Photo by Kat M for Blogtacular
Photo by Kat M for Blogtacular

This time last week, I shared I was coming out of a meltdown of sorts. I’d listened to the opening keynote speaker at my friend’s conference, Blogtacular, and in my hangry, hanxious (thanks to BR reader Arlena for that one), tired, and stressed state, I went on a comparison binge. 

On reflection, one thing that forced me to come back to earth was knowing I had to deliver the keynote at 5pm the following day. Bailing wasn’t an option (not that it didn’t pass my mind for a moment), so my alternatives were to continue melting down and let my inner critic win or to work on pulling myself together and preparing for the keynote. 

Let me assure you, this wasn’t easy. But over the years, I’ve learned how to healthily self-soothe so that how I feel right now doesn’t become a crisis that rumbles on due to me overfeeding fear, anxiety, comparison, etc. Experience has taught me that my old ways of berating me or being reliant on external solutions only creates more problems. I want to share a few quick insights into how I got through a hellish twenty-four hours. I say ‘quick’ because I can’t type for too long. While washing my hair a couple of days ago, my neck and shoulder suddenly locked. Cue screams of pain and thankfully, Em was home, and he rushed me to my osteopaths. I’m supposed to be resting… Anyway, here goes.

Unsurprisingly, I ate as soon as I could. and it didn’t take long for the sense of turmoil to calm down. It didn’t disappear but my perspective shifted. I scribbled notes (see below) until after midnight and then fell asleep watching Will and Grace – I’m currently watching series 5 on Amazon TV. Hail Karen and Jack.

I acknowledged that I was extremely overtired, I’d tried to do too much that day, and was/am stressed. We often forget to do this very basic thing, as if we expect to be normal when we’re hungry/tired/stressed. Like a lot of people, I also hadn’t considered the sum total of what I’m dealing with.

It all still feels a bit raw and we’re still in the dark about the exact cause(s), but my brother, the middle one of three, was sectioned two weeks ago. Mental health issues affect many people and their families and we’re feeling our way through it and supporting him. The visits have been hilarious in parts, like when he suggested that he’d have my mum sectioned and she quipped, “Alright then! I could do with the rest! Get them here now!” and quickly diffused what could have gone in a very different direction, but they’ve also quickly taken a turn for the worse in other parts. I remember when he was born and taking care of and looking out for him. It breaks my heart that he’s going through this and I just want him to get better. To add to things, we’ve also dealt with our landlord selling the house to our next door neighbour and us now being in the process of buying a house, plus other life stresses, and I realise that I need to be extra vigilant with self-care and being conscious, aware, and present.

Don’t berate you for being tired, stressed, hungry etc, or not being able to respond to these in superhuman fashion. They exist as cues to remind us to take care of ourselves and listen. What’s the point in beating you up for not having the perfect response?

I kept saying, “I am safe, I am secure”, whenever the anxiety popped up, and this helped me to focus on reality instead of my imagination and inner critic. Thanks Louise L. Hay.

I journaled. I tend to carry a notebook with me. I wrote about how I was feeling and immediately saw flaws in the way I was regarding me. I knew it was not rational or current me talking, plus I was able to alter my perspective and organise my thoughts. It was a healthy distraction, very calming and what I wrote ended up providing inspiration and material for my keynote.

I acknowledged that a lot of my turmoil was my inner critic trying to spare me from failure, rejection and humiliation. That was the truth, not what ‘it’ said. The thing is, listening to your inner critic will leave you feeling very small, plus complying with it is a betrayal of your true self. Once you recognise what it thinks that it’s trying to do, you can then take assertive action to help you out. Those things it thinks that it’s sparing you from, are the very things that it causes you to feel when you listen to it. It’s as if it thinks, Hey, I’ll give it all to you now as a taster but it will be much easier then getting it from a new crowd/person, but your inner critic doesn’t represent the truth – you do. If you listen, you will feel all of the things you think it’s trying to spare you from, right now, and then when things calm down and you recognise the self-fulfilling prophecy, you feel frustrated, angry and even ashamed.

I focused on evidence that supported me, not trying to support thoughts and feelings that didn’t positively support me.

I got up early and spent the money prepping. Okay and veering between calm and panic. But I gave myself time to get myself together. The more I did, the quieter my inner critic got.

I talked. I’m not alone in what I go through. Turns out that not only do my friends go through it (and BR readers) but there was a conference full of people who have their own comparison and imposter moments.

I owned up to what I went through. It would be disingenuous of me to speak to over two hundred people about the perils of comparison, if I didn’t mention that I’d sat in that very room the night before and felt my guts gripping me in fear as I temporarily diminished and forgot myself. In sharing this, I felt a ripple of recognition in the room and have heard from so many people who relate to having insecure moments.

I acknowledged my progress. Even if you cannot immediately ‘fix’ a situation, easing your discomfort in a healthy way is important, as is acknowledging the usefulness of it. Note where you’re experiencing even a little relief – a little goes a long way. It’s unrealistic to expect that a problem can be eliminated immediately.

Don't should yourself

When we compare, we are not being kind to ourselves. Sometimes we do it just for the hell of it, as if it’s a great way of filling up spare time, but it’s an emotional, mental, and physical drain. Go easy on the ‘shoulds’ – they’re not actual rules.

When the comparison thoughts kick in, mentally pull over on the side of the road before you lose control of you. The more time spent recognising you for who you truly are and navigating your own journey, is the less time spent filling up on someone else’s.

Your thoughts?

PS I ended up typing for ages!

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