I was on the tube back to Thames Ditton after wrapping up the last of my workshops in the UK, and I was buzzing with energy. I’d absolutely loved running the workshops and met so many brilliant, authentic women.
Then I picked up my phone and opened an email.
As I skimmed it, my heart clenched, and not in a good way.
Tears welled up and out of my eyes, right there in front of the tube-full of serious people.
It was a response from one of the workshop feedback surveys. I’ll never know who the response was from, it was completely anonymous.
This is what she wrote:
“I’ve been really debating about whether to say this or not. I want to tell you, because I just think it’s an interesting observation…
I enjoyed the meet up, and I got a lot out of it – all the stuff above; but perhaps the most interesting thing I got out of it was an awareness of something about myself.
I know I’m self conscious, and have low self esteem, so I over overcompensate, and I feel I did that 200% this meeting, and I loathed myself for it.
I felt so self conscious that I wore makeup, that my hair was wrong, my jeans were too tight, that I wasn’t interesting, my stories were crap, my answers were judged as boring, superficial, that everyone else was better, that you didn’t like me, that you all thought I was annoying and a people-pleaser, and NOT GENUINE!
And all the things we talked about not being and not liking in other people.
And this all sounds very self-centred, but I was shocked by how much venom I was aiming at myself.
And so covered it up by being annoying, grating, sickly. And that made me feel even worse. And I don’t think this is personal to you, or anyone else there, or in that situation – I behave like that all the time, but this is the first time I’ve REALLY thought about it. I guess that’s a result of the environment and what the whole point of the meet-up was.
I care SO much about what other people think of me, it ruins a vast amount of things I do in my life.”
I glanced around the tube to see if anyone had noticed the mad woman stifle a sob, tears streaming down my cheeks… Luckily the London Underground Eye-Contact Avoidance & Ignore Everyone policy was still firmly in place. No one so much as batted an iPhone-fixated eye.
I screenshotted part of the response to my two business mentors and furiously typed out…
“THIS!!! THIS is why I give so much of a fuck about what I do!! This is why I need to get over my fear of all the people that will judge and hate me and just get out there and run more workshops so people can learn not to listen to this cruel shit that their mind comes up with!!”
Yes, I’m always so articulate in my texts.
I recognised myself in Mystery Jane’s words. They hit me right in the chest because I knew every single one of those self-criticisms by heart. And I know that millions of other women, and men, battle with the same self-doubt in their head every day.
I met every one of the people at all 4 of my workshops, and there was not one that even barely fit the description that Mystery Jane’s mind gave to her. I met no one even remotely grating, annoying, sickly, boring, or any of the venomous descriptions her mind directed at her. I wanted to write to her and tell her how very wrong she was, and how brilliant she is. But I couldn’t even vaguely guess who she was.
But actually, she’s all of us.
And it needs to stop.
We live in a society that financially (and patriarchally) thrives off making everyone (particularly women) feel that we are not good enough as we are. That we are deficient, that we must tick one million boxes, then a few more, and then, we’re nearly good enough.
Did you know that in a research study in Sweden, the researchers found that a female postdoctoral fellowship applicant had to be 2.5 times more productive than the average male applicant to receive the same competence score?
And by the same token, men have insane pressure on them to never look weak, always thrive, never have emotions, and always roar like an alpha. Which leaves many, many men with a hefty dose of the “not-good-enoughs” too.
These patterns of self-hatred and self-doubt are wired in our brains from such a young age, we often don’t even realise they’re there. Nor that we have any other option than to buy into those thoughts.
But there is another option.
I don’t feel like Mystery Jane feels anymore.
I still have Neville in my ear telling me I suck from time to time, but he doesn’t bother me much anymore at all. The skills I teach in my programs and workshops are the skills I’ve used to rewire my brain and dig myself out of a very dark hole of self hate.
If you’re in (or can get to) London, UK this month, or if you know someone who is, I would bloody love to see you at the workshop:
It’s a practical guide to increasing your emotional intelligence (which by the way – is the number 1 factor in becoming successful – EQ is TWICE as important as IQ and technical skills. Also, it’s the fastest route to a bloody good life.
Click here to join us before the 15% early bird discount runs out!