How Perfectionism caused my OCD

I know I haven’t been an active blogger recently and there has been a big reason why. And I am going to share it, as I feel like it’s something other people have faced or are facing. This has been one of the hardest posts I have written and rewritten; please be nice and sorry for my absence!

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Perfectionism.

The ability to not accept a standard less than perfection.

A personality trait that is often characterized by a person’s strive for flawlessness. Along with the setting of high performance standards and often accompanied by highly critical self-evaluations.

The ultimate problem with perfection is that no matter how hard you try, 9 times out of 10 It is completely unobtainable. True, you can be the best at something, but that does not equate to perfection. So, having any issue with perfectionism ultimately creates the paradox of striving to be perfect but in doing so you become imperfect.

I was diagnosed with Perfectionism and OCD in my final year of university. At first, I did not take it that seriously; until I developed anxiety like symptoms and subsequently developed habits to try and counter them.

“Perfection is the enemy of the good”
– Voltaire

The Lead Up

Before all this happened, I did have trouble with my self-esteem and confidence, as a consequence for being horrendously ill with a plethora of infections. I don’t want to delve into the heavy details on it now as it’s a good few months of my life I wish to forget, but the illnesses lead to some pretty nasty scars that I still have two years on. Over the summer of 2016 when this happened, I also struggled with trying to make myself less of the ill mess that I was and back to some form of attractiveness – something that is so stupid now I reflect on it. One of my main forms of income was with a Brand Ambassador company, I won’t mention the name, that were meticulous about appearance. The uniform included red lipstick, perfect hair, manicured nails and at least 2-inch heels. I was informed that as I did not upkeep my blonde hair regularly, I would have trouble finding gigs with them when I had roots showing, so I dyed my hair brunette. The jobs were not fantastic, it was mainly standing outside stores handing out flyers and encouraging customers to come into the store. But it paid very well for what it was, and quite frankly that summer I needed the money.

This was not the first not good enough feedback I got that summer. I was constantly reminded of this every time I caught my reflection. This took a negative turn on my opinion of myself, especially my appearance. When I had my blonde hair I had more confidence with myself and who I was, after being so very sick; so embracing the brunette change did not happen easily. Along with this change I convinced myself I needed to lose a lot of weight as I started to see myself as a fat dumpy girl with boring brown hair. No one would want that. I did start to miss days of eating and when I did eat it was once a day. I replaced food with coffee, anxiety for exhaustion day in day out. I started to sleep for only a few hours and night and wake up every day at 5am full of anxious energy. It was not good. I hit my lowest weight and dress size that summer, being 114lbs (52kg).

You can imagine my self-esteem and self-confidence was shattered. 

 

Returning to Uni

I had to make the decision of going back to university to complete my degree, or abandon it completely. At this point, I was already £40,000 in debt to student loans, most of my peers had graduated and I had no faith in myself.  I would be going back completely fresh. It sounds awesome now I look back at it, but unfortunately back then, I saw it that I was a failure in comparison to my peers. I would be the laughing stock for taking extra time to get that little piece of paper. I would be alone.

Registering to continue my studies meant I had to go with all the new first years to the main hall to manually register my courses and attendance. Something that I was definitely not ready for. I remember being so anxious that I ran up and down the stairs in the Arts Centre twelve times before going and registering. But I did it and I was going back to study.

Luckily, due to my involvement in clubs and societies, I did know a few people still knocking about at university, and actually made friends. I started to worry about having anxiety when I started to stop making myself run upstairs twelve times or clapping each hand twelve times. I caught myself doing it when in lectures when I missed something or during archery practise when I forgot part of my form. It was not the greatest of moments for me.

This vice was not sufficient for my written work. I found myself rewriting paragraphs in essay’s multiple times, and this perfection notion grew and grew until I just deleted the whole essay and started from scratch. Over and over. This would add hours onto my library sessions taking them to the small hours of the morning. I was overworking myself to the point I made myself have a sit-down talk to my personal tutor. I told him about the rewriting and the anxiety and I was referred to a university counsellor and was made to see a doctor.

