So, I’ve always been ‘the capable one’. Could read before I hit school, glowing reports once I got there, selected for school councils, award for diligence at the end of the third form, two scholarships at the end of seventh. You know, THAT kid. Capable.
I’ve taught me. Nice, capable girls. School comes easy. Other kids want to borrow our notes (or flat out copy our work, given half the chance). We get lots of positive, general feedback about being clever, good, sensible, diligent etc. Capable.
The wheels fall off a bit when you strike a situation, pretty much any situation, in which you are anything less than capable. Because if you’re always the capable girl and then suddenly you’re not, then who are you?
Case in point, Athletics Day. I dreaded it. There were tears. Every year. And begging not to have to go to school. I was (am) completely rubbish at sporty things. Athletics Day was like an exercise in ritual humiliation. Not only could I not fling myself over that bloody high jump bar or get anywhere but last in the running but there was an audience of kindly but patronising adults strategically placed to watch me fail. Nightmare.
I’ll tell you who I am in when I hit Athletics Day situations now. I am either a first class avoider or a stressed out mess. Always have been.
Avoidance is a good strategy except that I know that I’m likely missing out on doing things that I’d actually enjoy if I wasn’t so hung up on being the capable girl. Like, I should really offer to play indoor netball when I hear that the staff team is down a player. But I’d be the one that dropped the ball at the crucial moment that led to the other team winning, and everyone would pretend that they weren’t disappointed but really they would be and I’d lie in bed in the wee hours and replay the whole scenario until it sent me barmy. So instead, I just don’t play. (Oh, and also, I have heard the post game analysis in the staff room and it is brutal).
The stressed out mess category usually comes into play when I’m not coping but I just can’t avoid the situation. ‘I should be able to cope with all this. How come I’m not coping with all this? What the hell is wrong with me?’ played on a loop track in my head for the best part of six months of last year. To all outward appearances, the capable girl was still around, but really I was just holding it all together by the very tips of my fingers.
Since I’ve recognised all this, I’ve tried to let myself off (a bit). I will feed people cake even if the icing isn’t exactly right. I will play around with watercolours even though there are no masterpieces to hang on the wall at the end of the day. I will invite people over even if there is a pile of unfolded washing sitting on the table. Because they’re my standards that I’m battling against, not anyone else’s. (The capable girl is cringing at that statement as I write…)
There are lots of us out there. Trying to hold it together in every aspect of our lives. It’s impossible. Impossible. Let’s all give ourselves a break. Screw the freaking high jump.