In which I ponder…validation and embarrassment


My previous blog, which had had over 20,000 visitors by the time I stopped posting, was specifically about the experience of emigrating and full of chatty stuff about family life in a new country.

When I started this one, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be, except that I wanted to write. It’s simply evolved over time.

I’ve ended up banging on about my marriage and my divorce and indulging in a level of navel gazing that I thought I’d left behind. And although I enjoy writing it and I don’t find it troubling to do so, there is something I’m finding kind of challenging.

It’s a bit awkward really.

Because what I’m struggling with are the comments, particularly those on my Facebook page where I share it.

I’m absolutely fine with the lovely things people have said about the quality of the writing, and how much they enjoy reading it. It’s fabulous to know that people are connecting with it, and – in some cases – looking forward to each instalment. And it’s also great to know that it’s being quite widely read – so far in 31 countries.

However, I do find all the lovely things people say about me personally a bit mortifying. Now, you will have to bear with me on this – because I do tend to over think things a bit. But I’m a bit worried that people might believe that the purpose of the blog is to seek validation about myself and what happened. And it quite emphatically isn’t.

You may or may not know that I did post grad study in psychotherapy, eventually qualifying to practice. As part of my training, I had to take part in group therapy for two years, and through this process I learnt something interesting about myself. Well, actually I learnt a number of interesting (to me anyway!) things about myself, but I’m only going to bore you with one of them.

In group, members had the opportunity to say difficult things to one another in a controlled and safe environment.* And although I didn’t particularly enjoy hearing that sort of thing, I wasn’t massively disturbed by it either. It almost felt comfortable. Conversely, if someone said something really nice to me, I literally wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I never entirely resolved what that was about, but I get the same sort of feelings when I read some of the comments. And today there were so many of them I had to remove the post from my wall.

I know enough to know that this is related to a lack of self worth.

But I’m also a realist.

And the reality is this. I’m really not inspirational or amazing or an especially good single parent, or an especially forgiving person.

In the last few years, there have been days – many of them – when I have definitely won no prizes for my parenting. I am no better at being a single parent than 99.9% of all the rest of them. I do what parents do whether they are single or not – I do the best I can for my children, and some days the best I can do is not that special.

And over this period of rebuilding my life I have been far from inspirational or amazing a great deal of the time. I have said vile things. I have railed against the world. I have been self pitying. I have bored my friends (and myself) with my tale of woe, my ‘why-me’s?’ and my obsessive picking over certain events. I have lost friends and rejected others.

As far as forgiveness is concerned – well that’s a journey I’m still on. I have forgiving moments and they are becoming more and more frequent. But there is still a way to go I think.

I’ve come out the other side of it a more cautious, more independent and more confident person. I’ve gained a level of self knowledge and ability to self reflect that I didn’t have before. And I try hard to understand human behaviour rather than judge it.

But I still don’t really like it when people are nice to me.

I’m a work in progress. I’ll let you know when I’m done…

*in the first week of group, we were invited to say if we thought we were going to have a problem with anyone. One of the members immediately said they thought they were going to have a problem with me – which is funny because I’d also sensed that I would have a problem with her, although, despite having permission to do so, I would never have said. I’m English you see. And here we are 6 years on and she’s one of my closest friends…

In which I learn to live without ego…


If there is something I’ve learnt in the last 4 or 5 years or so, it is that everything is changing, all the time. Things I thought were concrete changed over night, sometimes in minutes, and it was adapt or (figuratively speaking) die. Initially I felt that some of these changes were forced upon me, but I’ve come to realise that in virtually every situation I made choices, and that overall those choices have been positive, even when they’ve been painful. And when I look back across my life, I’ve quite consistently chosen change – because often change means progression and progression has been important to me.

But recently I’ve found myself weighing up certain things where the burden of having to decide for myself without being able to blame anyone else has been almost overwhelming. And it’s led me to consider two rather uncomfortable things about the way I live my life.

The first thing is that I have a tendency to blame. When something goes wrong, I quickly look for whose fault it is – generally because I’m afraid it is mine. I’m much worse at this in my personal life than in my professional life – I suppose because it’s more personal. At work I know that when things go wrong it’s rarely the fault of one person, and usually the fault of a whole system. But when I’m at home, I’m looking for the culprit and to be honest it’s pretty annoying when it’s me. One of the problems with being single is that if your preference is to live in something of a blame culture, there’s no one left to blame*.

So these days, being on my own, when big life decisions need to be made there is only me to make them, and therefore only me to blame if it turns out that the decision I’ve made sucks big time. And this is making it very hard to decide stuff. And then recently I was ruminating over something that had been hanging over me for some months and my friend Julie** said this to me;

‘Why do you think you want to do that? That sounds like your ego talking’

I’ve given this a great deal of thought. And I think she is right – I think I’ve been operating too much from my ego, and this is part of what has been making decisions so difficult. Combine that with my blaming thing, and you’ve got a big problem – because if there’s no one to blame but myself, then my ego is going to suffer. And there is no one I punish more than I punish myself. It’s no wonder I seem to be paralysed around some major life issues.

Being concerned with my ego, even subconsciously, and therefore with status must mean that when I’m making decisions I am letting myself be preoccupied with issues of external validation. And this is no way to decide things. I need to be able to get in touch with what I really want by removing all thoughts of what other people might think, of how it might affect my status, and of where the validation for those decisions might lie. Even seeking to apportion blame is really a form of validation, isn’t it?

So I tried this out on a big decision I had been struggling over for some months. I thought carefully about what is really important to me when I’m not worrying about how I’ve got to get ahead, prove myself, be the best – or at least try. What does the authentic me want? What does my heart, rather than my head say?

Suddenly it’s made things a whole lot easier. And it means that for once, although it’s a little uncomfortable, I am not choosing change.

*to be honest, it’s quite often the children. Just saying.

**if you become a regular reader of this blog, you will come to realise that I have a confusing number of friends who are called Julie or Julia. I like to call them ‘My Julies’. Ali G style.