Have you ever achieved something and then, not long after, decided it wasn’t good enough, or it wasn’t quite right, or you should have done it differently?
Welcome to my world.
Despite the many messages of support and gratitude from friends and strangers in response to my Daily Mail article on binge eating yesterday, I woke up this morning with a head filled with ‘should haves’. I should have written it for a broadsheet so the longer story made it in rather than a shortened version and so my style was left completely intact (not sure this happens in any publication, but still). I should have donned a more demure dress rather than the shocking red so I looked more like the intelligent journalist I like to think I am. I should have taken a break before ploughing into another Mail article shortly after my first … the list goes on.
But this kind of thinking is precisely what got me into this mess in the first place – ‘mess’ meaning the binge eating and starving, the low self-esteem and patterns of control, compliance and perfectionism, the over-working, over-stressing and tiresome rounds of self-criticism.
Of course, it all comes down to ego, to what people think of me and the image of myself I want to project to the world. Ego can sound like a dirty word sometimes but really – at least in my case – it’s born out of low self-worth. I want everyone to think my work is brilliant and that I’m a smart, competent woman because, at times, I struggle to think so myself. As I blogged yesterday, self-esteem is indeed an inside job and I know that – but that knowledge doesn’t stop me from slipping back into old, unhealthy thought patterns.
At least now, though, I have the awareness, the tools and the capacity to fight back. So today, I’m reminding myself that IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME! That a door opened and I walked through it – hastily and fearfully, perhaps, but I walked through it all the same. That no matter the platform, the style of writing, the length of article or the colour of the dress, my story may have resonated with others and prompted them to come out of hiding and seek help. And that the paper that published the piece has a massive circulation and a huge online presence and therefore a big impact nationwide. I believe there’s a purpose to my writing and if I can just get out of my own way, I can get on with it.
The bottom line is that I deserve to accept my work is good enough, or I’ll end up back where I started. And as a dear friend just reminded me, ‘those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter’.
This morning’s mind games have reminded me of a book I have on my shelf called Mind Over Mood. Maybe I’ll finish reading it and perhaps put some of its suggestions into practice. In the meantime, though, I’ll get on with my day, remember to be grateful and remember that this head of mine, with its erratic moods and negative thought patterns, isn’t always my best friend, and that I can counter my fluctuating feelings with constant, steady faith. Old habits die hard but it’s possible to form new ones.
As an aside, I’d been pondering what I wrote in yesterday’s blog and wanted to add something – my perfectionism, perhaps, or just my sensitivity and attention to detail. I wrote that ”we all struggle with the same issues, we just have different coping mechanisms”. What I meant is that we all – or many of us, I realise I can’t speak for everyone – struggle with similar issues like emotional pain, emptiness, hurt, loss, rejection, abandonment, low self-esteem and so on. Of course, some of us have more traumatic stories than others and I wouldn’t want to imply that wasn’t the case. I just think that fundamentally, at the core, our issues are similar. They just manifest themselves differently on the surface.
Finally, I read something yesterday that I really enjoyed. It was in The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie, a daily meditation book I’ve mentioned before on this blog. It really spoke to me about extremes of thinking and behaviour and how it sometimes takes us a while to find the middle ground:
“Today, I will be gentle with myself, understanding that sometimes to reach the middle ground of balance, I need to explore the peaks and valleys. Sometimes, the only way I can extricate myself from a valley is to jump high enough to land on a peak, and then slowly ease myself down.”