Everyone has one thing which motivates them and pushes them to be at their best. For some people that’s wanting to be the best possible example for their kids, for others it’s the potential of recognition, and others it’s doing better than they did yesterday. For me it is quite simply proving other people wrong.
Being underestimated has always been a big trigger for me and has pushed me on to some of my best results, school teachers that told me I wasn’t capable of completing 5 full A-Levels (5-A’s thankyou very much), the bosses that have told me that my anxiety made me unfit for promotion, my dad at more times and in more ways than I could every do justice to.
It took me a lot of self exploration to get anywhere close to understanding where that drive comes from for me. Its work that has really paid off as I’ve learnt to understand myself better and the type of self awareness work that I would wholeheartedly encourage everyone to explore. I can’t always stop myself when I get sucked into the dark side of it but each time it happens I realise a little more quickly and can find my way out a little bit faster so maybe somewhere in the future I will find my escape hatch.
I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf. I was that child in primary school that was off playing on their own in the corner creating and interacting with a huge imaginary world in my head which made far far more sense to me than the world that I was existing in, I understood what my part in it was, I understood how to interact with the people around me and I was never overlooked. In the real world I could never quite work out how to fit in, never quite work out how to be part of the crowd, never quite work out how to get people to notice me. Even at home I was the oldest of 4 and I think we were all in our own ways clamouring and trying to be noticed, but when there are that many of you in the house and both of your parents are working in high pressure time consuming jobs there just isn’t enough time or energy to go around you all.
I dealt with that by digging in and becoming more self sufficient, by creating a safe space for myself and proving to myself that I could look after myself. I never really learnt to let the people around me in, that way it didn’t matter if they didn’t notice me because I could manage without them. On some level I had actively made it harder for them to do that at the same time by erecting huge fortress like barriers around me and my feelings.
To this day that is exactly how I respond if I feel unsafe in an environment, if I feel like I am being overlooked, or if I feel like I am in danger of loosing people. Not the healthiest approach I grant you but I do know that whatever happens I can always rely on myself and the response is all about reverting to that so that I always know that I am there to catch myself whatever happens.
One thing that did happen as a result was that I became quieter and spent more time listening to the people around me, and like everyone else I was particularly sensitive to what was being said about me. What I picked up were whispers of things that I wasn’t getting right, that I wasn’t doing well enough, that teachers were worried that I wasn’t fitting in. Its very possible that positive things were being said as well but quite honestly I don’t remember them if they were, perhaps our brains are selective that way. But if this is the case it hasn’t harmed me too much. It has actually given me a way to tap into my strongest motivation. I found a way to push myself by setting out to prove that other people were wrong about me and that I was capable of so much more than they realised.
That became my overriding principle, I was going to prove those people who thought less of me wrong.
After being made fun of by teachers at primary school for being disorganised (something which I now understand went hand in hand with my dyslexia…) I promised myself when I started secondary school that I would learn to be organised, to be the person that was more organised than anyone else at school. I had absolutely no idea how to go about doing that at first. In my very first year I literally carried every single thing that I might need in my school backpack everywhere with me……. yes everything, every textbook, every exercise book, every pencil case….. that this was heavy and I probably did some lasting damage to my back or shoulders in the process! It certainly worked on some levels, I always had everything that I might need with me but I never really learnt how to be organised! Over the years, I learnt to go and spend time every morning in my form room getting everything that I needed ready for the day, and I was always the first to get homework done and dusted and handed in so that I didn’t have to worry about when I would get it done. I suppose that to the average eye I must have seemed naturally hyper organised, but the truth is that I dug in to learn ways to manage my natural chaotic state. It was exhausting and led to me going through peaks and troughs with my work and my motivation levels. This is still going on even now to some extent, it’s just harder now that I’m an adult, the sense of routine that came with a school timetable got lost and I have to work even harder to keep things under control now.
Where the strength came from to follow this kind of thing through I’ll never know, I tapped into this stubborn streak that wanted nothing more than to prove that I could do something that people thought that I couldn’t. It didn’t seem to matter to me that the teachers that had used me as an example of how not to behave at primary school never got to see that side of me.
That was the first time I really remember learning to respond like that but it definitely wasn’t the last.
My first big running race was a 10 mile race after my dad joked that there was no way I would be able to run 10 miles; I’ve gone a long way since I started powerlifting and was told that my initial numbers were ‘pretty good for a girl’; I’ve finally started a blog after being told how bad my writing was and how uncreative I was.
I even set out to prove myself wrong at times which is even harder. I qualified for Euros at my first powerlifting meet despite being convinced that an injury had made that impossible; I didn’t think I was able to public speak and yet I trained as a barrister and a yoga teacher; I didn’t think I would ever be able to complete a marathon and i did in Brighton 2015.
It is emotionally exhausting constantly needing to prove everyone wrong and I wouldn’t recommend it as an approach to life! But it has taught me one vital lesson over the years.
Other peoples views and opinions about you have absolutely no relation to what you are able to go out there and achieve. They don’t know what is going on inside your head, they don’t know how much mental strength you have, and they have no idea what you are capable of. With application and dedication you can turn your hand to and succeed at almost anything so don’t be afraid to get out there and have a go just keep an eye out for that thing that motivates you along the way to help you see that journey through.