Lovely reader, how on earth have you been? It’s been AGES. You have a seat and I’ll stick the kettle on.
“I’m sure,” my friend Erin said to me recently “that we must have one friend who isn’t an overachiever.” We don’t, by the way. Our mutual social circle includes composers, published novelists and internationally renowned comedians. She herself is a ludicrously intelligent and powerful producer, and I can type really fast. So.
In all seriousness, it is important to celebrate your achievements and the achievements of people around you. I am sick to the back teeth (which is a weird expression that I’ve just realised I got from my dad and must remember to ask him about later) of listening to people I love putting themselves down. Unfortunately, this comes in several forms.
Firstly, the refusal to admit that something they’ve achieved is absolutely spectacular. One of my sisters has just completed a challenge that she set herself a year ago: to run thirty 10km runs while she is thirty years old. (I KNOW.) Is my sister happy and proud of herself? Sure. Is she as proud of herself as I think she ought to be? Nope. Not by about 300km.
Secondly, the inability to accept that progress has been made. If you are on a diet and you have a cheat day, you haven’t failed. If you spend months trying to get over someone and then one day allow yourself to look at their Facebook page, you haven’t failed. If you promise yourself that you’re going to make more of an effort to stay in contact with someone and then forget to call them, you haven’t failed. Changing your life in the long term is a process and you only “fail” a process when you terminate it entirely. I cannot stand to hear my friends put themselves down when they have made one mistake, because it undermines all of the good work they’ve done already and all of the process that’s still to come.
Thirdly (and this is the one that makes me most cross), assuming the worst. “She’d never like me back”, “I probably won’t even get an interview”, “He’ll definitely say no”. What are you basing that on? Where is your evidence? Are you making measured judgements based on empirical fact, or are you assuming the worst because it’s easier to aggressively chase down disappointment than to allow yourself to hope? Even if your entire life experience so far leads you to believe that you might fail, you have no right to put yourself down by refusing to admit that there’s a chance you’ll succeed.
I’m being a bit of a hypocrite, because I am awful for putting myself down, but I’m going to try and change that. (And if I slip up a few times, I will not have failed.) I know that loving yourself is not always as easy as loving someone else, and I know that sometimes being proud of ourselves feels like bragging or an invitation for karma to smite us where we stand. Having said that, if we constantly put ourselves down we are tacitly demanding that others do the same, which is just stupid. If we cannot accept praise and pride from our loved ones then we are diminishing ourselves and also showing basic disrespect for their opinions about us. You might feel as though you haven’t achieved much, but if someone who loves you tells you that they are proud of you then you don’t get to contradict them.
I met up with my friend Andy the other day. He’s an actor who works a lot in touring theatre, so whenever he lands in London I try to see him, even if it’s just for a quick drink. When I saw him on Sunday we didn’t get a chance to catch up properly, we didn’t discuss the finer details of our lives at the moment and we certainly didn’t get to put the world to rights. However, towards the end of our time together he unapologetically said that he is good at what he does, and that made me unbelievably happy. It made me happy because a) he is absolutely correct, and b) I know that he is happy.
Back yourself. Not because if you don’t no one else will, and not because positive thinking makes you a better person: because self-respect is the backbone of a happy person, and you absolutely deserve to be a happy person, you lovely thing.
You are brilliant. Shut up and accept it.