Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Roots of Fear

I seem to have walked smack into that wall ....again.  The wall of fear and self doubt.  These things are like think you've beaten it only to find it was just one layer and like an onion fear and self-doubt have many, many layers.
When I started writing this blog it was always meant to be a way to express my joy and vent out my frustrations as I ventured into my new career as a bead artist, and maybe help others avoid some of the pitfalls by learning from my mistakes.  So, I guess, it's quite natural that I have to write about my biggest pitfall!

For those of you who don't know I am English, born and raised in Northern England, living there until I moved to the USA at 26 and I've spent almost the second half of my life here, bouncing between Utah and California.

One of the most shocking things to me when I first arrived here was hearing someone tell someone how brilliant they were at something and it just be accepted.    Why?  Because I had never heard an adult say something like that.  I heard it from kids but that was always met with adults telling them not to say things like that or kids calling them names for doing so.  Basically, you just didn't say, or even think, things like that where I come from.

So...I'm sure my chin was constantly on the floor the first year as everyone here was always blowing their own trumpet....some for good reason and some, well.... you've seen the others in the American Idol tryouts.   Watching my nephew grow up it became clearer to me as to why Americans were like this as my sister-in-law would praise my nephew something chronic for things that he wasn't even good at.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for encouragement but you don't set kids up for ridicule...again, think about American Idol.

Where my issues come from...
I remember at 10 years old in the big school assembly watching other kids go on stage to collect commendation cards for doing well in a subject that year, some kids even had two or three.  When my name was called they read off nine commendations.....not only did I not want to go on stage to collect them (and I didn't) I sank down in my chair so no one could see me because I was so embarrassed, my stomach churned and I thought I would throw up. 
And that's not even the root of it.

I've traced my fear of success back to kindergarten where our teacher had this brilliant (stupid) idea of rewarding good grades with gold stars and toys.  When you got 10 gold stars you got to choose a toy from her treasure chest.  At that age I didn't know how to fail, I didn't know you could play dumb, I just did what I knew how and I was getting a toy was a weekly thing for me.  Boy! Did that ever make me popular. You may as well have painted a target on me. What followed in the next 15 years was pretty scary, I was THE subject of ridicule, cruel jokes and even violence from my peers.  I could easily of ended up as a suicide due to bullying and came close to dying at 14 due to one of their cruel jokes. They were never punished.
I learned that intelligence isn't good and you better not ever say you're good at something. I learned that you hid your light under a bushel and should expect bad things if you didn't.

In later life one of the bullies did actually apologise to me and one apologised to my mom after I moved to the USA.  Apologies are fine but they don't erase all the damage done and it does do a LOT of damage.

I'm glad I moved to the USA, it's here I have learned how to say I am good at nearly choked the first time I did and the guilt over it was ridiculous but I have persevered and it's gotten easier. I still feel like I'm a big flashing neon beacon when I say I'm good at anything or show my work and inside I shrink down like Alice and want to find a mouse hole to crawl into but I am learning to promote myself.  I know I'm my own worst enemy, my own Hanging Judge as LJ puts it over on her blog today, that it's my own issues that keep me from success. It's my own self doubt and that inner Hanging Judge saying "Who does she think she is?" that makes me think there's no room for me in EBW.  I need to get over it!

I think the best thing anyone can do in life is give credit where credit is due, encouragement when ability peeks through.  Don't boost people up so they think they're brilliant when they actually suck because you're not being kind, you're just setting them up for a bad reality check somewhere in the future. And don't put people down for doing something better than you, use that as an opportunity to learn....for most of us (99.99%) there will always be someone more talented, more proficient than we are, those people should inspire us not turn us green or intimidate us to inertia.


  1. Mikki - that's a lot of pain to carry.

    The Hanging Judge usually forms in childhood to protect us. Big girls don't cry. Don't brag or they'll hate you. Don't ask, it's rude. And so on.

    Trouble is, of course, the walls the Hanging Judge built to keep hurts out, in adult life, often locks us in - along with our strengths. Your story is a perfect illustration of this.

    Now you have your reserved British background mixing with the newer American can-do-and-can-talk-about-it - and somewhere in-between the two should be a perfect place.

    All of us, I think, are struggling to find that middle ground: self-confidence that does not become arrogance.

    Wonderful entry.

  2. You go, Mikki! As an American raised for a large portion of my childhood/adolescence in Australia, I relate well to this post. Good for you for striving to find that balance. I too was the "teacher's pet" etc for a long time and I remember where that got me :)

  3. Linda and Kate, thanks. Yes....I blindly managed to get myself to the right place to find balance and I know it will come eventually if I keep plugging away.

  4. Thank you for your transparency, having never been out of the States, I find it interesting to learn what other cultural differences there are. I too find it hard to 'let your light shine' but I learned early on that to be seen was to be in harms way. I am naturally an attention getter, whether it is being smart or talented or just quirky (if I am being myself- you cannot help but notice me) and that made it hard to be invisisble. Now I am trying to be transparent instead of invisible. It is just as difficult and very much the same process.
    I do agree that you really be honest about someones abilities- but still encourageing.


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