Since my last post i’ve been trying to temper my expectations. Despite how positive my visit allotment was, we could still be in for a long wait. This latest project is a good opportunity for self-reflection in the meantime.
For those of you who follow me elsewhere, you’ll be aware that I’ve been doing therapy since last year. I had a mental health crisis in the summer that I’ve written about elsewhere. Apart from a three month ‘cooling off period’ between contracts – my employer initially paying for my sessions – next week will actually be a year of therapy.
The topic of discussion this week was again my recurring pattern of expecting too much of myself and setting myself up to fail. The allotment isn’t even a thing yet but some of the warning signs are there for a rerun if i’m not careful.
I start projects with the best intentions, usually from a place of wanting to make someone else’s life better. However I leap into action before I assess the real cost and my own capabilities. I love collaboration and this is what I promote, but in reality I saddle myself with all the responsibility. It’s okay if other people can’t carry the weight because I always assume I will – even if I don’t actively realise that’s what i’m doing.
I’m paraphrasing a little but in a nutshell that’s what my therapist was highlighting this week. Over the course of our sessions he’s drawn attention to such aspects of myself. They’ve been a part of me for so long that I don’t see them. I’m becoming more aware now but it’s difficult to unlearn such ingrained ways of thinking.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with a desire to help others. I know it’s a core part of who I am. However all things in moderation. I have a long and sorry list of times when I overreached. At those times I told myself that it was the right thing to do and what was expected of me (the word ‘expectation’ comes up A LOT in our sessions). However in hindsight I can see that there has been an accumulation of things that taxed me mentally more than I acknowledged at the time.
I’m not saying the allotment isn’t a good idea. I genuinely think it’s a wonderful idea and it will be so good for my mental health. I’m really, really excited about it. I just need to be mindful to approach it from a place that’s good for me as well as others otherwise I risk repeating history. I need to set healthy boundaries basically.
My therapist suggested I have an open conversation about how much time we can all realistically commit to this. It sounds straightforward but it’s actually difficult for me. There’s a part of me that sees such a conversation – saying that I have a tendancy to overcommit and that I can only really commit a certain amount – as a failure. I know the narrative in my head would be that I am disappointing those around me.
Of course that’s not true. I know that the four of us would all benefit from a reality check of our expectations and agreement on what we can contribute. This is supposed to be an enjoyable experience rather than a chore afterall.
I know no one will think less of me if i’m not turning up at the allotment seven days a week and only doing what I can. The phrase my therapist uses is ‘good enough’, borrowed from the work of paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. My involvement doesn’t have to be perfect or the lion’s share. It just has to be ‘good enough’.
I’m more acutely aware now just how much my mind works against me. It’s a subtle but constant voice. As well as overextending myself, I undervalue my own contributions and this feeds into low self-worth. Stir in an unhealthy mix of anxiety and imposter syndrome and it’s a recipe that sees me always trying to take up the smallest space.
The times when I do push myself into those bigger spaces, the intial pride and excitement gives way quite quickly to doubt and guilt. It’s a tiresome vicious cycle.
I am happy that I sought therapy and that it’s shining a light on these thought patterns. I just need to catch myself when I feel like I haven’t made any progress. I’m not in the same headspace I was a year ago and that’s to be celebrated, but I tend to forget that there’s been lots of small wins along the way too.
In response to “balance” from Ra Avis’ (Rarasaur’s) blog bingo this month. Photo by Dušan Smetana on Unsplash.
No question today, it doesn’t feel right to ask. Instead, maybe just pause to think about how you think, and whether that helps or hinders you.