“Imperfection and perfection go so hand in hand, and our dark and our light are so intertwined, that by trying to push the darkness or the so-called negative aspects of our life to the side… we are preventing ourselves from the fullness of life.”
– Jeff Bridges

Counselling

People say that talking is the best therapy, and I concur with this, just not with my first counsellor. The doctor I initially saw before Counsellor No.1 offered me medication for anxiety, in which I refused as I didn’t want to be taking any more pills. The doctor diagnosed me with a perfectionism-based OCD and referred me to No.1. Before this, I have had no interaction of experience with counselling, but was definitely not ready for the first few sessions. The very first thing the counsellor said to me, after knowing had issues with perfectionism and my image, was “You can never be perfect”. That was that. I disregarded everything he said afterwards as he clearly did not understand. He also asked weird questions about my family that had no relevance to the matter at hand which gave me good reason to just stop the counselling right there.
Instead I saw a counsellor from the university who got me to talk about situations that made me anxious and just confront them without using my vices and see what happened. Seemed completely insane to me. How can I just walk into a building I’ve never been to before without counting to 12 in my head? The craziest of notions, but I started doing that and also taking elevators to avoid the whole running up and down stairs issue. After a while it got a bit better, until I had an incident with my roommate. (Another topic that I will write about in a different blog post). I rewrote the 14000 words 12 times. But that has been the last thing I’ve rewritten 12 times.

Counselling didn’t help with the concept of my body image now that was something I needed to fix on my own accord and not by over or under eating. (Again thats something I will cover more on in a different post.)

 

The Positives

Not everything about the perfectionism was doom and gloom and here’s a quick summary of the best bits:

  • I got some of my best marks
  • Archery PBs were constantly broken
  • I cared less about my appearance *
  • Cleaning and organisation are arguably on point
  • Anxiety changed to confidence through perseverance
  • I moved country!
  • I can work in guest services everyday and not flounder

*I say this as a positive, but I did go up to 178lbs… so maybe too less caring.

 

 And now?

Well it’s now been almost 2 years that I was told of my perfectionism and OCD, and well some things are better. I don’t do the stair thing nearly as much and can happily go into new buildings without hesitation. Of course some days are worse than others. That is just how the cookie crumbles for me.

 

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Wow that was really hard to write as I have not told many people about this or the diagnosis and said it was anxiety as that seems to be more prevalent and accepted in society. Having perfectionism is a positive curse for me as it has led me to flourish and achieve my dreams while counting to twelve alot….

Please feel free to comment, like share or even ask me anything about this. I’m putting myself out there so you don’t have to.

 

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Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #3

And so the saga continues. After being introduced to various aspects of coffee in Europe, see back to my Café and the Continent Post, I thought it may be good to share my thoughts on the Canada Coffee culture as its certainly…. different.
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Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #3 Canadian Coffee Culture

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So I can not say Briony anymore when it comes to ordering coffee at starbucks as no one can spell it so I go for Molly. Which isn’t always heard right…

Ordering Coffee – The Fast Food Coffee

(Not sure if this is just an anxiously awkward me thing or something others have faced as fearful foreigners.) 

Ordering coffee is a simple transaction. This statement has been challenging to me for a few months of being in Canada. Some uniquely Canadian thing, you can not escape from is the Double Double. What is a Double Double? It happens to be a coffee served with 2 cream and 2 sugar. Logical, if you understand the ordering system in this country. I wondered for a while why people would perpetually give me the funny look when I just wanted coffee.

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What I did not know is that in most places in Canada that do the coffee put the milk or cream and sugar in while they make it for you. This is madness. As someone who is used to getting the coffee and faffing about with sugar packets its completely mind blowing. More words to say at the cashier?! Outrageous. 
However, I understand the reasoning behind the order the sugar and milk; it does save the individual the faffing time… yet it is still a concept I need to get used to. And admittedly it does stop the days where you accidentally pour the sugar in the bin, and the paper into your coffee. This does happen more often than I would like to admit…

Roll Up the Rim Season

I mentioned this briefly in my previous post and I don’t understand the hype behind it. It’s all about the chance of winning – winning a doughnut, a coffee of a Honda Civic on a years lease. As I don’t understand it I asked my Canadian friends their thoughts…

“Roll up the rim is a Canadian classic, a Canadian pass time and overall a gamble to begin your day. Even though the coffee may be anywhere from weak coffee like water to week old cigarette butts juice the gamble of getting another coffee or pastry keeps us going.” – Mirre

