What is Going On Inside My Head?

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The past couple of nights, I’ve been able to keep the balcony door open to my room and fall asleep to crashing waves and the sea breeze. It’s a far cry the neighbor’s drum set, squirrels, and ambulance sirens I hear when the windows are open at home. Hanging out with my parents and kids away from our everyday life has provided me ample opportunity to reflect and dream. So much so that I decided to write this post in a stream of consciousness narrative. I can’t promise that it will be well-written but it will be honest.

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When here in Florida – my dad walks along the beach and on trails around the island almost every morning;  I’ve joined him the previous two. It’s been nice to chat with him – growing up the oldest of four kids in close proximity meant that one-on-one time with a parent was a luxury I rarely experienced. But as nice as our conversations have been, I’ve also enjoyed the moments when we’re just walking – being  ‘the quiet one’ of four children, I continue to crave silence to this day. My mind wandered during those lulls in conversation and before long, I started to hear You’re not good enough. What are you doing with yourself? You need to be better. You’re letting everybody down! rattle around up there.

I am not what one would consider an anxious person. I tend not to worry about things that are beyond my control, especially when it comes to anything military-related. Soon after we were married I quickly learned that everything happening ‘over there’ was beyond my control and anxiety on my part would not bring him home any sooner or safer. And in regards to my children, I am not overly cautious. I encourage them to explore and to be brave. I want them to jump off the dock, swing from that tree, and see how fast they can run through freshly cut grass. For myself, I don’t really worry about getting hurt or kicking the bucket, unless I am driving over a suspension bridge in the exterior lane (why anyone would choose anything other than the most interior lane is simply beyond my comprehension). Simply put – I am just not an anxious person.

For the past 18 months, despite the appearance of calm and togetherness, I’ve been feeling like pieces of me are breaking off and floating away into oblivion. I initially blamed my loss in confidence on Texas and my failure to bloom. And then I blamed my lack of direction on the fact that I am in the midst of transitioning from a stay-at-home mom of babies and preschoolers to a mom of grade-school children excited to jump back into the workforce. I struggled to make sense of the little slivers that remain from my pre-kids career. I desperately wanted to find my path but I always seemed to be missing the trail markers. I was lost. In myself. I wasn’t anxious about the outside world. But I was becoming consumed by my own disappointment in myself. And you know what? I just realized that I typed this paragraph in past tense, as if these feelings have dissipated. And you know what? A lot of them haven’t. And I don’t really know why.

That’s not to say that things haven’t improved since our move to Virginia. They have – I am definitely in a much better place. But I’m still struggling. I’ve always been pretty confident in most areas of my life until one day I wasn’t. And on the mornings when the self-doubt grabs on to my leg and caused me to limp throughout my day, my internal voice is the most vicious – chastising me for feeling this way because I have an incredibly supportive husband who encourages me daily to conquer the world, healthy children who adore me, and a quite lovely life in a fantastic part of the country.

I do think it’s natural to have peaks and valleys when it comes to self-esteem and that confidence has a lot to do with faking it until you make it. I know that I offer value to society and that I am capable of making a difference. But then again – you’d think that isn’t the case by the way my inner-voice speaks to me. You’re lazy. No wonder you can’t seem to put one foot in front of another. What is WRONG with you?

What is wrong with me?

Perhaps nothing. I’m sure I’m not the only thirty-something out there with an inner-voice who is determined to undermine goals and tasks at hand. I mean, my outlook on life is overwhelmingly positive – no wonder why I sometimes feel like a fraud for beating myself up for not being the best or feeling like I’m not living up to my potential. It’s the fear of not being enough because I’m not able to do everything. Way to blow that opportunity, Karen. You’re just scared that you won’t be good enough and you know what? You won’t be.

There are two dreams I have every couple of months. One reoccurring dream (nightmare?) is when all of my teeth shatter and fall out my mouth like sand being poured from a bucket. The other involves me unknowingly registering for a class and not discovering so until the end of the semester a few hours before the final. I dream about frantically cramming material on a subject I know little about – most recently it was Hydraulics. I always wake up just as the TA passes out the blue exam books (are those even used in college still?). Do these dreams mean anything? Unsure. But when I have then, I wake up unsettled and my inner-voice seems to be louder that day.

