I’m sitting in a coffee shop around the corner from my kids’ school. You know the type: laid-back tunes piped around a rustic brick room, with polished concrete floors; bespoke, slightly wonky furniture that has been cobbled together from salvage yards and roadside collections; and eclectic jars and pots with cuttings of succulent plants from the owner’s granny’s garden. It’s a surprisingly creative space and I like to come here after I’ve dropped the kids off to reconnect with the adult world. The one that doesn’t involve yelling, begging, huffing and scraping hard-set cereal off the kitchen bench.
This coffee shop backs onto my local bike store, and I have my old (emphasis on old) mountain bike in the boot of my car. It needs some serious repair work and I was hoping to get it up and running. But I’m not at the bike shop. I’m at the coffee shop, sitting on my own, procrastinating. What is that about? I squirm around the uncomfortable knowledge that I’m frightened. Frightened of putting my bike into a bike shop for a service—think about that for a minute. That is all levels of strange. I mean, it’s a bike shop. They fix bikes. They want me to drop my bike in.
So what is it that I’m scared of? My bike is old and I’ve let it get out of shape (hmm, is there metaphor in that perhaps?). I don’t want the man in the bike-shop to laugh at me. I don’t want to be ridiculous. I want to be taken seriously. I don’t want the man in the bike shop to see me as a failure. Wowsers, that is some over-thinking. Yet, that’s how I roll.
My mind jumps immediately to another time I was frightened to face people. A few years ago I got into great shape. I lost twelve kilograms, was exercising heaps and people commented on how well I was looking. But then I didn’t, so I wasn’t.
I struggled psychologically to return to my sport because I knew that my friends at training couldn’t help but notice that I’d dropped the ball, so to speak. I panicked about facing that community again. What would they think? That I was lazy? Greedy? I almost didn’t go back. This speaks to a different fear.
Most people have heard of the fear of failure. It goes along the lines of “I am frightened of failing, so I won’t try in the first place.” Hand in hand with this is the fear of success: “The more I succeed, the bigger my failure when I fall.” I used to mountain bike all the time, but now the bike-shop guy will think I’m a chubby, useless middle-aged mum. I was slim and strong, now the people I train with will think I’m over the hill and won’t respect me as much. The two feed on each other, and even knowing that these are the thoughts I am projecting onto myself doesn’t stop them from running rampant with my self-confidence.
As I sit in this coffee shop I can’t help but imagine how this self-destructive paralysis plays out in other aspects of my life. How do I overcome it? Try and care less? Push through the fear? Click publish, or send, or apply before my brain has time to wind itself up? People aren’t laughing. People don’t care because, in reality, they are too busy dealing with their own lives to spare much thought for that extra ten kilos, rusted chain or pending job application that seem to loom so large in my thoughts. And if they do care? So what? The challenge lies in pushing past self-doubt, past worrying what other people think, and being okay with showing the fractures in that carefully constructed and maintained self that we put forward to the world.
Easier send than done.
I did take the bike in but sadly its deterioration was terminal.
On a positive note, I get a new bike.
Don’t forget to signup for regular blog posts to receive a free copy of my novella, THE STATION!