It’s a Saturday afternoon. I’m on a training weekend surrounded by other young people who want to make a difference and create positive change in their communities. The group is a supportive, encouraging, positive one, and I’ve never had any issues with anyone there. But I still feel like an outsider. I sit with people at lunch, I talk in the workshops and take part in the discussions. I’ve been part of the group for over a year, and I know a lot of the other people quite well. Yet still I can’t shake the feeling that they don’t like me. Every time I say or do anything I worry about being judged, and my brain comes up with a hundred different ways that I’m going to mess up. My anxiety comes through in the way I talk and how I act. I’m nervous so I speak too fast, and end up saying things I don’t want to.
All weekend I’ve been on edge. It’s been a really good trip, but my mind has constantly been thinking of another way I could potentially mess up. I know that (hopefully) nobody is laughing about me behind my back, but I can’t shut up the part of my brain that’s dripping those thoughts in like poison.
At one point I blurt out in front of the entire group that my Mum died, during a silly game which I volunteered to stand up and take part in. That’s another thing I get anxious about; I always feel like I’m contributing too much. I always seem to be volunteering to go first, putting my hand up, speaking in front of the group. I worry about hogging the ‘stage’, not letting others have a chance, and most of all that people are fed up of me talking. Even if reassured otherwise I can’t ease the overwhelming worry and resulting knot which forms in my stomach. There’s a little voice telling me ‘shut up, you’re not good enough!’ It’s the belief that I’m not ‘qualified’ to be doing what I’m doing or speaking up the ways I do. It’s the constant questioning. Who am I to stand on this stage and give young people advice or tell them how I ‘got to where I am’? Where even am I? I feel like one of the least put together adults I know, so I really don’t think I should be an example for others.
I question almost daily why I write this blog. I’m putting myself in some position of authority which I feel I have absolutely no right to be in. My train of thought is utterly exhausting, and along with what I said in my last post is the main reason I don’t post anywhere near as frequently as I want to. When you have to give yourself a big pep talk every time you want to post it takes 3 times longer than just writing the blog. I’m trying to write about well-being and mental health, but a lot of the time I just feel like I’m battling with my own. It’s a mental/emotional energy which I seem to deplete frequently, then become a burnt out heap and feel like a total hypocrite.
My brain is my biggest obstacle a lot of the time, because I try to reconcile the part of me that believes in my skills and talents with the anxious, self conscious part and it just doesn’t work. How can I be the girl standing in front of 750 people and sharing her story, but also the girl who slinks back to her room early, anxiously replaying interactions and trying to figure out new ways everyone dislikes her? I am a huge supporter of self love, of being proud of your achievements, and raising young people up to realise their potential. But I also think about myself the way you would talk about your worst enemy. I tear myself to shreds over a misplaced attempt at a joke, a silence in a conversation becomes a gaping pit that should swallow me whole to get it over with. Piece by piece I chisel away at myself, with no clue of the design I’m trying to bring out of the stone.
I stood up in front of my colleagues and fellow young people that weekend and asked ‘Who found the activity to speak about yourself positively difficult?’ I raised my own hand, and almost every person in the room did the same.
I realised not for the first time that I am not alone in this, but that knowledge doesn’t offer any comfort. Far from it, I am distraught that we’re all growing up feeling like we’re not ‘good enough’. Measuring ourselves against our perceptions of everyone else, when in reality they’re most likely doing exactly the same. If I had a pound for each time I’ve heard a friend or peer say something negative about themselves, sadly I’d be very rich. And if I had a penny for every time I’ve thought something just as bad about myself, I’d probably be a millionaire.
There’s no real conclusion to this post, I just wanted to portray what it’s like inside my brain sometimes, and show the realities of my mental health. I feel like I often give this organised, successful image on the blog but it’s not always like that. It’s rarely like that to be honest, and I felt that it was time I was honest about that. So now you know, I hope you don’t think any less of me…