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Self-belief and validation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-belief, and my first thought is that this in itself is an odd term. Do I believe in the tooth-fairy? Well, no, because she/he doesn’t exist. Do I believe in myself? Well, no, because… I don’t really know how to end that sentence! Of course I exist, but I don’t actually believe in myself, not in the sense that it’s meant: Obviously, self-belief is more about a sense of validation, and whether that comes from within, or if we need it to come from without. One of the features of borderline personality disorder is a ‘distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self’. I explain this in my book,

…my sense of self depended largely on other people and how they treated me. If people were nice to me, I believed myself to be nice also – if they weren’t nice then nor was I.

I often felt as thought the person I was with defined who I was in that moment…

A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder – a journey into borderline personality disorder (and out the other side)

For a long time, validation came from others and not from within myself. For years I subconsciously aligned myself with the  predilections of those around me in the hope that this shift in attitude would then validate me, as a person. I like to think that this instinct lies dormant in me, as I succumb to the temptation far less often than I used to. But even now, if someone doesn’t like something that I do like I immediately question my own taste and preferences; perhaps I shouldn’t like it either? Of course, that is nonsense! But it still takes me a while to arrive at that conclusion, especially if it’s something I feel strongly about. Does my wife love me any less because she doesn’t like a particular music artist that I happen to love? Honestly, my gut response to that would be ‘yes’. But then I ask myself if I love her any less because she does like a particular artist who, when played, grates on my nerves like fingernails down a blackboard – of course I don’t – we just have different tastes! And yet is it so much harder to apply this logic when it comes to my own differing tastes than to those of others. Quite simply, I don’t believe in myself: I question myself, I doubt myself, I have no faith in myself.

I still find myself dismissing praise and affirmation mainly because it comes from friends and family and I assume they’re biased. They might think my poetry, writing, creativity etc is great but, I tell myself, that’s because they know me and they love me. I have a hard time believing that somebody with no personal connection will think that what I produce is great.

If somebody gives me positive criticism (and all that generally registers about this at the time is ‘criticism’) about something I’ve written, my first instinct is to rip ‘it’ to shreds and never ever write again – not even on a birthday card, or in the sand. The urge to question everything I’ve ever done is such that I seldom don’t give into it, at least for a few minutes. On that note; each time my wife read through another draft of my book I cringed. I would watch her, armed with her pen, scribbling notes all over the pages, and my puffed up pride at having produced a new draft was punctured and instantly deflated.

I have been questioning myself and my abilities (particularly as a writer) for some time now, and have recently been seeing a lot of hashtags on twitter about ‘Indie publishers’ and wondered what it meant. Surely it’s just self-publishing in disguise? Apparently not! and one article in particular clearly explained the difference. The first thing that I read when I googled Indie Authors is this:

Being an indie author is primarily an approach to writing and publishing, a matter of self-definition. If you see yourself as the creative director of your books, from concept to completion and beyond, then you’re indie. You don’t approach publishers with a longing for validation: “publish me please”.

I must admit, when this popped up at the top of my search results I had a shifty look over my shoulder, half expecting to see the thought-police right behind me, and I also felt slightly ashamed. I want the validation of a publisher, I need it. I need someone other than those who love me to tell me ‘I believe in you too’. Is believing in myself not good enough? It might be if I did actually believe in myself, define myself from within without the constant need for validation, but I find that incredibly hard, so right now, no – my self-belief is not enough.

I have never been good at waiting, so although my new manuscript is currently out in cyberspace scouting for a publisher/agent, I am seriously wondering whether or not indie publishing  is something I could do.  The one thing that really does appeal to me is the fact that I would have ultimate control over every creative aspect of my book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a control freak, but I’m certainly not impartial to my fair share of control here and there. That really does appeal to me!

But I also  want to be able to hold my head up high and say, ‘look! a publisher believes in what I’ve written, they believe in me!’ Sadly, I’m not sure I could hold my head up high just as proud and with the same amount of confidence and say, ‘Hey! I believe in what I’ve written. I believe in myself!’

So that’s what I’m working on at the moment; not necessarily becoming an indie publisher overnight (although I could do if I wanted to!) but on being confident in who I am and what I do, and finding validation from within rather than constantly seeking it from others in order to define and, erm, validate who I am!

Wish me luck; I have a sneaky feeling this could be a long and bumpy ride, but in the mean time I might just have a go at designing a book cover, just because I can!

It’s not all bad, and it’s not all good; apparently that’s ok

There’s this thing that happens in a borderline brain: When something good happens EVERYTHING is good, and anything that’s not good doesn’t matter. Sounds great, right? The flip side to this is that when something bad happens, not only is EVERYTHING bad (worse than bad, actually), and anything that’s not bad doesn’t matter – EVERY little bit of bad that you’ve EVER bounced back from when things were good all show up to attend the big Bad party. This actually happens.

Each black-or-white state could last 5 minutes or 5 hours – sometimes even days (usually when I can’t get the guests to leave the Bad party) but the minute something else happens everything is changed again – a bit like the different lands at the top of the Faraway Tree.

It seems perfectly logical to me that things are either wonderful or awful, because that’s how my BDP brain naturally works. However, I have (and here is a very clever example of my ability to conquer this ‘splitting’) another part of brain that is not BPD, and whilst it is not easy to be balanced and find a middle ground, it is possible. 

Right now I feel like a failure, and in this moment everything I have done that has not failed doesn’t seem to count. So I’m going to try and make it count. Rather than plunging (further) into the murky depths of everything-is-awful, I have decided to look for the in-between, the middle ground, and hopefully this will bring the balance I need.

SO… This last year I celebrated the launch of my (first, and possibly last) book with 50 plus friends and family members. A wonderful friend conducted an informal interview with me, as I felt unable to talk directly to all those people from a pulpit.

Since then, I have stood up in front of 30, then 100 people and talked about my experience of mental health, read some poems and answered questions from audience members. Ten years ago I could barely talk to my GP.

I have moved house (and a ridiculously protracted move it was), and for someone who’s not big on change I think I’ve coped remarkably well. We didn’t move across country – only across county, but even so I have managed to settle in and I maintain the support network of my cross-county friends as best I/we can.

I have written a second book. (True, it may never see the light of day, but for the purposes of this exercise I’m counting it as a positive).

I have (I think) made my blog site GDPR ready, pushing through days of tears and self-doubting, self-abasing monologues in order to do so. You know, I should just delete the whole website, nobody likes it anyway; I can’t even write so why do I bother trying – that kind of thing. But I wasn’t impulsive, my laptop is still in one piece and no windows or bones were broken during the process.

Despite my paranoias and misgivings, I have persevered in flogging the dead horse promoting my first book, and I continue to contribute in helping to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues.

I am still very happily married, and I think I can speak for my wife, when I say that she is happy too!

I have given up smoking (again) four and a quarter times.

Oh, and I also won an award for my blog!

Time and time again, my challenge is to force my borderline brain out of the ‘present’ (contrary to the mindfulness process) and see beyond my current state, particularly when that current state is ‘bad’.

Today, as much as I’d love to find a better land at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree, I will stay where I am, with the good and the bad, and allow the two to coexist as though this was completely normal or something.

Apologies to those who have signed up for my blog, two posts in a day – sheesh!