I am like the wrong person to ask haha I hate Tim Horton’s! Even when I go and its roll up the rim I still get cold drinks. But I think people like it because it is cheap and good (I guess). And People love Roll up cause its like the chance to win on something you would probably buy anyway. It’s like if tampons came with a prize people would be like – This makes buying these more enjoyable hahaha – Maggie

I tried this phenomenon and did not win anything. Plus the whole concept of rim rolling is confusing and not easy to do if you haven’t heard of it before. Where is this hidden message? How do I unravel the secrets of the cup? One should not overthink these things.

The Rival $1 Coffee

So what I noticed while this whole rolling rim shenanigans is going on, across the road in McDonalds, there is a $1 coffee promotion. Coffee for $1. Thats basically 55p. Why would you go in for a roll lot of disappointment when you can have a large $1 coffee that actually tastes nice? Additionally you can collect the stickers on the cups so when the season is over you have copious amounts of free coffee. Thats a win win situation!

Cafeteria Coffee

I’m not sure if this is just an Algonquin College thing, but it kinda blew my mind. So there is a large variety of flavoured coffee. Not like vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos… Nay, as in its flavoured coffee beans and that is something I’m not used to seeing regularly. I’m sure it exists elsewhere in the world but not as open as this.

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Some fancy coffee art from Bridgehead

*And finally*

French Vanilla

Why do we not have this back in the UK; and when we can get it, why is it so expensive?! I don’t know exactly what is in french vanilla, except for the vanilla of course, but it is pretty much a hot drink that rivals the godly status of hot chocolate on a cold rainy day. I suggest to anyone who like sweet things to go out of their way to try french vanilla as they will not be disappointed.

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I am an avid coffee drinker, and these weird Canadian coffee credentials seem to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable so I don’t think I can complain too much!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the nice weather before 6th winter comes!

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Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #1

Seriously been struggling with a writing block currently so forgive the ranty quality of the post!
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It’s now approaching the 6 months of living in Ottawa and I’ve started to get used to the vocabulary and the way things go but there are still things that continuously catch me off guard. I was initially planning on writing out one long blog post but I feel that some of the things that perturb me so need a whole post to themselves.

Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #1 – Toilets

AKA the Washroom. It feels wrong referring to it as anything other than the washroom now. So apart from the name, there are many things about the Canadian washroom that causes the “anxiewees”.
In the UKadia, the bathrooms vary in style but the general overall toilet is a cubicle of its own accord, sometimes being a small room that silences the rest of the world, or its at least a cubicle with almost total privacy.
In France, I don’t know if others have been warned about their public bathrooms, they have what my family refer to as “suicide loos” that often are just a porcelain hole in the ground you have to kinda stand and pray you don’t slip and fall into the poop filled hell that is through the dark gaping vortex below. Hence the aptly given connotation from the family.
I’ve even encountered the weird German toilets that are designed so you basically have to look at what you’ve created before it flushes, something that deserves a whole post of its own I’m sure, but this post unfortunately is not about German toilets today.
Enter the Canadian answer to the humble washroom….

The Name.

Bathroom, Toilet, WC, I can get behind those names for the place designated to the defecation. Washroom is one I am willing to get behind IF it was specifically a place for you to wash. Alas, it is where you do the business and the only washing that happens really is of the hands. There are no showers or baths or bidets, there are sinks and toilets. If it was a washroom then there would be more than a sink. It is a sink room with bonus toilets.

The Cubicle itself.

The doors are almost always shut, regardless of its vacancy status. This leads to the awkward creeping up and pushing on the doors, and praying people know how to lock doors if they are occupied. And if it so happens to be the most awkward of encounters of the door swinging lethargically open and displaying someone who is engrossed in their business, what do you do? What do you say? (I am aware this can happen in multiple scenarios across the pond but this has happened to me the most in Canada.)

