I’ve been on a bit of an internal crusade this year. I’m not going to pretend that I’m always on the winning side, but at least I keep reminding myself of it.
Starting the procrastination project was probably an extension of that. It definitely wasn’t a conscious one, but I think it was a side shoot of the original decision to try not to give so much of a shit about what other people think of me, how they judge me.
I’ve always been sensitive. “Over-sensitive” often a description (label?) given to me. I admit, I do cry at the drop of a hat in a sad film or a moving news story. But equally I’m still a fully functioning human, I don’t walk the streets or corridors of work a sobbing wreck. In fact, I know at work that anecdotally people who don’t know me so well have at times considered me hard. Though those who do, definitely don’t. But I do have a reputation for plain speaking and not suffering fools.
But I do definitely have a tendency to over-think a comment, or a slight, whether from friends, associates or a mum at the school gates. I’ve struggled with whether being in tune to a mood is a good instinct to have, or a crippling paranoia that can stop me in my tracks and make me play over a conversation (or non-conversation) time and time again trying to work out why I’ve either offended that person, or whether they’re now judging me over something I have no idea what it is. It can literally paralyse me, stop me in my tracks.
What makes this worse, is 9 times out of 10, I’m right. It comes out that there’s been a misunderstanding, or that the person in question has been bitching about me behind my back. So I was right. That’s fairly difficult to then rationalise as it’s just me being over-sensitive.
You know that scene when Sandy in Grease comes out of the bathroom at the sleepover, and says “Are you making fun of me Rizzo?” I have too often been that girl. And sometimes the people involved have come clean and ‘fessed up to laughing at my top (1992, a pub on Lavender Hill in London) or my jeans, or my haircut or whatever, and other times not. Either way it’s always crushed me for the remainder of the evening or whatever the occasion has been. I’m unable to just shrug it off and move on – probably because I’m more than aware or self-conscious already. Literally expecting criticism, waiting for it.
That insecurity has held me back. An Art school drop out – the crippling anxiety I felt when I compared my work to that of my peers; The belief that I simply wasn’t good enough, I didn’t even turn up for the uni place I’d gained. A disparaging comment from a supply teacher at Art A level to some younger kids rang in my ears time and time again. The award at school for Art when I was 14 then 15 counted for nothing, just the ill-thought criticism from a teacher that I hated and who I locked horns with regularly. I look back and think why on earth did I even give his opinions oxygen?
I suspect that as on the outside shell, what I give off is an opinionated, gobby, self assured kind a girl, that people have no idea that their words or actions cut me to the bone. And if I hear bitching behind my back, which in all communities the one thing in common is that bitching will always get back to you, then to be honest I close down emotionally to that person altogether – because I am hurt. Especially if the bitching is in the form of an accusation which is totally wrong.
Social media has been a huge challenge for me. I don’t facebook. I don’t tweet. I do instagram. The latter seemed a safe enough kind of place, especially with some persuasion from my step-daughter who showed me how to put my privacy setting on and reassured me I’d only be interacting with those I choose to. Even that has been a playground on occasion to passive aggression, snide comments, sudden “unfollows” like I’m the most dull person on earth.
I’ve had thinly veiled comments about posting a lot. Yep, I take a lot of photographs, always have. But if 3-5 posts, over the course of a week is in some minds too many, how many are they posting on twitter and facebook too? Shall we combine? Who decided that rule anyway? I could levy the argument that some people are just trying too hard to be cool. Or that they simply don’t take many photographs. Laughably some of those who have made such comments have multiple accounts in different guises. And why do we have to be so mean to people anyway?
I guess what I’m saying is that social media certainly hasn’t helped my own sensitivity to what others think of me. Which makes me understand the stats around teens use of social and how if they don’t get a “like” within 20 seconds of posting, they remove it. We’ll have a whole generation of young people scared of having an opinion if it’s not with that of the herd, scared to try something new, be creative, be themselves. Everything photoshopped.
Which brings me full circle to starting the procrastination project. It was originally an idea to have somewhere to revisit the non-work, non-parenting side of me. Even this has been double edged sword at times. Nobody liked my post. Nobody read my post….The internal chatter often has to be silenced, as I remind myself I wasn’t doing it for an audience I was doing it to revisit myself. When I sent the link to my trusted circle, I had an mainly positive response with lots of messages equivalent to the old high-five. But some close friends were instantly disparaging. “You’re doing a blog? Why?” “Oh I’ll have a look some time.” (followed by radio silence). It’s kind of passive, silent disapproval.
When I was training as a coach, one weekend was a whole 48 hours worth of exploring our gremlins and how they can be dispelled, their power removed, or how we can actually use them in a positive way.
Our gremlins can often mean we’re not complacent, that we’re driven and have ambition. But they can also be crippling. My personal nemesis, my adoption, came striding right back in that weekend, like a negative giant Troll who’d spied that the door had been left wide open for him to rampage through my thoughts all over again. How I wasn’t wanted and never was, wasn’t meant to have been here even. I cried a lot. Ranted at the Supervising coach that it was irresponsible. Talked at length at my poor husband about all the shit that has always been there, always been in it’s box in the back of my mind, like a sealed crate at the back of the attic. I didn’t want it opened up and it I was angry that it had been.
I’ve never been quite sure how to turn that particular gremlin into a positive one, though my husband and close friends argued that it’s probably what’s driven me to be the best parent to my own children that I can possibly be. To make sure they are never for one minute, doubtful of my love for them. I need to say here, my adoptive parents are the most wonderful parents I could have hoped for and in all honesty, in adulthood I have never questioned that they are indeed my true parents. Ditto my brother and sister; they are my brother and sister. The gremlin has nothing to do with them and my love for them. I’m only sharing this it of my story in the context of gremlins and how they can make us or break us.
So, six months in to my personal promise, how am I doing? Not always great. But better. I think. I’ll still over-think. I’m a pretty old dog for new tricks after all. My deep-seated concern about what others think is fairly hard-wired after all these years.
My younger daughter is pretty quirky, and as she makes us laugh, I hope beyond hope that she doesn’t lose that free will to be herself and shrug off the many critics she’s already coming across in the school playground. I asked one of the older, talented beautiful girls at Kitty’s ballet school, how best for my daughter to beat the bullies, and she said that when she’d been told she was weird, she’d laughed and said, full of gusto and enthusiasm “I KNOW! Isn’t it GREAT?!” Now, that takes chutzpa and as I looked at Kitty’s face as she listened in, I knew the message had gone in somewhere (and that older girl had also gained instant hero status right there and then).
As my stepdaughter reminds me often. In the words that originated in hip hop, haters gonna hate. And so I look to all the strong, creative women who are in the public eye and the vitriol they’re at times subjected to, and have a word, to get over myself and keep at it.
Cos haters are always gonna hate. But my life is too damn short to be crippled by a fear of getting it wrong.