Monday, 3 January 2011

Lets hear it for shooting self doubt into the sky

I've been reading lots of posts over the year end with the same of similar theme. The theme of self doubt. The writings reflect people's uncertainty about themselves as people. So I thought I'd wade in with a therapy article, this is not directed at any one individual at all. That would be seriously wrong, more it's directed as a generic tool for how we learn to accept ourselves. So the only person I will write about is myself, as at the end of the day the only person I can ever have the hope of changing is myself!

So let me start by telling you of a talent I have, it's a gift, something I have polished and treasured over the years..... It is my ability to be totally bloody tactless! When I was younger and opened mouth before engaging brain I would go to a place of self hate for days as a result of some crass and stupid thing I had said. I would believe that no-one liked me as a result of my stupidity. Oh I could beat myself up for England.

And then I started training as a psychotherapist. There I was in the middle of a teaching session and as ever I'd opened my mouth and was just starting to crawl in my hole of self hate. When I looked up at the rest of the obviously cleverer people than me in the room, and I had a moment of self realisation that rocked my very foundations. No-one else was looking at me as if I'd grown another head. In fact the session had moved on and my crass comment was just accepted, as the dialogue about whatever point was going on was far more important to everyone, than stopping to look at me and point their fingers and be shocked by my tactlessness.

It was a life turning point, and not a moment too soon, as I was in my mid 40s! Suddenly I realised that yes I did say some daft things some of the time, but also I said some sensible things, That this group treated me as their intellectual equal not as some poor child they felt sorry for and allowed to play in their gang.

For those that have been reading me for a long time can see a lot of themes from my childhood here that I've talked about before many times.

I was on this course because I was seen as being bright enough to be on it. That even though the things that came out of my mouth maybe be seen as somewhat tactless, that I was never less than honest about myself. One of my strengths is the ability to grasp the picture very quickly and I do not spend hours flannelling about a point I get straight to it. Some might even find that threatening as they prefer a more considered approach. But this direct approach meant that a lot of times we didn't waste time going round the houses of discussion cause someone felt unsafe.

My tactlessness had a positive side, people actually admired that I got straight to the point and would never expose anyone else's weakness when I could expose my own as a way to help them feel safe in the first place.

If you've ever been in any sort of group, someone has to be first to say I have this or that issue before others will join and agree. I have never shied away from doing that.

All of this has meant that in the last 12/13 years since this revelation I have learnt to love myself. Sure I'm still tactless, but imagine if you will a piece of string with tactless in a knot at one end, now holding that length of string in front of me to find the other end, the other knot is where tactful lives.
For me to have the insight to know I'm tactless I equally have to know what being tactful is about.

And this piece of string with it's two knots stretched across my body, well this is a construct, quality or characteristic, it's not a fault, just one of many many that I have.

We all have them some of them bigger or more important than others, so for me one of my big constructs is generosity versus meanness. I love it when I'm generous it makes me feel I'm the person I want to be in life. And I really hate it if I act mean, cause that's not how I want to see myself.

What happens then to people who are hooked into self doubt about themselves is they have hooked into their lists of bad end constructs only, as in my being mean, stupid, tactless and not tactful generous,or intelligent.

So going back to my imaginary piece of string, at a moments notice I can slip to either end of the tact scale. But unlike the child beating myself up for being tactless I now realise that yes I have gone closer to one end or the other but I don't stay there I go back to the middle and in five minutes time I might whisk of to the other end of the string. This about balance. We are not perfect, there is no such thing as perfection

The thing we have to learn is that for every 'fault' we have we also have an opposite end to the string. What we don't have is JUST a list of bad stuff. If we had that then we would have no-one in our lives as we wouldn't have anyone who cared for us.

But people who self doubt or self hate have no balance all they have is list of bad stuff like some hardened criminals with no redeeming features. And this makes me mad.
There is this totally unrealistic desire for perfection. Because we compare ourselves to others and find ourselves wanting. And frankly this is bollocks!

All those 'perfect' people are running scared. People come into see me in my therapy room and the first time they come to see me they are terrified. They think I might judge them and find them wanting. They look at me with my clear voice, and cashmere jumpers and beautiful make up and their self hate kicks in big time. Fortunately I know this and within the first session they have with me they will be made aware that cut me and I bleed just like them.

The easiest way I do this is through swearing, cause after all no nice middle class lady like me is ever going to swear like the client wants to when they are describing some horrid life event. I settle more people down in therapy when I've heard their story by saying "I'm not fucking surprised your upset" Oh boy does it work well, they suddenly realise that despite what I look like I am human just like them.

It is my job to help people learn to love themselves and not be stuck in the place of self hate or self doubt.

My friends love me in spite of my tactlessness because they know me well enough to know that is just a small bit of me and not the sum total. Over here we used to have a comedy actress whose catch phrase was... "Does my bum look big in this?" This was about her compartmentalising her bottom as an object of self hate. So the question shouldn't ever be about one bit of us, whether a construct or a physical feature. And it shouldn't be to other people.

