So you peek your head outside, eyes darting around your unknown alien environment, venture one or two steps on tiptoe and then scramble back into your hidey-hole.
You know you must traverse this scary, daunting, challenging place to reach your destination, but you just cannot muster the courage, or it fails you. Self-doubt and other people’s criticisms and negative perceptions of you enshroud you, lurking in every nook and cranny, their Siren’s song luring you back to…
And your mind splits into dual mode – the first half feels safe within the oppressive familiar; the other despairs, languishing inside such a destructive place which seems to get more suffocating and stifling each day. Each day there saps your confidence and determination like a weed choking a plant. The latter mode knows that if action isn’t taken you will surely die there.
It was for me. After years of doubting my ability, listening to negative comments and having my confidence battered in different situations, I constructed a warped perception of how I saw myself and what I could accomplish.
From having such high hopes and aspirations as a young child, I started setting my sights very low. I still had dreams about what I could be, but I just relegated it to pure fantasy. I was too petrified to change in case I failed.
And I was also confused. I could not fathom how I had ended up in the situation I was now in. Neither could others. I would hear comments like:
- “I don’t understand, you went to private school, you should have lots of confidence!”
- “You’ve got a Masters from one of the best institutions in the world – what the hell are you doing with your life?!”
- “You’re suffering from ‘lazy-itis’!” (my personal favourite!)
- “You’re wasting your life – I’m SCARED for you!”
It would get me angry because I felt misunderstood. I felt like I had been guided and tricked to a desolate plot of land for me to build my own hidey-hole in some sort of cruel twisted joke. And I built it far too effectively! I knew many people who I had started with, who were now continents and oceans away from me (they didn’t seem to have a hidey-hole to begin with!) and thrived in their new land they had created for themselves. I witnessed others who had escaped their hidey-hole and were journeying to their own promised land. Each would leave me with a pang of envy and frustration but a tiny spark of hope. But how could I possibly escape? I had no idea of what direction I would go. Their examples would encourage me and I would leave for a time, but each time would result in me doing the self-sabotaging dance of the hokey-cokey. I remembered (now faintly) my passions and interests I held as a young child (before life gets in the way) and a teenager, but the frosty and sardonic reception they received from others at that time taught me that path was well and truly shut.
And inertia was creeping in, weakening my spirit and resolve. With macabre humour, I realised that just like the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt I had built my own tomb in my own lifetime. But that was where the similarities ended. They had accomplished great things with their lives before they reached their final resting place and a promise of rejoining their great ancestors. I hadn’t had a meaningful life as yet. I was existing in self-imposed wretched circumstances, virtually sealed in alive and seemingly powerless to do anything but wait for my expiration date. Mine wasn’t a grand physical edifice – mine was mental, paid for in the currency of my sanity, lack of confidence and despair.
So how can you change the tide???