I don’t like those days.

I know that my life isn’t perfect – that doesn’t exist. But it is pretty damn good. I consider myself to be happy. Most days I am able to push the self-doubt down deeper to where I can’t hear her voice. And I’m beginning to think that there lies at least part of my problem – perhaps by pushing her voice deeper inside, I’m giving my self-doubt more power than it deserves. What if I just release the self-doubt into the wild as soon as I recognize her presence or hear her voice? Whenever I encounter a problem, it always seems bigger and unwieldy until I discuss it with someone else – then it becomes manageable and solvable. Maybe my self-doubt and fear of failure should be treated the same way.

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Lucy and I sat on the beach this morning and watched the sunrise. My inner-voice wasn’t too critical this morning but I decided to write this post anyway. I’m getting quite tired of hearing her. And I am really getting tired of her trying to sabotage my goals. After these few days on the ocean, I’m feeling better – I truly feel like over the past six months, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction and I’m gluing pieces of me back together a’la kintsugi. I’m hopeful that my gold shines bright as I’m repaired. I know that I will always experience self-doubt (who doesn’t?) – the struggle will be not giving her so much power. I deserve that power. Not her.

8 comments on “What is Going On Inside My Head?”

  1. Karen, can we please meet? I feel like you and I are so much alike. I loved this post. Your honesty is so profound and speaks to me, as I’m sure many others who read your blog. I question my self worth on a daily basis. The other day I almost stopped in my tracks when I realized: I have a mom hair cut, I was wearing a vest, and I got excited about buying a Scrub Daddy. Could I be any more like a typical suburban mom?? Maybe its a mid-life crisis, mid-30’s crisis? But, I also beat myself up often. Why am I not a doctor? Why don’t I have a PhD? Why am I not in a meeting at this very moment, giving presentations and making big decisions, when I’m instead cleaning the house and chugging along to another toddler activity. I’ve always wanted to stand out from among the crowd, and I’m not. I’m still trying to find some peace and solution to what my inner voice is telling me. I need something to change my outlook and pace of life. I pray about this often. I sometimes have to fall back to a year ago, when I was experiencing a health scare. I was so scared and could have cared nothing about my career plans or how much money we had or where I had traveled. While waiting for results, all I could think about was, would my kids remember me? Did I do a good enough job for them? Everything was put into perspective at that moment and I’m ashamed to say I sometimes forget about it. But, on days when I begin to question everything, I stop and realize how lucky I am to be standing, with my family, on yet another day. We are living someone else’s fairy tale. Thank you for writing this out. I admire you so much. Please keep writing!!

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    1. Oh Laura – your response resonates so much with me. You make such a great about the gamut of emotions you experienced during your health scare – career accomplishments rarely mean much in the grand scheme of things. In fact, when I read obituaries, I always feel sorry for those that have huge paragraphs about their career and very little information, if any, about their family. I have the feeling that I will be re-reading your comment for many years to come. I love your statement – “We are living someone else’s fairy tale.” Isn’t that the truth?

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  2. I am so glad you posted this (and I love that we are a bit of kindred spirits positing similarly on the same day). We are own worst critics and I fought this battle long and hard during my marathon journey. Why do we sabotage our own happiness or downplay our talents? It’s something I’ll never understand, but know you aren’t alone! Sending you a big hug and wishing we were sharing a cocktail together at the beach with our pups 🙂

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  3. Thank you for this, it’s something that I needed to read today. You always deserve that power over self-doubt and I’m so glad that you are feeling better today.

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  4. Good read Karen. Now that I am 61 years old I feel like I am still chasing the dream and sometimes with self doubt. You had your children young. There is time to go back to school and pursue a career if you want. Sometimes you can’t have it all. Not at once. I think being a Mother first is the best thing a woman can do. There is always time to go back to school but your children are only young once and you are not only creating memories for yourself but you are creating memories for them. Shaping the kind of person that your children will grow up and be. 10 years from now they will be teenagers and that time goes by really fast. Enjoy your peaceful mornings on the beach. Cherish your days with your kids and Lucy. Live in the present and let time stand still and enjoy what life has to offer.

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