Last week I had a performance review at work and it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, or maybe I’d been desperately trying not to think about how it would go so the outcome was always going to be a shock, or maybe I have a warped perception of my own capabilities. Either way, I was really disappointed. And I didn’t cry in front of my boss when I got the verdict, and I managed to laugh it off in front of friends as maybe a slight insult to my pride about which I could just feel indignant and a little bit martyred, but actually I’m crushed. This was one of a series of things that happened recently that would probably be humbling for a well-adjusted person, but I’m not one of those, and I don’t do humble so much as I just crumble.
One of the other things happened today. I’ve been going running for a while now, and it started with a local group which lured me in with the promise of a free t-shirt and an ‘all levels’ route back in January. Today was my twentieth session with them, and still I found myself alone at the back, with not only no one else as slow as me but no one willing to join me at my pace for the sake of being sociable. After this long I’m used to being at the back, which is not a common experience for me because usually if I’m not the best at something I ditch it pretty sharpish, but I still find it demoralising and humiliating that I am so *so* much worse than all of the others. When I’m alone I can forget that I’m slow, but having people to compare myself to week after week and consistently coming out as the worst is slowly scraping away at my self-belief. How can I be getting better if I’m still last?
The third thing is more like a collection of things. I had a difficult week at Rainbows last week where my voice was a bit croaky and I couldn’t shout, and I didn’t know the names of the new girls so I couldn’t get their attention, and they were so excitable I could barely breathe for cries of ‘I’m bored’, ‘Can we go to the park?’, ‘Where’s our other leader?’, ‘Are we doing baking today?’, ‘Is it home time yet?’. Rainbows (like work, I thought) is usually something I’m quite good at, so being so out of control was beyond draining. I feel like I’ve lost my authority and I don’t belong. I’m slightly dreading going back.
Which fits in well with the work social I have this week, with some other managers. Who are all men, which scares me for reasons I don’t really understand (maybe because I have vivid memories of the group of boys who used to bully me in the playground when I was six, or because it was a boy who claimed my Lego house as his own when I went to read to Mrs Collins on my first day at school, or because at my segregated-by-sex secondary school one of my few male ‘friends’ made a point of telling me that ‘everyone here [at the boys’ school] takes the p*ss out of you every time you’re mentioned’), but apart from that they’re nearly all more senior and older and much more experienced, and I just feel so little and out of my depth, like hanging round with my big brother’s friends when they came round to our house.
I was doing okay until this time last week, but now I’m just not sure of myself. I had some sort of self-confidence built up, like a fragile teetering Jenga tower, but it’s collapsed now. And it’s a bit pathetic that my self belief can be taken out by a small series of unfortunate events like this, but it’s true. I feel small and incompetent and like I’m not really doing well at anything. Everyone else is better, faster, braver, more confident. I was trying to get there but now I’m back in my place. And maybe I’m a slightly different person to the one I was last time I was here, maybe I’ll bounce back a bit better and the exercise and the daily gratitude and the best support network I’ve ever had will help, but I didn’t really want to be here again at all.