. But I’m also here to get on my high horse about things that drive me to despair, rant and rave about political dissent, share foodie experiments, artistic insights and educate where qualified. WordPress tells me I need to focus; choose a topic and target an audience. But can’t I just be myself? I am not just one thing. I don’t have one interest. I don’t want 50 blogs.

Perhaps the focus will find itself the more accustomed I get to sitting down and putting digits to keyboard. We don’t need another breastfeeding blog, knitting, recipes or exercise. Too political could be dry, too moralistic and I’ll come across preachy, too spiritual and I’ll be branded a hippy — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Hmm. Back to the drawing board.

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Filed under Self-discovery, Writing

Writer’s block

Time to get this blog started. But what do I write? Where do I start? It has to start somewhere and there’s no time like the present. So, here goes…

I’m an aspiring writer so the pressure is really on, and I guess that’s what’s held me back blogging all these years. Being judged on every misplaced semi-colon, over-enthusiastic comma and cluttered metaphor frankly spooks me. But that’s the name of the game, right? How can I gain the confidence to write in any public forum if I’m afraid to rant anonymously online? And that’s assuming anyone will even read this.

Panic consumes me at the mere thought of “tweeting”. With a pathetic handful of followers, I agonise over what to say and how to say it, when I am I brimming with opinions, bursting with ideas, teeming with criticism and complaint about any and everything – I go blank. I’m choked with an anticipation of some kind of failure. Is this an abstract narcissism? Surely such self-doubt and desire for perfection are born of an unhealthy vanity. Because I don’t think I lack confidence.

It’s this crippling paranoia that has held me back in my career and personal life and the only way to combat it is to thrash the perimeter of my comfort zone and just do it (“it” being writing stuff, in this case).

Well, I never predicted my first blog post would evolve into self-psychoanalysis, but hey, at least I wrote something. Let’s keep it short and sweet.

The end (of the beginning).

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Filed under Self-discovery, Writing