July 26, 2017

When You’re Many Things All At Once

If you are a “walking contradiction” it means you are an inconsistent person. Hi, that’s me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own character traits recently and how confusing it can be to try and figure yourself out “once and for all”. We, as humans, love trying to figure ourselves out, but it can be so darn confusing. We try and put our personalities into cute little boxes and say “I’m this TYPE of person” or, to quote Amber on Love Island, “100% this type on paper” when really it’s quite impossible to define yourself so neatly with a little bow. That’s the fun of life though, we go through it learning new things about the world and apply it to ourselves, wrapping ourselves in pop culture and books and opinions and people. We change and evolve and grow and try on new identities like expensive coats. Which one will stick? I believe everyone moves through their lives in chapters and that it can be quite easy to look back one day and not recognise our past selves or past decisions.

That’s why I like blogging, because I simply write what I think at the time and then I move on. As Nora Ephron once said: “Blogs are almost like soap bubble, they’re what you think at the very moment you are writing it. Sit down and write, write it fast and if you’ve been working on it for more than an hour and a half it’s not a blog.” It’s just thinking out loud, it’s not chiseled into stone. It’s the online equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the walls. Writing on the Internet is about connecting, commenting, opening each other’s minds and debating things. Every blog post is me just working a few things out (for myself, mainly). That’s why I’ll never give it up.

I realised that I could save a lot of energy if I stopped trying to analyse myself so much. Yes I find myself quite confusing and contradictory. Don’t we all? For example, other people could say I’m ambitious and I’ve had acquaintances often say “when do you sleep!” but it’s funny because I’m also (in some ways) lazy AF. Yes I can get a lot done in a day career-wise, but when it comes to personal life admin I am the queen of procrastination. If there’s anything remotely admin-y I’m a “let’s do it later” type of person. My boyfriend Paul is the ying to my yang. He can be quite the procrastinator when it comes to some work projects but then the first person on the phone to an electricity company or furniture shop which I would put off for months if I could get away with it. My desktop, email folders and computer is always tidy and organised – but my IRL desktop can easily get messy. 

I can stand on stage in front of thousands of people and my heart rate doesn’t even increase. Backstage before doing my TED Talk, while everyone else was doing breathing exercises to calm their nerves, I was eating an apple and reading my book. And yet, I get crippling anxiety at random moments, mainly while travelling: on a train, on aeroplanes, on the motorway. If I’m in an off mood it only takes someone stopping me in the street to ask for directions and I can go into full anxious panic mode. It doesn’t quite make sense. How can you be so confident and so anxious?

I am an incredibly sociable person, I love meeting new people (clearly, as I’m on the 90th episode of my podcast where I go round to people’s houses and sit on their sofas and ask them nosy questions), but I still can’t go to events on my own without feeling insecure. I love people yet can’t do crowds. I say I hate the fashion industry (I rebel against London Fashion Week every year because it is so up it’s own arse) and yet I spend most of my money on clothes. I am a feminist, and yet I have both my boyfriend and Dad on speed-dial and I often enjoy feeling protected in the most traditional of ways.

I am brave in many ways. But brave just means doing things that scare you and I know many people braver than me. My examples are only that I’ve quit jobs, I’ve started businesses, I stand up for what I believe in, ask for what I want and ditch things that piss me off. I place a high importance on doing things out of my comfort zone. I won’t be taken for a ride, and I certainly am not interested in just being a cog in a machine. And yet, when our car broke down on holiday a few months ago I had the most violent panic attack. I once cried when I saw a slug because I hate them so much. I can’t watch horror films. (I love how I placed slugs before horror films in terms of fear levels but it’s true). How can you feel so invincible and then so freaked out?

Lena Dunham spoke so articulately recently about having to leave her own launch party for GIRLS due to chronic anxiety (a brave thing to admit) and yet she says getting fully naked on TV doesn’t scare her one bit. It appears people call her “brave” for the wrong things.

I wake up some days feeling like I can conquer the world, like actual *flex emoji* BRING IT ON type of stuff, and other days I feel like a 12-year-old who won the prize at the school fete by accident when it was supposed to be given to someone else and everybody is going to find me out.

I read Anne T Donahue’s newsletter recently where she takes a trait or contradiction about her personality (in her case it’s the fact that she’s not always ‘nice’) and writes about how she sat quietly with these parts of her personality and learned to accept them. Instead of beating yourself up about flaws or inconsistencies, why not just face them head-on and welcome them in? Why not even like them? Maybe they aren’t even flaws…they are just you? Maybe it ain’t broke after all.

We are complex creatures, we are confusing and we are multi-faceted. We are not always logical or clever or correct or ‘normal’. It’s OK to be more than one thing: in career, in life, in your mind and in your every day decisions. As Malcolm Gladwell says:  if “you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.”

  • This post make so much sense to me. It’s feels good to know that people feel similar things, struggle with similar fights. I like your post. X

  • Thank you so much for writing this, it makes so much sense. I always struggle with who I am and ‘how can I do this and be that?’ and being a different person to who I was three years ago, even one year ago. Living in chapters makes perfect sense. Off to check out Anne’s newsletter – thanks for the tip off x

  • I love the living in chapters metaphor – this really rings true with how I live my life! I am indeed a walking contradiction – living with chronic anxiety and other issues, yet pushing so hard in my career, being open with friends, but closed with others…

  • Linda Best

    This is the first blog I have “deliberately” read. I wanted to start blogging ( I was actually looking for inspiration on how to ACTUALLY do a bog) for the very same reason as you mentioned, that thoughts and actions change and I feel they are so fluid I want something that I can refer back to, a kind of anchor for them. How funny that I selected your blog at random and it was so in tune with my thoughts. Thanks. I love Ted talks, what did you talk about ?

  • Thank you so much Linda, I spoke about our online selves and virtual worlds, the link is here if you’re interested 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBYPMQsAZNI&t=1s

  • Thanks for your comment Nat. I feel like we are all many things at once and maybe we should own it 👊 xxx

  • Thanks Nicola – and yes please do sign up to Anne’s newsletter, you will love it. It’s a dose of reality kick and pep talk all wrapped up in one x

  • Thank you x

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic