Thursday, September 27, 2012

Truthful Thursday - An Artist Tells Her Truth

**A note from Ellie: every Thursday I will be posting a submission from someone writing about their shame, vulnerability or guilt.  The idea of this exercise is just to write about it, in its purest form, whatever it is that you've been carrying around all by yourself.  And remember - even if you can't identify with someone's particular truth, it takes GUTS to submit here, so please do comment.  If you can identify, PLEASE comment, because one of the most powerful things in reducing shame is learning you aren't alone.  Thank you.  If you'd like to submit, please read this post here

***Submitted by Anonymous

I am currently looking for ways to boost my career (artist, writer) and am working with an amazing creative career coach.

I just failed,  spectacularly, at a task he gave me. an essay to write. a week to do it. 

I should have been able to do this task, it would only have taken an hour. but no amount of false starts, promises to myself, made it happen. 

I am humiliated, and fear the coach is going to dump me because I didn't try hard enough. 

Deep down I think I have not tried enough, because I didn't get up every day at sit at my desk and write, even though I am on the computer half the time, I feel as though I did nothing.

I felt terrible shame (and guilt, sorry) when my elderly cat yawned and I saw she was missing a canine tooth.

I knew she needed dental work, I hadn't wanted to pay for it. I didn't really think it through, that she might be in pain.

I should have known. It broke my heart. 

i don't have children, if that matters, just this elderly cat I adore more than life itself. I failed her. Maybe this is more guilt, because I didn't try hard enough. or, like my first story, I didn't make it a priority till it was really bad. perhaps I'd have felt more shame if my vet had been harsh with me about not doing it?

i don't know that there is anything useful here. Self deprecation, not shame?  But it deflects shame, I think.

Also? I feel shame about feeling I need to justify how much I love my cat. 

Especially when i tell people who have children. 

When I'm all by myself, I feel no shame in this.


  1. I can't tell you how much your post means to me.

    Especially the part about how much you love your cat. I can also (TOTALLY) relate to the procrastination of things.. sometimes I think I sabotage myself on purpose because on some deep level I'm afraid to succeed?

    But back to the animal thing... I don't have kids, either. For me it was both a choice and not-a-choice. I never really met that special someone (not by choice) but I also never really felt a hole in my life that I didn't have kids, because of my beloved dog, who is also very elderly now.

    I don't know why, when I'm okay with not having children and loving my dog like a child (he IS my child, and losing him, for me, will be like losing a child) I feel so apologetic or small around people with kids who ask me, "so do you have kids?" and I say, "No. I have a dog." They give me this patronizing small smile and kind of look away and the damn thing is it makes ME feel badly even though I DON'T feel badly!

    Whew. I guess I had to get this off my chest. I guess I'm just letting others' opinions effect me too much. Your post really hit home for me, and knowing I'm not alone really helps me NOT feel that shame. Next time someone asks if I have kids I'm going to do my best to not feel that little tug of shame.


  2. I don't know if it'll help but that canine tooth disappearing thing happened with my 12-year-old cat a few months ago. I've had cats all my life, never taken them for dental work, and never had that happen. I was mortified and guilty and freaked out. He seems fine, though, and none of his or his sister's other teeth are loose. I felt like a jerk, though, because no one else has that stuff happen! But then I read this and it happened to someone else and....I think we're all going to be ok. Thanks for that!

  3. How you describe your feelings is so close to my own.

    I procrastinate terribly and then feel so much shame. Why didn't I give myself time to do a better job? Why didn't I do something more worthwhile in the time I was wasting? Why can't I act like a responsible grown-up?

    I am single and have no kids, and I'm actually ashamed to admit that I have a cat. Which really isn't fair to him. He's a nice little guy. I don't harbor any illusions that a rescue tabby is remotely like a child, but I do wish that having him didn't automatically put me into "Pitiful Single Female With Cat".

    It gets so tiring to feel either guilt or shame about just about everything in my life.

  4. Beating ourselves up...we do it so well. Listen, I have kids but I cannot live without my animals, either. The first one who gets a kiss and a hug when I get home is my dog. Hope my husband is ok with that! It's just how it is and he has resigned himself to the fact that our house will have creatures because I can't function without them. CANNOT. So love your cat and don't feel guilty. Also, you can totally write that essay. DO IT. :)

  5. Oh yes, those twin diseases of Procrastination and Perfectionism.

    We want to do stuff RIGHT. To do the absolute BEST we can. To get it spot on. And we know that if we only APPLIED ourselves, knuckled down, focussed, got on with it, then we could do an AMAZING job.

    And, you know something? That is a hard burden to live with. That goal of unattainable Perfection. I mean, what if we fail? What if it ISN'T spot on, ISN'T the absolute best? But, if we get it RIGHT and work really REALLY hard at it, then we could do such a good job, yes?

    Again, such a burden. So we delay starting it. We'll do it later, when we have time to focus. When we have space in our head. When we have done the other things on the ever growing To Do list. ALL of them!

    And then, there is less and less time. So we panic. We know we will have to do an even better, quicker, more focussed job. But just not now. Oh, please, not NOW. Not when I am feeling so bad about it. I can't cope with it.

    So I must be a bad grown up. I mean, what is WRONG with me, that I didn't Just Do It?

    Sound familiar? Oh boy, yes. What has helped me is: "It doesn't have to be done perfectly, it doesn't even have to be finished. It just has to be STARTED. Set the timer for 15 minutes and do what you can, girl."

    Oh, and I sent my son to school with his hair unwashed and unBRUSHED. On school photo day.

    And if that coach is even half as good as you think they are, they will be exploring what it was about the essay that you were finding hard to do; and what you can do to move forward about the procrastination. It's not as though you don't care.

    {{Hugs}} It's OK. You are not alone. In any of it.

