Never good enough

I haven’t been writing recently because of several reasons. Firstly, the lack of energy. This summer has completely sucked the life out of me and I can only blame myself. Already a few weeks ago I had to admit that I had hit the wall quite thoroughly. I feel completely burnt out. I’m just so tired and not in the way that can be fixed with a few good nights’ sleep.

Secondly, I feel like I can’t write what I feel because it would upset my friends reading this blog. I’ve never been good at talking and writing is one outlet for helping me to get some feelings out of me. But sometimes what I feel is very dark and scary even to me, so knowing that people who know me in real life are going to read it and draw their own conclusions freaks me out. And I end up not writing because I’m too afraid to deal with consequences of what I write. So I end up wondering if I need to filter what I want to write, what’s the point of writing at all. Most people know me as a normal, silly, slightly crazy person. That’s the image I have maintained for decades. They don’t know that I’ve been struggling with various demons since early teenage years…

Thirdly, I haven’t been writing because I feel that I can’t write. I’ve convinced myself that my writing is never good enough. The right words don’t come out. The sentences and paragraphs are sloppy and all over the place. My texts are just boring and not to the point. So if my writing’s that shit, why bother at all?

I’m a perfectionist, I know that much. It might sound like a good way to be because the drive to achieve perfection is a force that keeps you going in life and makes you successful. Maybe in some cases that’s true. However, I’ve realised lately how much I let that trait to be in charge of my life. Being a perfectionist for me means that I’m never going to be good enough in anything I ever do. And that’s a frustrating way to live.

I’ve given up so many things in life because I couldn’t be perfect at them. From small things in life to hobbies I’ve really enjoyed. When I was in secondary school, my PE teacher decided to teach me to dive. I was an okay swimmer (for an extremely nonathletic girl), but I had never learnt to dive. So she gave me some useful tips and I learnt to overcome my fear and my dives started to look less like belly flops and more like dives. So one weekend I went to my local pool to practise and I belly flopped every single time. My perfectionism flared up, I hurried out of the pool to spend the rest of the day loathing myself convinced that I’m the most useless person in the world. I can’t even dive, what’s the point of trying to do anything at all! I didn’t try diving for years and even now I rarely do it (I might try it when there’s no one around to see me).

And that’s just one example. I stopped dancing after more than 10 years because I couldn’t be as good as professional dancers who had danced since they could walk (I  first joined a dance class when I was 13 or 14; also being tall and stiff-jointed doesn’t exactly help in becoming an amazing dancer). I used to love dancing but gradually I refused to perform with my group, then I decreased the number of classes I took until I just stopped altogether. Some days I really, really miss it but I doubt I’ll ever take it up again. Because I’m not good enough.

More recently, I was nudged towards taking more photos. I’ve always considered myself not very creative visually. But a few people around me liked the photos I’d taken and urged me to do more. I let myself to be flattered and I even bought myself my own DSLR camera. For a moment, I felt quite good. I was even allowing myself to be a beginner, to not know everything at once. And then I saw someone else take interest in photography and instantly I started comparing my photos to theirs and mine looked so much worse. And I’ve now decided that I can’t take photos. That they all look shit. I should maybe just sell my camera.

I feel like my life is a constant struggle against myself. Whenever I decide to do something, I always have to fight against this little very loud voice that tells me not to bother because it’s not going to be good enough anyway. I’ve decided not to go to my writing group this autumn because I feel like my writing’s not good enough. I don’t want to go for a run because I’m never going to be able to run as far or as fast as this friend or that. I barely cook or bake anything for myself, because it’s not going to taste and look as good as other people’s cooking. What’s the point in putting on make up or buy new clothes or even just brush my hair if I’m going to look fat and ugly anyway? And so on… I am constantly comparing myself to others. And I always fall short. Every. Single. Time. And so I end up just sitting here, just a heap of self-loathing.

I don’t want to be like this anymore but I don’t know how to not be a perfectionist. How do you even start liking someone you have hated for most of your life? How do you argue against that voice in your head telling you you’re just a waste of space? I genuinely fear that this perfectionism will eventually just lock me in a room staring at the ceiling because I’m too afraid to do anything else in case I’m not good enough at it. And I don’t need people to feel sorry for me and tell me how I’m not a bad writer, bad photographer, bad person… As much as I appreciate it, I also cannot take it in because my inner critic is that much louder, that much more powerful. And she will convince me that you’re only lying and that I’m not a good enough person to deserve nice people telling me nice stuff.

The language issue

I am Estonian but I write in English instead of my mother tongue. It might seem like I’m just trying to shake off my national identity and score points in being cool and international but it isn’t quite that simple.

I have a degree in the English language and literature and I was trained to write coherently and clearly in this language. I live and work in the UK and I am the one who tells my employers, both native English speakers, how to spell words. Honestly, their spelling is quite questionable. For two weeks we offered deserts (sic!) as part of our menu. However much I’d like to take the mickey, I would be in the same position in Estonian. I haven’t really written much in Estonian after finishing school and I keep questioning the grammar and spelling. Bizarrely I feel much more comfortable and confident writing in English and this is one of the main reasons I choose to write this blog in English.

Obviously, by writing in English, I could potentially reach a wider audience. There are hell of a lot more people who can read English than there are people who can speak my tiny little language. Also, I know people around the globe who might be interested in reading what I write and not every one of them speaks Estonian, but they do all speak English. Whether we like it or not, English is the lingua franca of the world.

Besides those obvious reasons, there is a more personal and psychological reason for choosing English. As a member of a very small language community (approximately only 1 million people speaking the language), my mother tongue is a little bit sacred for me. It’s a language of secrets and personal stories. I feel that I am much more vulnerable and much more naked if I use my mother tongue. By using English language, I am as if building a barrier between myself and what I put out there. It’s me, but censored through translating it into English. I feel more removed from my feelings and thoughts if they are not written in Estonian. It’s still me writing here as honestly as possible, but English allows me to feel more comfortable about opening my soul because I am not using a secret code. It might also be the thought that my parents cannot read English and therefore I feel more comfortable using the language that would “protect” them from my thoughts.

I live and work in the English language environment, I think in English a lot of the time just to save energy. I read and write in English. The songs and the films around me are all in English. Estonian is my secret language, something that’s only mine in this place far away from home.
So by choosing to write in English, I am not trying to be pretentious and rootless. Instead, I am trying to protect my identity outside the world wide web.