A little bit of tender mercy

I have very, very high expectations for myself.

I have done ever since I can remember. I was taught, from a young age, that if something went very right, or very wrong, it was ultimately due to my own effort (or lack thereof).

When I was around 14, I was hanging out with some friends on the weekend and something happened that resulted in them not speaking to me for a whole day. It was no doubt stupid teenage stuff, but on the day I felt absolutely devastated about it.

My mum came and picked me up at the end of the day. As soon as the car door shut I burst into tears and it all came pouring out. Her response?

What did you do? You must have done something for them to treat you like that.

That was pretty much the way it always went. And so I learned that when something went wrong, it was because I had done something wrong or said something wrong or hadn’t tried hard enough.

Or, or, or…

With these high expectations come a lot of anxiety, and a lot of free-falling guilt spirals when I can’t live up to them.

And the reality is: no one could live up to them.

All of this has manifested into me sticking with situations that are very bad for me because a) I deserve it when bad things happen to me, b) I am clearly just not working hard enough, and c) if I stick it out just a bit longer I can ‘make it right’.

It also means I will very often not even start something if I feel like I can’t possibly do it perfectly. Or, if I start something and fail even slightly, give it all up because I am clearly hopeless and not capable of doing ‘the thing’.

When I listen to business podcasts or read articles and books a common thread is how many times successful people have failed before they really hit gold.

The idea of that scares me to death if I’m being honest. I’m not very good at failing – partly because I rarely let myself get into a situation where I might.

But that’s where the growth is, right? And I have learned from hard, recent experience, if you don’t let yourself fail in minimal ways, you will end up crashing in full flame for all the world to see.

I never know if you change something via just doing it until it feels like a habit, or natural, or if you wait until something happens organically.

I think when it comes to changing the narrative on something like this it’s probably both.

My insides are pink and raw
And it hurts me when I move my jaw
But I am taking tiny steps forward

And I feel sure that my wounds will heal
And I will bloom here in my room

With a little water
And a little sunlight
And a little bit of tender mercy
Tender mercy

The Mountain Goats – Absolute Lithops Effect