It took me a grand total of 57 minutes to reply to an email the other day.
Fifty seven. Nearly an hour. The word count of said email? Also 57, if you exclude the greeting, pleasantries and sign off, which I will because I can and it works better for what I’m about to say.
In case you’re not so hot on the old maths front, that’s one word per minute.
For the sake of my boss, on the occasion that he happens to read this: chill yourself out, it wasn’t a work email, I didn’t spend an eighth of my paid working day typing one single piece of correspondence.
And okay, the TV was on, and I also did a bit of instagram scrolling and orange squash drinking in that time, but still, that’s a wholly unnecessary amount of time to spend on such a thing. While it might sound like I’m about to discuss a lack of productivity or being distracted, those are more by-products of the real problem. The thing that’s making me so rubbish wasn’t laziness, or distractions; they didn’t make me type what was essentially a dressed up version of ‘yes please, what do I need to do now?’ at such a laughable pace, trying too many different ways of expressing that simple sentiment, worrying that each made me sound one of several ways I didn’t want to sound.
At the crux of it, the reasons is one I’m getting a little too well acquainted with at the moment; self doubt.
A few weeks ago I was in a bit of a slump, my motivation, energy, and focus having taken leave of me, but the recent arrival of the sun has added a (cliché, I know) spring to my step. I’m feeling pretty bloody chirpy, and my motivation has returned – but it isn’t being put to good use. It’s buzzing away in my head, unable to be used, and truth be told I’m starting to become convinced that its eroding my brain in the process.
Self doubt has been plaguing my every thought and every move, leaving me second guessing myself and doubting my ability to do anything – even type a suitable response to a broadly uninteresting email, apparently – to an acceptable standard. Does that word sound too moody? Is this sentence too abrupt? Do I come off as way too keen? Don’t write that, you sound like an idiot.
Every piece of work, every decision, every DM or message, even every bloody outfit; they all come under scrutiny before they’ve actually had the chance to fully exist, and scrutiny, the bastard, decides that everything is probably crap, so start again please Soph, and then again and again and again. It’s turning into a tiresome little circle, and it’s killing my productivity, creativity and passion.
Now, I’m not going to tell you to never question or doubt a single thing that you do or say, because to tell you the truth, I’m not averse to a bit of that. I actually prefer not to sail through life blithely believing that I am already wonderful at everything and everything I say is fantastic – I’d never learn anything, and I imagine it’d really piss people off.
But allowing self doubt to have control like it seems to have over me at the moment makes you pretty bloody useless. You knew that, of course. We all know it, just like the other things that we know but often miraculously forget when it’s happening to us.
And pretty bloody useless is certainly what it’s making me. I’m agonising over things for an excessive amount of time, exerting more of my energy on second guessing and picking holes in myself than I am on the task at hand. Made a simple decision? WRONG, shouts my brain. And that happens, with big decisions, obviously. But I’m not talking big decisions; there’s no drama, I’m not all torn up or having a bad time, I’m just trying to do day to day life but fumbling about like an idiot instead. When your brain is shouting WRONG! YOU SOUND STUPID! at you when all you’re trying to write is a reply to a DM, it’s probably going too far.
I’ve written before about how perfectionism leaves me struggling to get started on things for fear of failure, but at the moment I can’t even commit myself to my own thoughts in the first place. No sooner have I had an idea or made a decision before it’s thrown on the metaphorical pyre, so quickly do I begin to second guess my own brain and decide that actually, it’s probably a bit shit. When I do make a decision or complete a task – everything still has to happen, obviously – it’s a last minute affair, having spent so long beforehand faffing about and questioning myself. This means it’s usually a cop out, which further fuels the self doubt furnace.
And blog posts? Forget it. Where once I procrastinated starting because I didn’t want what I produced to be crap, I’m now incapable of deciding on a topic to begin with. I’ve had more ideas in the last week than I had in the whole month before it, but they’re quickly abandoned for being boring, overdone, just a bit naff or something I couldn’t possibly do well.
I’m annoying myself, to say the least, so I present to you my first act of trying to shake it off; writing about the problem itself, my most valued port of call for this kind of thing and the thing I’ve been most annoyed to have felt unable to do. Take it from someone who of late has wasted way too much time second guessing things that don’t matter and not nearly enough time working on or enjoying things that do; self doubt will very definitely hold you back, and it will make you completely useless too. Here’s to saying goodbye, ta-ra, and kindly fuck right off to it.
What I’m wearing
Photography: Kaye Ford