On approaching the cubicles, the first thing I notice is the vast gap between bottom of the  door and floor. You can’t see anything but feet and what’s on the floor which is nice, but you also only want to see one pair of feet in the cubicle. Thankfully I’ve not been in the awkward situation when there has been that time where more than one pair has existed in one cubicle, but you never know.
This is not my only qualm with the doors. The second is the height of the doors. A good majority of the time I am taller than the doors. And with the, sides of the cubicle. I want to say I am bordering on the tall scale at 5ft9″ish (on a good day) and many of my friends here are much the same when it comes to vertical measurements… It makes things awkward in a way that you have to keep your eyes forward at all times, just in case you somehow make eye contact at the neighbouring cubicle.
Once you make it to the stage of being in the cubicle, locking the door and then getting ready to do the thing you do, there is one last weird thing about the doors that is consistent to ALL washrooms I have encountered. The centimetre gap on either side of the door. Why is it there?! Is it to make extra sure you will make awkward eye contact in the slit of the cubicle with the people outside? Is it to make you extra anxious about doing the do? As it did (I confess) make me so incredibly aware and embarrassed about the whole public bathroom thing, for at least a couple of months.

The Cleanliness.

Usually you enter a public washroom with a disdain as you know it is going to be a mess. There’s going to be some disgusting stuff and it’s something you have to accept. Every other time I’ve used the facilities there has been a cleaner there. There is always toilet paper and it’s pretty much always clean and I’m definitely okay with that. The sinks are spotless and the soap is never out. You don’t even have to flush most of the time as most of the places I’ve been to are automatic. So spot on Canada. 10/10.

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Honestly did not believe I could write almost 1000 words on bathrooms of all topics! Thanks for sticking with me this long and I hope to get more weird rantyness out there in the near future! As always, have an excellent day!

 

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2 Months in

To be truthful it’s been very hard to put into words the transition of Europe to North America, so apologies for the delay, and enjoy this rambling read…
As a Brit moving to Canada didn’t seem that much of a move from the U.K. Oh how I was proven wrong. Of course the normal things of knowing that the British accent is loved were expected but a few things have thrown me slightly.

The best way to describe Ottawa is that someone has taken my memories of England and France and shifted them to the left a couple of inches. Pieces of Architecture from both cultures entwined with the modern city scape make living here easier than I expected.

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Language barriers

Unlike the conventional language barriers that are common in Europe, the Canadian Language barrier is more like a language hurdle that you can definitely have a laugh about. My usual experience with language barriers is with the complete inability to understand the noises someone is making. Over here it is as if someone wanted to make life more interesting and  just took a few words in the dictionary and switched the definitions and watch the chaos unfurl. As a Brit you could imagine my horror when I was told to come into work with no pants, as pants in Britain are underpants, not what the North Americans refer to as trousers. Again just small changes of words from mobile to cell, pavement to sidewalk and my favorite, courgette to zucchini. One of my favourite phrases of the UKadian night out that I definitely know not to ask is “Can I bum a fag?” This harmless whimsical slang of politely asking to borrow a smoke can be considered  as a bit unruly and may be seen as homophobic and not politically correct.  Many of my british english speaking friends also have encountered awkward language borders, a fun favorite is during classes; “Can I borrow a rubber?” which of course makes sense. a rubber to rub out your pencil. But alas, this does mean condom in the North Americas hence the perplexity and shock one receives from this statement.

“That’s a great British accent you have, how long have you been practicing?”
Oh my dear, if you didn’t figure out I was British from my accent I think we have an issue. My accent accentuates every little consonant to the extent that you may start to feel sorry for the letters being attacked and I have a habit of elision. However I have noticed something horrifying in the way I talk now that would make any elocution teacher shiver. My British Ts have digressed into Ds. (Send BBC Radio 4 care packages.)

But I notice some words I say are definitely different to the majority of people around me.(*Trigger Warning*)
Here is a list of words that I shall no longer say in fear of my own sanity, well being and integrity:

Aluminium
Vitamin
Schedule
Aubergine
Garage
Basil
Oregano
Corriander
Tuna
Yoghurt
Fillet
Route

One day we will be able to talk about you again.