    1. Wow - I feel as if I may have just had a revelation. That was like a good therapy session!

    2. I am so pleased I was able to help! I make no claims to originality, as I have learned so much myself - mostly from the FLYlady website. I got an email this morning from them, with a testimonial in it, and thought it was exactly what I wanted to express. So, with your indulgence, I have quoted it below:

      "Before Flylady, I often thought I was lazy (because I never got anything done) or incompetent (because I made so many mistakes when I did attempt anything).

      It took Flywashing to understand - the extremes are neither laziness nor incompetence. Perfection/Procrastination is ALWAYS fear, not laziness. The greater the fear, the more I think instead of act. Crisis is ALWAYS stress, not incompetence. The greater the stress, the more I act instead of think.

      I am afraid of the failure and frustration of finding myself less than perfect, so I procrastinate starting anything. Because I procrastinate, it is only crisis that can push me to action. By the time crisis arrives, I am so stressed and overwhelmed that there is no time for stopping to weigh a decision. My actions are rushed and without thought. In crisis, I make reckless mistakes. When the crisis ends, I use the mistakes to justify why I really do need to spend a lot of time thinking before acting.

      Perfection Plus Procrastination Equals Crisis. This cycle wasn't just in housekeeping. It was my approach to my whole life. I either study the map all day but never get in the car, or drive off a cliff because I am going too fast and miss the danger sign.

      FlyLady has reversed my thinking. I know it's not about laziness or incompetence.

      If it's perfection/procrastination, it's fear. I have to stop thinking. I can take a babystep. Babysteps are never about the finish line, making it easy to start. I can use the timer. 15 minutes of anything propels me forward.

      If it's crisis, it's stress. I have to stop acting and think. Relax. I can make a plan.

      Staring at the map or speeding off the edge of the cliff...neither approach reaches any destination. I am Flying, when I understand what is really happening, when I know what to do."

  6. I have animals and I have kids. I don't admit it much in front of those people for whom "motherhood" is akin to "fulfillment" (yes, that is shame talking because I know they judge me) - but most of the time I prefer the animals. "Twice the feet, half the trouble," is my motto regarding this.

    Sometimes I just can't "get into" work I need to do. Sometimes I make mistakes. Since I am a perfectionist, that rankles. I beat myself up. But other people are usually a lot more understanding than I think.

    And why is it so important to be a "good grown-up" anyway?
    You are NOT alone. You are human. So am I.

  7. On the pet love and guilt thing, you are so not alone. I adore my dogs and love them as I imagine people with human children love their offspring- and I worry to no end about taking good enough care of them. I think- even know- that I do; and yet anytime something goes wrong I wonder if I should have noticed an early symptom sooner or if I chose the right course of action for their vet care.

  8. Thank you for your super honest and brave post. I relate. I love my oldest doggie more than anything and I still can't manage to get her eyes looked at because she's losing her vision. Seriously. I love to write and can barely get anything done. By relating to you, I allow myself to be human and stop comparing others outsides to my insides and thinking I'm the only person on the planet with shortcomings. Wow. Let's all get off the hook and give more room for the coats!

  9. We just got my dogs teeth cleaned after needing it for years! Poor baby got four teeth pulled, but she feel so much better now!
    Just do what you can when you can. I watched a movie called Happy last night on Netflix. I think it had some really useful points that we can all use to be happier.
    Is writing what you really want to be doing?
    It sounds like you are really smart, with some unused potential. Check out that movie if you have access to Netflix. You might like it :)
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Procrastination is such a hard habit to break. I have been doing it for months! I need to finish my dissertation. I left the lab I was in for it over a year ago and started a new position in a new city. You would think the idea of having it behind me would be enough motivation to get it done, but no. I think it is as Gillian says Procrastination and Perfectionism. I feel like it needs to be spectacular and if I can't get it there then it's not worth doing (doesn't help that my mentor has told me he wants something better than what he has seen recently). But I know that it is and that if I get it done I will feel so much better and be able to enjoy life again. Everything seems to revolve around it and yet it still isn't done. My husband has been good about giving me time to work on it, but procrastination/perfectionism work their way in: I need to read this article before I can write, but then start to read it and get bored about two sentences in and wander over the the internet to goof off and "clear my head". Ugh! Oh, and did I mention about a 4 yr old and another on the way! Thankfully now about over the first trimester and the nauseousness is gone. Didn't mean to write such a rant/complain (shame?).

    Thanks for sharing and helping me feel not so alone with the whole writing procrastination thing.

    1. Just watched the YouTube video 5inabus posted. All I can say is..."Get yourself a timer!" LOL

      PS I have an assignment to do, too. The ONLY way I can do ANY of it is with a timer to trick me into getting on with it.

  11. Here's some quirky, evidence-based tips for combating procrastination..., and as for loving your cat so much, you're in good company there too. Check out this blog - the people over there love cats in exactly the same way parents love their kids. i.e. UNCONDITIONALLY! Enjoy.

    And cheer up, you will get there :)

  12. your story sounds a lot like mine too ... definitely check out FlyLady, but it didn't really help me because my anxiety / procrastination / perfectionism was too strong. I started following Un-F*** your habitat through the summer, and while it is a bit vulgar at times, the community is great.

    However, please also consider talking to your family doctor. (I am probably projecting here ....) I started new meds for anxiety/depression about 2 months ago and feel like a different person. My procrastination and perfectionism were exhausting, and a previous medication (in hindsight) did nothing to help.

    I CLEANED THREE BATHROOMS yesterday! (which had been neglected and ignored except for a quick swipe to the guest bath before my mom visited for a year) and I can finally be gentle and kind to myself (in my thoughts).

    Better living through "mind altering (leagal, prescribed) drugs"!

    (of course, YMMV, but it might be worth a try)