Yesterday, I went to a healer. Not something I normally do. But a good friend of mine recommended her work as a short cut to lifting the grey mood and at that point I was willing to try anything. By the time I actually arrived for my appointment the mood was already lifting anyway. But what was interesting was we ended up working on my drive for achievement and she also mentioned the self-criticism. Last week, in a session with my coach he’d suggested that somewhere I’d taken on the need to achieve, as an expression of who I was.
This isn’t new. I’ve been aware of being a high achiever and a “star” since my 20’s but I what I hadn’t quite grasped was the strength of that drive and just how thoroughly that has defined who I am. I’ve been so busy doing what it takes to be a high achiever or feeling down about not achieving enough, that I hadn’t focussed much on the being aspect of it. And, in the latter part of my life, I feel like I haven’t really achieved much anyway. All the things on my list that I wanted to do I’d pretty much done by my 30’s and, since then, I have been in this sort of wilderness desperately trying to find what it is I truly want to do.
And, in that time, I have suffered and been treated for Clinical Depression and, when I got over that, these grey moods that seem to come from nowhere.
This morning I’ve had a bit of an epiphany and the trigger was the healer bringing up the self-criticism again. (See my post ‘To Thine Own Self Be True‘ for more on this). As I said, in that post, for the most part I don’t find self-criticism to be particularly hurtful. It seems to be something I just do. But what is important is the high achiever identity from which it springs. The criticism comes because I’m not doing well enough, not achieving enough, not living up to my impossible standards etc.
Now, that is also a way to explain the depression and grey moods. As I mentioned, by the end of my 20’s I’d pretty much crossed off all the big things on my Life’s To Do List. And, very importantly, I had learned that most of them didn’t deliver what I’d hoped for. As an example, getting a prestigious job didn’t make me feel more important or cleverer or happier, as I’d secretly hoped it would. So, not only had I reached a point where I no longer knew what I wanted, I’d also had the experience (albeit unconsciously) that nothing external would make the sort of difference in my life I was looking for. Now, combine that with a drive and self-identity built on achievement and no wonder I ended up depressed. I was a high achiever who unconsciously thought that achievement was pointless.
As I began to see this, over the last 24 hours, my first feelings were of sheer terror. If I’m not a high achiever then who the hell am I? How will I operate in this world if that is stripped away? What if I sit around all day doing nothing getting more and more bored, contributing nothing? But this morning the curiosity is beginning to creep in. And the questions are changing to, for example, whom will I discover when my old identity is stripped away? What will life be like without the drive to achieve and consequent disappointment when I don’t (or do)? What new identity will I chose, if, indeed I have a choice? Do I have a choice?
Suddenly the world is an exciting place again. A place of wonder and curiosity. Suddenly Gillian is an exciting place to be.