So this week’s little victory is an interesting one. Anyone who knows me most likely thinks I am super-confident. I know I’m a good communicator, good mate, good Mama, I like people and am an eternal smiley optimist. I have an opinion on most things and I’m not shy about sharing it. However, I lack confidence and always have.
As is the case with most things that make us who we are it’s probably a throw back to my childhood. I do remember constantly seeking approval from my parents and friends. Doing my absolute best and hoping it would be good enough. I expect it was for the most part but it often didn’t feel that way. As a result I became a bit of a perfectionist as I sought reassurance and approval.
Being a perfectionist doesn’t necessarily mean life has to be perfect (because it just isn’t) but it does mean that sometimes the anxiety about the things you do being good enough can be overwhelming.
As a child I was a gymnast. I loved it. I was the best in my school, the best in my club and the best in my borough, winning every competition, and yet I always felt it wasn’t enough.
As an adult I’ve achieved lots of things, the most recent being I wrote some short stories and a novel. Despite winning a competition and getting the most glorious feedback, I have always felt a bit embarrassed and that none of it was professional enough. I felt like an imposter saying I was an author or writer and even though a mainstream publisher showed significant interest the pressure to perform was too much. Self-doubt crept in and the first ten chapters of the new novel have been abandoned.
For no apparent reason, this popped into my head this week. About 15 years ago I booked a motivational speaker for an event (Paul McGee author of Shut Up Move On, absolute top bloke). One of the best things I learned that day was that everyone has an Inner Critic and an Inner Coach. Basically, the Inner Critic is the voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough. The Inner Coach is the voice in your head that tells you that you are. I listen to the Inner Critic ALL the time. The Inner Coach is mostly crushed and sits quietly on the sidelines because the Inner Critic’s voice is sooooo annoyingly loud.
My problem with listening to the Inner Coach and enjoying a moment of self-praise is probably due to the fact that I’m waiting for everyone else’s opinion before I can allow myself to feel anything (there’s that throw back to childhood of approval seeking) ….. and then even when I get great feedback I’m speculating whether it’s really meant or whether it’s just kindness. Take my new hobby for example. I’ve made a few Christmas cards. They’re not professional. I’m not even sure about sending them (be gone Inner Critic). Hubby says they’re great and the people I know best also say they like them but still there’s something in me that thinks they’re just not quite good enough. Argh! Inner Coach where are you?
So, despite my battles with the Inner Critic lately I do have a little victory to share. We’ve been looking for a nice piece of wall art to put in our bedroom. I’ve relentlessly searched t’internet for the perfect painting or framed print and finally came across a series of photographs of our favourite place in Cornwall. And you could get them enlarged and framed. Hoorah! Imagine my delight.
I showed my husband and he said …….. ‘Why don’t we get one of your photos done? They are as good as those and apart from anything else it would be YOUR photo, our experience together, what could possibly match that?’
So without having purposely sought feedback, there it was, unsolicited but better still, something lovely happened. The Inner Coach crept back into my mind pushing the Inner Critic to one side, as we spent a couple of hours going through the photos of our last trip to Cornwall sharing our memories and choosing our favourites. The Inner Coach reminded me that what matters most is how I feel about something, it’s about my journey and the enjoyment I get from things.
We found a website that would print and frame an enlargement of a stunning, unfiltered Cornish sunset (featured photo), and before I knew it, we’d created a project, framed it and bought it. It should arrive in a week or so and I absolutely cannot wait to get it and see it on the wall. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect. It’s mine and I love it.
And so I’ve finally realised that what other people think matters less than I let it (although in this case it definitely helps that hubby likes the photo that he will have to look at every night and every morning!). The feeling of receiving praise and approval is lovely but waiting for it and hoping for it isn’t. So it shouldn’t mean so much.
What matters is being happy and healthy and fulfilled and satisfied – and I am lucky enough to mostly be those things right now. I am beginning to get to grips with the fact that what other people think is their business and not mine and sometimes I need to let it go, to care less.
So my little victory is that I realised this week that I am good enough and that when I need it to be, the voice of my Inner Coach really can be louder than the voice of my Inner Critic.
Have the best weekend. Big love.