The question should be of ourselves, what do I need to do today to love myself as much as others love me. Cause they don't care about the size of our bums, they love the whole package. And maybe just maybe those people who self doubt should just take that on board!

So in the interests of understanding that piece of string here just a few constructs (qualities characteristics, call them what you may) that matter to me about me.

Tactless----------------------- Tactful
Funny-------------------------- Humorless
Grumpy------------------------- Happy
Stubborn ---------------------- Easy Going
Generous----------------------- Mean spirited
Loyal-------------------------- Disloyal
Dishonest---------------------- Honest
Organised -------------------- Chaotic
INTELLIGENT-------------------- STUPID

And on and on, as you can see my list is a mixture of good and bad ends not all good on one side and bad the other. Just mixed up, as we all are at all times. But there are two ends and once that is understood then self hate starts to be a thing of the past.


miss*R said...

in real life.. I am good.. but in blogging, I often worry over revealing too much of myself.. or rather, when I go through a spiritual change, of revealing that change in fear of people attacking me. It happened in the past on blogging when I first started over 5 yrs ago... and I guess, that is a little scar

but I do understand totally what you say in this post :)

Jennifer said...

You make me appreciate my therapist even more after this post! When I first met her she was sharp, cool and tough. She told me I she might 'not be the one for me and if I felt that way...leave a message on her answering machine' and she'd refer me 'to a gentler counselor'. I decided she was EXACTLY what was called for! I've learned what I'm about and what crap I refuse to take. I've set boundaries. I walked away. I don't beat myself up - it was done long enough and no one deserves it. So your post - I loved it! My counselor - she curses too. Jennifer

Dragonfly Dreams said...

Note to Self: If nothing else, get a piece of string and carry it with me. Everything else will fall into place.

Thank you so much Fire! {{{hug}}}

Paula said...

You made me smile. Just in this moment I have posted HOW good I feel about myself! I carry my little heart of rose quartz with me wherever I go and it is works miracles....
Love form this side of the pond. Paula xxx

gemma said...

Some people have not learned all the same lessons. Perhaps some are not even capable of moving past self doubt! That said I am with you
let's shoot self doubt out of here!

Would you believe my word verification is "demento"

Mel said...

I think I might like an hour in the office.
We'd have GREAT fun..cursing like drunken sailors. *laughing*

Marilyn said...

Ah this could have been written for me least me a year or so ago, but I have learnt so much about myself. I can now accept my not so good qualities and know that they are balanced with my good ones. I know now that I am just human along with everyone else.
Thank you for this post.

TALON said...

It's always about balance, isn't it? And I've often thought that the very characteristics that my friends and family run themselves down for are the very ones that make them unique and imperfectly beautiful people. Loved this post, Mandy.

Angela said...

I have met you in person, Mandy, for days I was chatting and laughing with you, and never once thinking you were a tactless or otherwise "impossible" person. Maybe because I have much of that directness in me, myself? I think it is a GOOD quality, I call it honest. I have had my moments of embarrassment, too, when I saw I went too far, but as you say, it`s about balance. If you tiptoe around too much, you might fool the others about what really matters to you.
The "whole package" that is YOU, Mandy is a lovable, caring, generous, fun person, so don`t let anybody, and mostly not that stupid self-doubting voice inside, tell you otherwise!
And this goes for EVERYBODY! It is what I tell my pupils, I YOU think you are okay, then others will believe you. It is what YOU radiate that counts. Or maybe I`ll just send them over to you, Mandy!

Anonymous said...

I love how you are so honest,
how you own your own stuff, and have no qualms about speaking your own truth.
The light that emanates from your soul is radiant and warmth.
blessed are we to know you..

Pam said...

I don't mind people who shoot from the hip.Wouldn't say I had no tact,probably very tactful but I do believe in being upfront and honest in situations where others backpedal.Have tried to teach my daughter this "state your case and stand by what you say, and don't expect others support when the crunch comes". It has served her well evidently.Comes under the heading of not doubting yourself I guess, but wish I'd learnt the lesson in my early years, when pushed forward, you look for support and it isn't there.Be the one to stand and state your truth proudly (and bravely)I say.

jo said...

Hmmm, tactless?
I have always seen tactful as dishonest.
Unless someone is so skilled that I don't see through their tact. And I haven't come across many of those.
If it were me at the receiving end, I would much prefer somebody who called a digging implement well, ...a digging implement.That takes courage, don't forget.

Absolutely no need for self doubt there, as long as the remarks aren't meant to deliberately hurt. And on the whole that is easy to determine.

BTW, I thought that nowadays, the "Does my bum look big in this?" required a (tactful) "Yes, it does, dear".(JLO and others :-)

Nicky Schmidt (Absolute Vanilla) said...

brilliant, sensible and very wise post! Isn't it awful how self doubt can gnaw away at us and totally destroy our confidence - and how, inevitably, while the issues may be mountains for us, in reality, they're blips, barely noticed by anyone else. We're inclined to be so tough on ourselves. My advice, spend a few minutes each day standing in front of a mirror saying, "I love you!" :-)

trousers said...

Always good to read this stuff, FB - I've read it before, but it never, ever hurts to read it again.