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Shops, Pubs and Public Convenience

Shops are shops wherever you go, like you can buy your groceries in shops and markets all over the world and there is not much of  difference as the idea is ubiquitous. But lets look at our friend Ontario the province that I find myself in. Alcohol is not necessarily sold in supermarkets. There is no chance of going to the corner store to score yourself a bevvy. After living in Wales for the last 4ish years it is a bit of a surprise when you have to plan a trek to the local beer store or LCBO to buy the booze and not just pop down the road to replenish your liquor stocks. Okay, I see the pros for the government of monitoring alcoholism and things but also where is the equivalent meal for one deal you can get from M&S with microwave dauphinois potatoes and a bottle of prosecco?! I don’t think Canada has a M&S or Waitrose equivalent. (Why am I here again?!)

Lets move onto the purchasing of your groceries. I’m not sure If I am just an awkward or a rude person but in my experience of the Great British Shop, you don’t communicate unless its essential. This goes for retail and restaurants as well; there is no idle chatter. In my Canadian experience,  around 98% of the time, no matter the establishment, you’ll get someone saying “Hi” and engaging in conversation. *Panic stations* There is no way I would be prepared for this in the U.K. and usually would result in my abrupt walk away as it is an unspoken rule that this interaction is frowned upon in British society.

I would love to say Pubs are Pubs wherever you go. However, this would be a lie. Although, A bar is a bar wherever you go. If something claims to be a pub outside of Europe then I be prepared to have your idea of pub reformatted. Pubs are restaurants, and everything is on a tab. Pubs serve food always. And you usually pay at the table at the end of the night. And you tip. You tip a lot. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

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The City, The Town and Suburbia

I can’t really compare cities across the world only ones I’ve been to, so the majority European, the likes of London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Paris, Lyon, Caen, Geneva, Salzburg, Riga, Brussels, Eindhoven and many other European Cities, and of course a smattering of cities in North America. And there is definitely a stark contrast between European Cityscape and North American.
I can’t say I hate the differences as they are just that different.

North American cities and towns seem to operate on a grid system. This is super handy to navigate and get around. It makes sense. The roads don’t have weird windy one way systems that make you want to drive off a bridge or lead you to somewhere miles away from where you need to be. The newer towns and cities seem to understand that roadways and sidewalks need to be wider for the regulation of road and foot traffic so there isn’t fear of death. *cough oxford street*.
However. There is a significant road feature that I miss. The humble roundabout. Europeans love it, the Americans don’t know how to use it, the roundabout wins hearts and eases traffic. Okay the last one was a lie, lets look at Milton Keynes and Swindon here for killing the roundabout. Yes, the roundabout is not a feature commonly use in Canada and well, it’s not exactly needed as most interactions are one road crossing another, not a knotty mess of 6+ plus roads crossing each other that seems to be a recurring feature throughout the European countries.

Onto the Suburbs. The place for commuting? I’m not quite sure why suburbs exist and how they exist and quite frankly they frighten me. Subdivisions are like council house estates in the UKadia but they seem to lack the integrated public conveniences and park space, just a twisted residential lattice with shopping centres located around it. It is definitely something I have not come across before in the Europes and something I’m not keen on trying out. I think I’ve watched too many suburban horror films.

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That’s what I make of my moving experience so far – Thanks for the read, leave me a star, a comment or a share and I’ll repay the favour.

 

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Confidence is a Killer

Confidence has been a scary rollercoaster in the past few years. Being fluctuating between zero self-confidence and self-esteem to practically skyrocketing to over-confident foolishness, it’s time to settle out of this dizzy routine and find the end of this ride. So far, it feels like a futile attempt to get the grips at the bottom of the ladder to start my ascension to what I hope to be a happy successful life. The worst years of my life, and arguably best because of that reason, were spent at university. Without this experience, I would not have met so many people who saw life as a game, drinking away the days, failing their work and not valuing anything dear to them. I also would not have met so many amazing people and had the pleasure to spend the last 2 years of my Uni life living with them.

University for me has been a confusing experience in terms of confidence building, with little to no help from the establishment to build me as a person. If you do not ask, you do not get anywhere. However, if you do ask, expect to not receive any assistance or reply for at least a week. There are the exception of three or four people who seemed to bend over backwards for me when I was at my illest, and for that, I am eternally grateful. This year for example, my last term of university turned out to be somewhat a Lemony Snicket novel, a series of unfortunate events. I won’t go to much into detail as that’s just a bit depressing, but being ill and friends being ill is the main jist. My personal tutor at the time seemed to be travelling a lot around the world and even with his many excursions and being away from the office, he managed my work life for me so I would not miss deadlines, fail exams and even made sure I was okay to continue my studies. Legend. Because of this, I managed my work to a timeframe that suited me and my unpredictable body best and I ended up achieving a grade higher than I expected. Shout out to my PT.

