By Sophie Lynn
“I’m going to blog again, I’m going to write a piece for LadyBoss Social Club… no, I can’t, I’m no good at this writing malarkey these days… you haven’t got much to say and who wants to hear it?” Well I’m writing it anyway! Where is the harm in trying?
Introducing me, and how I’m always in the middle! The middle of a push/pull force that recognises both my ability to get stuff done and my inner marshmallow who cowers and wobbles when my confidence steps forward and demands progress.
I regularly find myself being described as a tough cookie… and that’s sort of flattering! It’s true, I’m not very tolerant, I struggle with patience and I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to play in the metaphorical playground. Not because I don’t care or I see myself as above it, but it can be so very mean and judgmental and, as you’ll see, this tough cookie is a crumbler.
I may cut you off at the knees if you upset me, but I’ll be doing it while wholly questioning what I did wrong to make you hate me and spend the next ten years replaying every conversation we had looking for what I did wrong. People never see that, only my poor husband who must put up with my overanalysis and talking obsessively about it until another grey hair starts creeping onto his head.
I find that this exterior ‘tough cookie’ attitude often means people think I am more confident than I am and more than ever I’m finding this labelling hard because that’s not 100% me. That’s my façade – and one that becoming a mother has meant is fading more than ever.
To recap, I’m a walking, working, mama of a contradiction because from one day to another I don’t know which I am… tough cookie face or marshmallow knees – I’ve decided to be both at all times.
So, this blog (yay, I’m finally getting to the point) is about how I am making that work for me, because I’m slowly accepting: I can’t change that yin and yang that resides in my head.
But in owning it, I’m trying to appreciate how lucky am I to have a little bit of both.
Basically, I’m getting s**t done with inner anxiety.
My previous job, before being made replaceable while I was on maternity leave (that was a good one for a confidence boost), required me to be a ‘tough cookie’. It involved heading up a £1 million government grant, project managing innovation in technology, speaking in front of groups of people, presenting in London heats to win grants for £1,000’s in front of a board and a room full of ‘grown ups’ updating stakeholders (a lot of them) on a regular basis, pitching to get local businesses on board, convincing council organisations to subscribe to our technology, and finally making my voice and 5-foot-2 presence heard in an office dominated by men who were already, daily, waging a rutting war with one another.
I’m proud to say that I’d stand at the front of these rooms and often, to a warm response, smiles and results; I made things happen… but I hated that underneath it all my brain was whizzing at one hundred miles an hour, I was sweating buckets and I wondered: Did anyone ever notice my clutching those notes in my hand just a little too tightly?
My anxiety was constant, but my exterior successfully hid those wobbling knees, sweating palms and urge to talk at a million miles per hour just so it was over.
Truth is I do not enjoy public speaking; I loathe it, I fear it! I hate being watched and looked at, my nerves reach all time peak levels before I have to present, and my inner monologue is just repeating the mantra – ‘it will all be over, it will all be over soon’.
Yet, I always put myself up for it, nominated myself for those public speaking events and forums, convinced that just one more practise would drive out the fear and I would be ok, and no one would find out I was obviously a phoney.
The last time I was 12 weeks pregnant with the worst all day sickness, a lovely bout of the flu and I still travelled to London. Fearing it and throwing up, I got on a stage and won that grant I was going after. How on earth does that make any sense? Well it doesn’t.
In fact, the irony is that, for me, the fear of failing often overcomes the fear of doing.
When I started my business, people who had seen my outer ‘tough cookie’ in my previous role had conviction I would be fine – fine to drive new business, to make things happen, to project manage myself… to be a #girlboss.
Some days I believe them, nothing will stop me, and I have dizzy head rushes from the excitement of what I am trying to achieve. On those days, you’ll find me jabbering away to the front camera on stories… boldly jabbering about my achievements for those days ore and smugly writing lists and plans and working on my social media toolkits because I have much knowledge to impart!
But oh! the other days: The marshmallow days when my brain is fluff from a toddler related, sleepless night, when I can’t get my words out, when I focus too hard on the missing retainer clients I have yet to sign; the 6 months to make it work closing in on me and knowing I’m not quite there yet.
When I don’t really know what I’m doing, when I’m convinced no more clients will sign up, when I forget that I’m a mum trying to make it work, when I forget the support system I have around me. I’m back in the boardroom clutching my paper comforter and the tough cookie crumbles down to a dusty mess on the floor.
So, I live in this constant existence, a push/pull of tough and weak… but I’m learning to make it work for me here in the middle and ironically, social media (the place I love, yet feel so judged in) is the place that’s helping me to not get pulled too hard in either direction.
My business is social media, scheduling, curating, creating content, blogging, engaging and I’m using it to find my tribe. I’m letting that tough cookie exterior reach out to people I would never have spoken with previously and making myself talk to them… to invite them to lunch, meet for coffee, and asking them for friendship and collaboration (and then I overanalyse every response, every comment, every message seen but not responded to and the whole circle starts again!)
This blog post, like me, has no real solution for this middle ground living but I wanted to let anyone else stuck in the middle with me, that it’s OK, you can get s**t done with inner anxiety and fear… if you recognise that you have enough of both to balance.
I think what I am trying to say is: I’m lucky enough to recognise the weaker, squishier side, and I let my tough cookie side prop it up when needed – and equally the marshmallow in me softens the toughness when its rocketing too high.
My few top tips that have helped me so far:
- HAVE A DIARY where you note every meeting and every opportunity and every pipeline. Show it to yourself on a difficult day as evidence that things are happening.
- USE YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK and tell them it’s a difficult day. Often you’ll get a flood of supportive messages – I know I have met some wonderful people on Instagram who have become firm friends before meeting face-to-face.
- WALLOW A BIT. Sometimes you just got to let them feelings feel!
- MAKE YOUR BED daily! My personal favourite. I once watched a viral video on Facebook where a high commanding officer in the military said (and here I paraphrase), “If you start every day by making your bed, then you will already have achieved one thing” – and its true. Sometimes you must start with one thing and the rest will flow. (I also find this applies to online shopping – also handy for a down day).
- JUST TRY! Because I promise that you’ll regret that which you don’t do, far more than you’ll regret the the things that you do.
It’s ok because I am trying, you are trying, we are all trying – and that’s all that matters.
I am brave, and I am terrified. This is me. (Oh how I wish The Greatest Showman hadn’t got that line in first!)
Sophie Lynn is a freelance marketer with a particular, bordering on worrying, passion for Instagram. Residing in the UK, mama to Mollie, wife to Matt & friend to some. Sophie has, since January, been creating a very mini empire within the world of social media: curating and creating content for small local businesses, running social media seminars, and is in the process of co-creating a social club for working insta-mums. Find her at @muffinandpuffinmarketing for her daily burbles.