Over-Achiever

Head down, keep pushing, never stop until it’s over.

That’s a mantra I have had for as long as I can remember. It’s always been drilled into me, and especially in sport. You simply don’t give up. No matter how much you need to breathe in your last 10m of the race, you don’t. No matter how much your arms hurt you keep them moving, you don’t stop, you simply don’t. But most importantly, you don’t let your head get the better of you. As an athlete, your mental attitude can make you or break you. You need a mental attitude of steel and whilst I might never have made the top, my attitude was my strongest feature as an athlete.

And I suppose that transferred into other aspects of my life. I always wanted high grades, or a high flying job in the future, and I constantly pushed for more. I was never satisfied with OK, never happy with mediocre and it’s no surprise that in 2012 and indeed, this year, that when my sport felt out of my control and my grades had lowered, that I ended up focusing on my weight.

It became an addiction. I always wanted more. Others criticised me and so I criticised myself even more. I ended up loathing myself, hating every inch of fat constantly striving for more.

Always striving.

It’s a great attitude but it’s also a curse.

In a recent training contract interview I was asked, what is my biggest weakness. I knew immediately, I told them that I am myself’ biggest critic. I am never satisfied with any success and more than often it sees me pushing myself to even higher limits. It just means, that if I fall, I’m even harder on myself then. I undervalue any success and overemphasise any failure.

I can be better. I can always be better.

I’ve worked so hard all summer on these applications. I have literally had next to no time to myself and genuinely feel like my summer has just gone. But I’ve pushed on. I had a goal, kept my head down and kept pushing. It’s what I do best. It’s all I know. It’s how I, as a person, operates.

Naturally, there’s been so many rejections but a few interviews as well. I’ve actually progressed more than I thought I would and made the final stage of quite a few firms. I felt pleased to have progressed, but just as soon as I try to praise myself, I stop and tell myself it’s not good enough. I’m convinced I need to secure one, as if to just secure my self worth.

And it’s tough. The amount of candidates I am up against and the sheer amount I have to do to secure a contract is immense and so damn intense. I entered the process quite naively and I’ve been shocked at what I’ve found out. I underestimated just how many and the diverse range of people who would be applying. I didn’t think I’d be up against people who’ve paralegaled for up to 6 years. I was told it was rare for a second year law student to make it so far with the odd firm or so. And, therefore, I should be proud; proud that I’ve made it so far.

But with that sense of self-accomplishment comes doubt. It’s like the demon never lets me win. I’m never allowed even the smallest victory. But it’s not the demon, it’s me. Years of over criticism has turned me into a self-doubter. I will push and push and I will be proud but I will never be satisfied. I’m not a hard person to please, until it comes to me.

I had one of my final interviews on Monday (my official last assessment day is in two weeks) and I’ve been sad ever since. I’ve my been this down for ages and all I could think about was my weight. I looked in the mirror and saw fat. Such a fat girl looking back at me and I hated her. God I hated her. She’d been here for 9 months and was yet to leave. My focus on my purpose had switched so much this year, bouncing from sport to academics to sport to personal life to sport to future work. And now, now there was nothing. No structured training programme to sink my teeth into, no essay to study for, no law firm to research. Nothing. And I came down. I came crashing down from that hard working wave I had been riding.

No upcoming interview.

No upcoming race.

No upcoming visit home.

Nothing.

And yet, I needed to strive, and with nothing to distract my focus, I fixated on my weight. I know I did, and I noticed. The hatred came back with a passion and I withdrew. I stopped talking to people and I questioned why B was with me. I told him I was fat, that he deserved more but found it so hard when he tried to convince me otherwise. I love him, I know I do, but how can he love me when I don’t love myself. I felt so unhappy that my weight wasn’t changing. I had no scales but could see in e mirror. And that’s another thing, I know weight loss is long term, but I almost expect it overnight. The reality of life doesn’t seem to apply when I’m striving.

It never has.

But I’ve noticed. My therapist said to focus on the fact I’m well aware I’ve withdrawn and that I’m trying to fix it. I arranged to visit a friend and went out for lunch with B. I’m still moving forward. Still pushing on but trying to take it slower. He said that I’m in a state of threat; I constantly push forward because I’m scared and I refuse to let myself be self-considerate and almost self-passionate. He’s told me the state of threat refuses to let emotion in because it thinks it will only survive if it’s strong. He’s told me to allow myself to be self-compassionate and that I will need others to help me along the way. I need to allow myself some consideration so that I’m not as critical. I said that I felt justifying stuff was a weakness; it was an excuse.

He disagreed. He said I wasn’t justifying the possible outcome I might not get a training contract but allowing myself to appreciate just how far I have come.

One month and only one relapse.

And if I don’t get a training contract I will apply again next year, and the year after that, and again and again until I get qualified. I’ll take every day as it comes, and yes I’ll get knocked, yes I’ll feel as if it’s the end of the world. But I’ll get over it. I always do. But this time I’ll have a certain group of special people with me. I won’t just get over it by being sick and starving. But I’ll get through it, healthily and happily.

That sounds like a much better option

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