The Garden of Self Belief
As a child, it didn't occur to me that there was anything I couldn't do. It seemed to me inevitable that I would be famous and wealthy and glamorous and happy. I'm not sure exactly when the little voices of dissent kicked in. I certainly didn't recognise them for what they were - the dreaded saboteurs. Instead, I thought they were the voices of logic and pragmatism. Who did I think I was? Surely I realised how unlikely it was that I'd make it big as a writer, a performer, a businesswoman? Plus, ugh, I was arrogant and annoying. People wouldn't like me if I kept trying to be something special. No, no, much better to sort myself out a proper job, make some money, live a nice sensible life, get with the programme. Sound familiar?
I ticked on in this way for several years. And it was a nice, sensible life. There were happy bits and sad bits. There were holidays. There was enough money to replace things when they broke. There was a battered old Nissan Micra with gaffer tape on the front bumper. There were birthday presents, there were indulgences. In so many ways the life I lived was an enormous privilege. But alongside those voices that told me I was achieving as much as I possibly could, there was another voice, a quiet but persistent one, that kept asking "What, exactly, are you doing? Is this really all you want from your life?" I asked the voice to be reasonable. I asked it to be sensible. I asked it to admit that I wasn't good enough at any of the things that I loved to make enough money to live on. The voice wasn't having any of it. It persisted; infuriating, destabilising, increasingly incessant. "What are you doing? Do you want to get to the end of your life, look back, and see that you were sensible? Is that what you want? I don't buy it. I don't believe it."
A voice like that - if you keep battling it - can really wear you down. It showed me that I was dissatisfied with my life, but not how to change it. I found myself increasingly frustrated, but also somehow paralysed. My nice, sensible life left me feeling empty, but the voices of my saboteurs kept reminding me about my big, scary mortgage. It was at the moment that Co-Active Coaching came into my life, via a very good friend of mine who was training with the CTI at the time. He was hugely inspired by what he was learning, and recommended that I have some coaching. It seemed like the signpost I had been waiting for, a potential route to clarity. So I signed myself up with a coach.
On the day of my second session, I was in a bad way. Things at work were increasingly difficult, not because the job had changed, but because I felt so disconnected from myself. I was at the stage where finding the printer out of paper felt like a personal insult. I'd just had a tough conversation with a colleague and all I really wanted to do was lie down in the stationery cupboard and weep. My coach picked up on my energy immediately, and she asked me to stay with the emotions that I was experiencing. I felt weak, pathetic, stuck, angry. We stayed with it. I felt furious, resentful, guilty, desperate. We stayed with it. I felt disconnected, lost, exhausted. We stayed with it. It's a damned uncomfortable process, but so much easier to go through with someone calm and accepting by your side. My emotions started to change. I started to look for the source of my disconnection. I felt an ache in my chest and I looked to my heart. To my surprise, it was papier-mâchéd over with layers of solid newspaper. There, in my mind's eye, I saw the result of all those years of telling myself not to dream, not to believe. I had effectively silenced my heart. I had barred the door to my own power and potential. I had sealed myself up so that it wouldn't hurt so much if I failed. But how was I ever going to fail? I wasn't even letting myself try.
Over the course of that session I ripped layer after layer of papier-mâché from my heart. I tossed strips of dry, out-of-date newspaper aside, and I made a hole big enough to crawl through, and see what was left of my self-belief. There, behind that rigid partition, I found a little garden. There were some dead trees round the edge, some chances missed, some opportunities that would never come round again. But in the middle was a patch of soil, and when I turned it over with my toe, I saw that the earth was moist, and that there were little shoots already peeking out at the light that was finally streaming in. I chose, in that moment, to tend to my garden. I wanted to see what would grow if I gave it more light and air and water. I chose, at last, to have another go at believing that there was nothing I couldn't do.
The very next day I went part time and signed up for my CTI training. I was liberated and connected to myself in a way I hadn't been for years. And no, none of it made me instantaneously wealthy or famous or glamorous. But it did make me happy, and it did make me hopeful.
How are things looking in your garden of self-belief? What might grow there, if you went and nurtured the soil?