Wednesday, 15 May 2013

What I need to learn - BEDM Day 15

There are many things that I've learned throughout my thirty years on this planet.

I've learned that Mother's know everything and that adults aren't infallible. I've learned that sometimes people are not nice just because they're not nice people and not because you've done anything wrong. I've learned that loving someone isn't enough to make a relationship work. The list is long and very emotional.

But there's one lesson that I have been desperately trying to learn my whole life.

I've got to stop comparing myself to others.

Let's take running for example, although I hasten to add that this is not a problem that is purely related to physical activity. When I completed my first ever 10km last year in Preston I was beside myself with happiness. I was so proud of myself because I'd done what I thought I would never be able to do. I'd never run that far before and I wasn't the best runner and I'd had a pretty shitty time of 2012 and to have actually done something that was difficult and to have achieved a goal was a major deal. More than I can even express.

Until I looked at the official results.

I did it in 1 hour 17 minutes and really the time isn't important because I didn't even think I'd make it round without stopping but when I saw the results and saw just how close I was to being one of the last people to finsih it I felt like shit. And I mean shit. I was embarassed, actually embarassed that I'd done so badly.

And that is crazy and I knew it was crazy. It didn't matter where I'd come it didn't matter where I was in relation to all the other people, all that mattered was what the achievement meant to myself and that was amazing. I'd done it, I'd really done something amazing. Why was I beating myself up so badly? I put a brave face on and I told everyone how proud and ecstatic I was that I'd run the 10km. And I was proud and ecstatic, but in reality the whole accomplishment was tainted by the fact that most of the other people who ran the race had run it faster than me.

This problem of mine goes back long before 2012 though.

I felt the same when I got my GCSE results. 1 A*, 4 As, 3 Bs and 2 Cs. I felt like a failure because in order to get up and receive a prize at our school's Speech Day in the September I would have had to have got 7 or above As and A*s. I was one of a very small minority who didn't walk across the stage in September and that did not make me feel good. I didn't revel in my great grades, I got worried and snarled up and felt crap that I hadn't done as well as the others.

And this ridiculous need to compare myself to others has continued to raise its ugly head at several times throughout my life.

It's not just physical achievements that will set this off - I question the values I hold and the actions I take and  compare them to what other people have done in the same situation. Should I have done that because so and so did this? Should I really be feeling this way when everyone else doesn't seem bothered at all?

It's exhausting and not conducive to anything except a headache and tears.

I do it at work. If I miss something, I mentally kick my arse all over the shop because I know the other PA wouldn't have made that mistake. This is regardless of the fact that she's been doing the job for 7 years and I've been doing it for 4 months.

This part of my brain doesn't run on logic, it's fuel is self-loathing and I seem to have a never-ending supply of it, pumping incessantly into my mind and flooding the engine of sense.

Too many car metaphors. I'll stop.

It is for this reason that I should stay well away from the internet. I should not be on Facebook, where everyone's lives (or at least the best bits of their lives) are on show to me - that definitely wasn't helpful when I was freaking out about turning 30. And I should absolutely be steering well clear of blogging - where I can get lost in a whole other world of reading blogs and either berating myself for not wanting to collect all things vintage/wear two different kinds of mascara at the same time/be good enough to get free shit to review.

It is all too easy to read blogs which are more 'successful' and beat myself up for not doing it as well as others. Why doesn't my blog get that many comments? Why don't I have that many followers? Why can't I be satisfied with writing some piece of half-arsed tut and putting it up for people to fawn over?

But most of all why do I care so bloody much? I don't want to get free shit to review. I don't want to write half-arsed posts. I just feel that I'm some how playing the game wrong.

But I am trying not to constantly compare.

I am trying very hard to find the right balance. To look at what others are doing and glean tips and take on best practice whilst recognising the point at which I'm about to tip into the spiralling vortex of doom where I tell myself I'm a useless piece of nonsense. To just be happy for someone's achievements and not be hiding behind my smile a bruised and battered ego where I've bullied myself into a husk for not doing as well as them at whatever it is I'm supposed to be happy for them for.

(To write sentences which actually make sense unlike the one above.)

I even recognise how narcissistic it is. "Stop making it about you!" I scream at myself when the voice pipes up with "Oh so-and-so did that did they? Well you're not even a tenth as good, you should stop altogether" and sometimes I succeed.

But mostly I don't.


  1. It's so hard not to compare yourself to others, particularly when there are so many people out there showing off about how wonderful their lives are by publishing it on facebook, twitter or the like.

  2. I am trying to learn to give myself the same feedback I give others. If I'm not being hard on them then why be so hard on myself? It makes no sense.
    You have got to cut yourself some slack! Everyone has different strengths. You need to revel in your own achievements instead of dwelling on everyone else's :) x

  3. I think it all comes down to a fear of looking bad to other people. Eventually you just stop giving a damn what nearly everyone in the world thinks. I think it one of those switch-flicking-lightbulb-on-type things. One day you'll just notice that there are only about a dozen people in the world whose opinion you actually respect and life gets a hell of a lot easier. I think.

  4. I totally suffer from this myself and the internet age really does magnify everything. But we all know we only put the good stuff on Facebook (mostly, and actually, I hate the moaners more than I hate the gloaters in fairness)! Sophie gives some really good advice though - if you looked at yourself objectively as a totally different person, you'd be pretty impressed I reckon! x

  5. If you find out how to do it, can you please let me know the secret? Cos I try to do what Sophie suggests but I'm still *much* harder on myself than I am on other people.

    Blogging can be a bit evil for making it all seem worse. I ended up unfollowing all the people that made me feel bad - might be a bit harsh on them as they haven't done anything wrong - but it makes my life easier. Of course, it's easier to leave the really irritating ones behind.

    ps - you are ace.

  6. I completely agree with the entirety of this post - it's so hard sometimes to be proud of you for being you, no matter what other people have seemingly achieved on paper. I think it's a really important lesson, one I'm still struggling to learn xx

  7. I was gutted about getting a 2.1 at uni cos my brother got a first, it's crazy how our minds work.

    I have to agree with Mooncalf about the lightbulb moment though, think mine was having a baby (although it's a bit extreme to test out the theory!) I just don't seem to find the time anymore or it seems less important to worry too much about me.

  8. So much of this rings uncomfortably true. I opened an Etsy shop for my artwork this year, and the response has been completely underwhelming. I also have a blog (not as well written as yours, mostly for posting doodles and everyday photos of things like my cats), and I would be quite shocked if anyone ever looks at it except for myself and possibly my boyfriend. It's hard not to feel like a bit of a failure when, everywhere I look, I see people more successful, more talented, more winning-at-life than me. I know objectively that they've been doing it for longer, that I should just be patient and keep plugging away at things, but the temptation of self-loathing is ever strong.

    By the way, I've been reading your blog for a few years (I migrated over from your old one, actually) and I happen to think you're pretty awesome, if that helps :)

  9. you are SUCH a drama queen. Geez!
    I spend half my time comparing myself to you and wishing that I could a) run like you, b) read like you, c) be as witty as you and d) be as awesome as you.

    And you know what? I've been offered free shit to review on my blog. And it's not because they like me, it's because they want to exploit the fact that people read my blog. It's marketing bollocks and the free shit is actually really shit. Chewable toothbrush, anyone?

  10. oh and I just ignore the free shit emails because I HATE review/sponsored content posts and do not want them on my blog.

  11. You are such an awesome person and as Heather says, I am more than a little in awe of you!

    Maria xxx

  12. I missed this post during May. You are awesome, your blog is one of my absolute favourites because you do it so well, it's real and you're hilarious. It's yours, it's you, sod everyone else.


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