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One Size is never, ever, going to fit all

I remember the total sense of self-loathing, mixed with a sad if slightly sneery ‘I told you so’ that swirled round my head as the sleeve ripped as I pulled it over my head. I was stuck completely now, unable to pull the top off without ripping it the rest of the way down. I would have to buy it; I would have to buy this ‘One Size Fits ALL’ bright pink top that proclaimed, in all its fuchsia glory “Well, all except YOU”.

 

I was 29 years old and in a store in New York. I felt so disgusted with myself that I spent the next five (or more) years wearing black, eating in secret and constantly reminding myself that I was not one of the ‘all’. It took many years to get past that language of self-hate and the message that I’d seen was ‘you are not as you should be. You are different – but not in a good way.’

 

Now in my fifties, I often remind myself of the years of conversations I had on this topic with friends and the energy it consumed in us all.  And it wasn’t just about size.  We seem to live in a society where we are all put in boxes that have been built based on the concept of ‘one size fits all’ from education to healthcare, from parenting to sexuality, if you don’t find your place in these boxes, the message is that you are the odd one out. One Size Fits All – except YOU.

 

I have always been very aware of language and the impact it has on our mind-set.  I knew that working with my ‘Heart Failure Nurse’ was never going to be an option for me, and that’s why I worked hard to get her name badge changed to ‘Heart Specialist Nurse’.  One Size Fits All, is language that is created for a label, without thought for human vulnerabilities.

 

I wonder how many times we’ve applied the ‘one size fits all’ approach to people without thinking about it; I think the word ‘should’ does this for us and we apply it to others and ourselves daily. ‘I should have done that by now’ or ‘I should be over this by now’ or ‘she should understand how I feel’ are all words I’ve heard often and used myself.

 

‘Should’ is one of those words that rarely encourages positives, it tends to be a stick we beat ourselves with rather than a way of supporting positive change or behaviour. And what ‘should’ is really saying is ‘one size fits all except you’.  The next time you’re tempted to tell yourself you ‘should’ be something, ask yourself ‘according to whom?’ You might find the answer enlightening.

 

I hope this thinking is useful for you and that you can start celebrating not being in the ‘one size fits all’ box, but instead being the perfectly-imperfect you that you are.

 

Dinah x

 

 

 

Compare and you feed your self-doubt

It feels like an inevitable part of living in the ‘developed’ world in this century; comparing ourselves to others, in almost every aspect of our lives.  Whether it’s our looks, our age, our accent or even what we wear, we are constantly encouraged (both openly and in less obvious and sometimes less ethical ways) to find faults in ourselves that don’t exist in the ‘perfect human’ we should aspire to be.  Well I am calling ‘Time” on this b.s. (that’s a polite way of writing bullshit) and making it my mission to fight back against the feeding of self-doubt that is, just as we all suspected, really about someone else making money.

Comparison with others starts early in our lives, and often even before we are actually born.  You only have to skim through your social media feeds to find images of expectant mothers comparing this pregnancy to their last, or to those of their peers.  Soon enough, they are convinced, by these comparisons, that they are ‘too’ something or ‘should’ be feeling or doing something other than they are.

And throughout our childhood we are measured and compared for our ‘development’ using scales and tables and instruments, each accompanied by a set of comparisons that prove you fit into a certain ‘box’.  And should you ever then change from that box to another – well, perish the thought!  From pre-natal to post-mortem, we are compared at every stage and unless we’re very lucky, the comparisons have negative messages at least part of the time.

I found a wonderful quote on Pinterest recently, and despite my best efforts, I am unable to attribute it to an original author:

“The grass only looks greener on the other side because it’s being fertilised by bullshit!”

This is the core of the issue for me; when you compare yourself to another person, you’re not actually comparing yourself to a real person.  You are seeing only what that person chooses to share, or portray in public.  Do you actually think everything you see on social media is real and perfect?  It is easy to believe the person sharing posts about confidence wakes up every day feeling on top of the world.  It’s hard to imagine the successful writer sitting at their desk for hours on end questioning whether they have anything left worth writing about. Far easier to believe that everyone else has their ‘shit together’ and you are the only one who isn’t achieving your potential.

Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to another, stop and ask yourself what’s going on here. really?  Are you looking for attention and sympathy because someone else put in the hard work and got the results?  Or are you in fact feeling frustrated because you’re not being real about the situation – how many years has this person worked to be the ‘overnight success’ you’re comparing yourself to? Either way, give yourself a pep-talk and get real about this.  You’re staying stuck with these kind of comparisons and that means staying small.

We’ve all heard the expression about only comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday; clever and thought-provoking, but in the current world very hard to achieve.  I’d look at this in a different way, and next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Am I comparing myself to someone I admire?  If so what can I learn from their success.  If not, see that as self-sabotage and shut it down.  No really, play loud music or read something aloud if you have to, just shut down the pattern.
  2. Am I going to take action as a result of this comparison or just keep repeating the negative messages I gave myself the last time I did this.  Always give yourself the chance to make this time, the time you take action.
  3. Am I feeding this with my own bullshit?  Ouch.  I know.  But we all do it.  We compare ourselves to someone who we hold in very high regard, perhaps even put them on a pedestal and then find all the things we are ‘less’ than they are.  And in truthful moments, if we stopped building them up in our head, we could acknowledge our own growth, or achievement, as being equal to theirs.

In our society, where we are bombarded with messages about not being complete, or enough or somehow worthy of being held up for others as a comparison, we have to learn to shut out a lot of noise that does not serve us.  My husband commented this morning how much more positive I am since we got rid of the full length mirrors in the house.  I realised that all they served as for me was a way to constantly compare my reflection with the one in my head, and as any 51 year old will tell you, I’m still expecting to see a 35 year old me looking back.  By removing the daily comparison I changed my focus and now feel much closer to my shoe size than my age.

I wonder what you regularly compare with others, or your ‘younger self’ that you’d benefit from leaving behind.

 

Dinah

 

 

According to whom?

I watch with my head in my hands when the adverts come on the television.  The cause of this despair is quite simple really, it’s the idea that women are failing if they don’t “match up” to the perfection that is personified in stick-thin, teen-age models with “perfect” lifestyles and the skin, hair and figure to match.  Apparently, it’s what we all want.

 

I’d like to know, According to whom?

 

I saw an ad for skin cream that claimed “80% of women said they’d consider delaying surgery after using it”

 

Delaying? As if, surgery was inevitable once we took a good look in the mirror and realised how wrinkled we were.

 

Another shows a husband, claiming “we’ve been through three pregnancies…. and she still looks like Kate”

 

Let’s get this straight – the model still looks 30 because she is 30 and has probably never borne a child, let alone three.  Your wife still looks like your wife because you love her and we see only what we want to in people we love. And by the way, despite the grey hair you seem to despair of, she finds that sexy and exciting.  Don’t knock it!

 

My point is, who is it that sets these expectations, these apparent standards we must strive to achieve with diets, creams, procedures and prodding?  And what is it that makes us buy into them?  Is it a crowd thing, that sense that “everyone else does it so if I don’t then I’ll stand out for the wrong reasons?”  Is it that we’ve been so convinced the message is true, we’ve started to believe it ourselves?

 

I looked at my husband this morning; really looked at him.  His lines around his eyes, from working out-doors and no doubt added to by stress over the years. His grey hairs, now a good 30% of his head is covered in greys and whites.  I love them, I think they show his experience and maturity and yes, if I’m totally honest, they just look incredible with his tan!  I looked at his hands, with scars that show a life-time of crafting, creating, working hard for a living. Oh yes, I looked at other bits too – but that’s between us 😉

 

I asked myself “Do I see these changes in him as imperfections?  Do they stand out and become the things I notice?”  The answer for me was no.  I see these as the signs that we are growing old – together.  That makes me emotional.  We did not anticipate this.  It’s exciting and new.    I love the lines that tell his story, the rugged look that highlights his features, the grey hair that makes his blue eyes even more intense.

 

And I wonder, does he notice my lines, my creases and wrinkles?  Does he see the grey mixing in with the blonde or notice the lines on my hips and arms which tell of my history?  Does he love me because of them or despite them?  I believe I know.  I believe he’s with me on this one.

 

According to him I’m beautiful.  According to him I can stop fixating over the ageing process and continue to celebrate my years and my lines.  According to him, I’m perfect just as I am.

 

Dinah x