However the nature of my course was not wholly happy. I didn’t expect to be sensitive to the topics I enjoyed studying and by my repeated 3rd year, the harrowing depression of the topics illuminated themselves to the extent that I would crawl back to bed after reading a heavy topic or having a lecture that really got to me. How could I exude confidence when all this sh*t is happening around me, and my peers laugh at it as though it’s nothing? By now I am very desensitized to some of the topics to the extent that I just don’t care about them. I don’t know if that has affected me to be the cynical Brit I am, or if it’s just a way of passing into the “real world.”

The most soul crushing experience at uni for me was the waiting period between exams or deadlines and the results. Quick turnarounds did not lead to my pent-up anxiety worry regime, but things that I stayed up night after night, writing and rewriting have permanently scarred me. There is nothing worse than getting an essay back that you have worked your heart out for to be returned with an unacceptable mark and comments such as, “maybe look at your sentence structures?” or “I don’t like this argument.” So they don’t like the argument or your opinion so it drops marks – how is that fair? Anyway, it’s over now I got a good mark (I can move on.) 

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Pretty picture of Aberystwyth to set the scene

 

I feel all this essay writing, studying and aimlessness has led me to my point of confidence. Being in a very small university town, getting a job has two chances. Fat or Slim. Not being able to fill the vacant hours with a potential career has led me to a bit of a pit of despair, as there seems to be nothing for me now that I’ve completed my studies. I would love to continue my studies as a Master’s degree, but right now, I need a break for academia or I may actually lose my mind! With a degree like mine, being a bit specialist as International Politics and Military History, with little interest to going into the field of politics and little opportunity to pursue my affair with military history, it seems a bit pointless and mind numbing insane to go get a dead-end job in retail. I spent 4 years to better myself and my opportunities to be offered an easy access to a minimum wage job that I could have skipped uni to get. Confidence killer right there.

What about your creative side such as photography and this kinda writing thing you got going on? – I hear a few people say. Well over the last 2 years I have been shooting off emails left right and centre in hope to get some traction in a field that I haven’t studied in. So far I have had some amazing opportunities with photography and now the window is starting to crack open on my potential writing. I see this all over with creatives, pursuing something they are passionate about. Seeing them invest their time and little money into the thing they love and are far more talented than me to be faced with “that person.”

“That person” is the friend, the family member or the stranger that either wants something for nothing and/or is the wall to your self built confidence. Us creatives are building a rickety tower of Lego, carefully placed hopes and dreams, portfolio work and shaky confidence for “that person” (or in some cases Godzilla) to push it over, smash it down and leave you surrounded in the pain that is lego blocks on the floor. Left to rebuild it the same way over. Sometimes we have someone who smashes it down as it is weak and needs to be built better and gives you the experience and opportunity to do so, however soul crushing it may be.

University did not support my creativity. Not all the students were bad, but the establishment after asking for opportunities and spending my time taking pictures when I could have been studying (or lying in bed) brushed me aside. That’s rough. That’s very rough when other universities you contact about taking picks of their teams are like omg thanks so much, here can we give you money bc wow?! Thanks Aber….

Why is my confidence a killer? 

I either possess it to the nth degree and take pride in my creative work, or I am an utter mess questioning everything I do and ending up hiding away disgusted about my invested time and money on camera equipment, that I know it’s mainly me being the f*ck up with it (it’s you not me canon 7dii). I feel like blaming uni is an easy option, but after thinking about it, it’s not just me that’s been let loose into this reality unprepared and unaware.

So, how am I going to fix it?

This wave of realisation hit me when I was visiting friends and now travelling on my own. So I’m going to work and save, travel and maybe even move country. More opportunity, more life and more happiness. It may not be the cure, but its a start to make me feel like me again and not some hopeless train wreck that sees sporks as a marvellous invention.

What do you think?

 

 

Thanks for reading, sorry for the sad read, let us move forward together and have an excellent summer!

 

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