I wrote a few months ago about my epic plan to run a half-marathon. Well believe it or not I did it.
It was a roller-coaster of a journey though, and I managed to get myself a foot injury along my training route (anyone know anything about bursitis?) so, to say I actually completed a 13.1 marathon is really quite an achievement.
I should be over the moon and as pleased as punch. But. That word. It’s always there, like an annoying buzz in my ear. But, I didn’t really do it properly did I? I had to walk most of the route and finished nearly (not quite) last.
See what I’m doing? I’m undermining myself, and I must stop.
It’s something I find oh so easy to do, and I don’t think I’m alone. Just listen to other women and you will soon find they also berate themselves in some shape or form. That’s not what you tend to find with men. They’re much better at blowing their own trumpet. Read twitter or facebook comments – without even looking at the name it’s very easy to guess the gender division.
I asked life coach Nicol Chaplin why she thought women (like me) were far more likely than men to downplay their achievements. It starts early on, she says, boys and girls are often given very different ‘life scripts’.
” I have noticed amongst my clients that many of them hold stereotypical views about themselves. My experience is that many young boys are bought up by their parents, teachers or significant others to believe that certain behaviours are expected of them if they are to be “a Man.”
‘Success, leadership, good income, respect from your peers are considered to be success criteria of becoming “a Man” and therefore achievement of any description is an important measurement for them.’
Conversely, girls, are given a different set of messages, ones such as don’t boast, put others needs first, be supportive, look after your partner and children.
Nicol continues: ”Though all these behaviours are fine, they are not achievement focused and I think that often when a women talks about their achievements they feel that somehow it’s at odds with the image they have been bought up with of how a women should be.”
She’s right, and when I think about it ‘boasting’ was certainly not encouraged when I was growing up. Being ‘full of yourself’ was deemed a negative characteristic, and you were soon brought down to earth if you were ever caught ‘showing off’.
So where does that leave me now? Well, I tend to feel uncomfortable saying personal positive things. It’s far easier to belittle myself or be disparaging.
Having had a few coaching sessions with Nicol I am now aware that I have a very loud and persistent inner critic and am my own worst enemy. It’s as though I have a default setting which tells me to kick myself before somebody else does. It’s been with me for most of my life – but it’s high time to get shut of it.
It’s not something that will happen overnight. Like the writing on a stick of rock it’s ingrained in me, but being aware of it is the first step to hopefully erasing it.
As Nicol says, the inner critic is another name for limiting self-beliefs.
”The important thing to remember about beliefs is they are not based in truth or facts – so that’s why real hard evidence (facts) showing you a different view to the belief you hold is all important as this is what will break the power of the belief over you and allow you to think and feel differently about yourself.”
She recommends questioning and challenge yourself constantly. If that voice is saying you can’t do something try and work out where it originates.
Remember when you were told ‘you can’t sing’ by a teacher at school, it stuck with you all those years, you’ve held onto it – but was it really true and is it true now?
Being told negative things at an early age is of huge influence which is why as a parent I now have to fight twice as hard against my natural inclinations. But I do try, and recall these quotes which help:
‘It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’
As for me, I’m an ongoing project. I am now more aware of that annoying negative buzz in my ear and increasingly likely to turn it down. One easy tip from Nicol is try replacing the word but with and.
So, I’m over-the-moon to have completed my first ever half-marathon.
I walked most of it and got a medal. Well done me!
It’s time for the the but, to butt out.