Over the next few weeks I’m going to share with you the story of how I got to be where I am… a recovering Ambition Junkie! If any of this resonates with you, I would love to hear from you, and make sure to jump over here and sign up to get the next installment in your inbox!
Our habits and personalities are formed when we are very young, and I was no different. From a young age achievement was rewarded and a very high standard was expected of me. I was a smart kid, but my earliest memories are of educational play memorizing times tables and spelling practice. In primary school I was often within the top 3 of my class for both Maths and English, but my delight was quickly extinguished because ahead of me were two boys, which just wasn’t an excuse… good grades were expected and leisure time was not. Christmas holidays often included the question “what can you do to get ahead?” instead of being encouraged to rest. I was encouraged to study classical piano, which I hated. I felt like I wasn’t good enough at my dance classes for it to be a priority for me to continue, and my chosen extracurricular activities weren’t encouraged for whatever reason.
Extension classes at school hadn’t previously provided much relief, because despite an increased difficulty, I was still able to complete the work without too much of a challenge, and I became disruptive of others. Yep, I was THAT kid. I was younger than other kids because of when my birthday falls in the year, so when I moved states – as well as later being refused the opportunity to complete two year levels in one year – one of my schools actually wanted to keep me down. What a nightmare! I felt like I was being punished for being too young and started thinking that there was something wrong with me, like I just hadn’t been smart enough or worked hard enough. I started to give up.
In my desperation for a challenge, and to fill the extra half a year between turning 18 and finishing high school, I took on an overloaded senior program at a technical college that offered Fashion Design and Photography as well as music. The teacher wouldn’t let anyone touch a camera for most of the semester until we had completed our theory so Photography went out the window and Psychology and Biology took its place. My interest in health and wellness had begun! Unfortunately it had originally manifested in an obsession with dieting and body image, and I spent most of high school restricting, punishing, and berating myself over my eating habits and weight.
Outside of school, I was a troubled teenager. I was primarily a longer who loitered at the outskirts of friendship groups, bullied at every school I went to, and struggled find my crew. Adolescence was a lonely time and I struggled with not being “cool enough”, “pretty enough”, “smart enough” or “affluent enough” to fit in anywhere. I remember walking down my street at around 15 or 16 years old and thinking that I would never amount to anything so I might as well give up, and bursting into tears. I got enough sexual attention from other people and just kind of rolled with it, so grateful to even receive the attention that I didn’t even consider whether it was something I wanted.
After a turbulent few years at home, I ended up leaving to live with a boyfriend, struggled with disordered eating and depression, and had a mental breakdown in year 12 after struggling to juggle school work, an almost full-time job managing a commercial coffee shop, personal and health problems, and just generally trying to do everything all at once. I was living on coffee, diet coke, and cigarettes, and was completely miserable. Wouldn’t you be?
I spent my formative years thinking that I wasn’t smart enough, thin enough, girly enough, cool enough, old enough, good enough for whatever I wanted, and had these thoughts reinforced. I was constantly striving for more and more, and felt like all the bad stuff that was happening in my life was just “what I was worth”. How terrible for a teenage girl to think these things! I told myself I had trained myself out of being competitive but in fact I had turned my competitiveness into resignation and self-doubt.
I’m so grateful that I can look back on this time that I remember so vividly and be aware that those thought patterns are not those that I carry with me now that I am 30. I want to wrap my arms around that girl and let her know that she is loved just the way she is, and that things get better.
However, before they did, they sure got worse…
Part 2 coming next week. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to get in touch privately.
Image from Pixabay