When I was at school I was totally convinced that no one liked me. I felt often that I was too big for my skin, that my presence was an annoyance and that one day, soon, the people I was spending time with would identify me formally as a fraud and banish me from their circle. Although I have grown up to have a collection of truly wonderful friends around me, with whom I feel totally myself, there are still times in my life when I feel, without a shadow of a doubt, that no one likes me... I’m only human after all.
I’m aware of my breath, what if it smells? I say things and instantly regret them, what if that wasn’t funny? I sit down in a seat and worry constantly that the people on either side of me would rather it was someone else’s bum on that cushion. I get it at parties and with people I don’t know that well. When talking to other women I cant help but compare myself to them, not with the intention of judging them at all, only to note how much better they are then me and to wonder how they could possibly be happy wasting their precious night hearing what I have to say.
It’s an overwhelming lack of confidence that I find hard to shake off. It’s not a constant feeling anymore, not like it used to be when I was at school and convinced that I was about as irritating to the people around me as a piece of loo roll stuck to their shoe, I do now have friends who I absolutely know like me, but it does rear its ugly head from time to time. At a friend’s birthday a couple of weeks ago with the people I had gone to school with I found myself lurching between past and present, they want me here, they like me, why I am I here? They hate me. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you that it’s so great to see you, if you don’t want to hear it, you won’t and old habits die hard.
A place where I had never experienced this problem before though, was online. In the past I have had great confidence with my writing and what I was doing. Although I’ve always had my guard up against internet trolls and I’ve always absolutely known that a lot of people won’t like me before they even get to know me because of my surname, I have always believed deep down that the people who found me, liked me and they were all that mattered. Recently though, I have noticed my feelings towards the blog and social media in general change, and it’s making me sad in ways I cannot express.
Follower count never meant much to me when I started Pretty Normal Me, it is true what they say: ignorance is bliss, and I was so, so, ignorant. Not knowing that photos mattered or mentions mattered or retweets mattered, I wrote because I loved it. And then I got the book deal and that became my focus, it also made me feel that I must be doing something right, surely? But it’s been three months since it came out now and time to think about my future. I can’t really do it part-time anymore as there are too many commitments and yet I can’t really afford to do it for a job, I never learnt how to monetise, hell, I never really realised that I could. So I’ve been at a crossroads these past few weeks: where do I want to take the blog, what do I want for my future?
And, since life is cruel, when you ask questions of this magnitude you are inviting self doubt into your mind like a wave. What if what I want for my future can’t happen? Why isn’t my following bigger? Why aren’t I better? And whilst those questions are questions that any blogger or business owner will find themselves asking from time to time, they can slip very quickly into feelings of ‘everybody hates me and I’m wasting my time’ if you’re not careful. I find myself saying this to Alex almost daily at the moment: no one cares, what’s the point.
I’ve gone into self-sabotage mode and I’d be an idiot not to identify the pattern: when I was at school and unsure of myself and the plans for my life, I doubted everything, I convinced myself that I was worth nothing and I wouldn’t be missed if I were to disappear. Once again I have found myself in a period of insecurity wondering what the future might be holding for me and what the point of my existence really is. After years of clear focus, knowing that a published book was the end goal, everything is calming down again and I’m left feeling that I am worth nothing, that I have somehow failed, and when that happens the first thing I do is assume that everybody hates me. I pit myself against other people and convince myself that they are talking about me at the parties; laughing at my blog, my book, my pitiful attempts at Instagram, much like I did when I was at school and assuming they were laughing at my frizzy hair, bad breath and waist size. Even constructive criticism, or healthy debate, as Twitter has been so full of lately, I take to heart. I’m at my most sensitive when pondering the big stuff, which isn’t very helpful.
When I am up, feeling good and confident and proud of myself I’m the first to chant the words: opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one and everybody’s stinks. I’m over here preaching the importance of self belief and how it fundamentally does not matter what other people think of you. I know that in the grand scheme of things the followers that I have, the interaction and the likes mean nothing, that at the end of the day I am able to call upon a friend or go home to my family. I know what’s really important, but of course, when you’re feeling low, your entire sense of perspective changes and all of a sudden none of the big stuff matters anymore.
I’m still sitting here wondering why people don’t like me, which I realise is an incredibly self indulgent thing to do. I read the first bad review of my book the other day and I think that has had a huge amount to do with my lull in confidence. On Amazon the reviews have been great and I’ve been so lucky, but on Sunday for the first time I hopped onto Goodreads and found a 2* rating from someone with a lot to say. Although of course she had to be honest; she disagreed with a lot of my points and we can’t all agree on everything (and despite my bringing it up I really don’t resent her at all!), the feeling of someone actively not liking something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into can hurt in all sorts of ways. Combine that with all the information I have just provided you about my self-sabotage mode and perhaps you can see how this depressing spiral of ‘everybody hates me’ started off.
It’s a pain really, I thought I’d just about escaped the generation of kids who are growing up with the online world as another source of insecurity, adhering to the rules: the minute it stops being fun, get off. But for me I realise I cannot do that, online is my job now, regardless of how hopeless I am at it and for kids in school, online is their life. But for me at least, I suppose it’s not the internet that’s the problem, it’s me and my tedious crisis of confidence. I’m brining my baggage to an otherwise fun party and no one wants to be the person with a suitcase full in the pub, literally or metaphorically.
I write for therapy, I should have mentioned that sooner, I didn’t really plan ahead to a stirring and inspirational final paragraph, which I am regretting now, but I suppose what I have to do is take a step back from this. So one woman didn’t like my book? Lots of others did. So what, people make assumptions about me? That’s their weakness and laziness, not mine. And the fact that some people flat out don’t like me? Well you can’t please everyone can you.