Sunday, 9 October 2016

Keeping it real...the angel and the devil on my shoulder!

It’s ok to want to succeed right? To be the best in your game. To achieve new highs and smash new goals. But what happens when that desire to win, that craving for success and that ambition for perfection slowly creeps into every aspect of your life? Quite possibly it’s a good thing as surely it means it pushes you to be the best possible version of yourself. But it also quickly zaps any balance from your life too. And that’s one thing I’ve always struggled with, living a balanced life and it’s something that rears its head every now and again, maybe to remind me that despite my beliefs I’m not superhuman or invincible.
 
It's important to remember how far you've come
 
As always with this blog it’s been important to me to share the struggles as well as the triumphs. My blog is my opportunity to do that as my Facebook and Instagram pages will be 99% positive; I’m not one to share every aspect of my life on social media and there’s a fine line between what should go on there and what you should tell a therapist; a line many clearly don’t see but one that I’m adamant not to cross. But I want to keep it real on Love, Life, Lift so today I’m talking about some of the struggles I face.
 
This week prompted me to consider this issue of balance once again as on Tuesday I began a new chapter in my life, starting my Master of Science programme at the University of Bradford; studying Leadership, Management & Change in Health & Social Care. It’s been something I’ve been keen to do since returning from my travels last year and it’s almost 3 years since I completed my degree so in typical Rebecca Mallinder style I was beginning to get itchy feet for learning something new and taking on a new challenge.
 
As I sat there during my lecture while we were discussing the assignment brief, a voice in my head rationalised; “You’ve got a lot on so as long as you pass the assignment that’s the main thing”. And it is of course, but then the devil challenges; “Just passing? Really? Is that all you’re aiming for?” and immediately that competitive nature of mine kicks on and I know that ‘just passing’ won’t be enough for me. And that’s not a competition with anyone else, purely me against me. And so I found myself on day 2 while everyone was chatting away in the canteen, scouring the aisles of the library for lots of good books that would put me ahead of the game and when I returned to class I was greeted by the usual “Wow, someone’s organised” comments and the like.
 
Enough books?
 
This was something I’ve got very used to over the years and I had a similar internal battle when completing my BA (Hons) Business Management which again I studied for part-time whilst working full-time. It was never enough for me to just pass, I had to push myself for the distinctions and coming away with anything less than a First Class Honours degree wasn’t going to be good enough. I came away with a First Class Honours degree.
 
On Thursday I was back in the office met by a challenging situation which immediately required me to translate some of my learning from the previous 2 days into action. Again, in that situation I went over and above because being anything less than a great leader and manager just won’t cut it. And this spans across to all of my work, whatever the project is I’m working on or the piece of work I’m completing it HAS to be the best. I crave success at work, I want to better myself constantly and I always want to be in the position to take new opportunities when they come along.
 
I’ve battled these demons for years and it’s just part of who I am and I’m very much an all or nothing person. If something doesn’t interest me I won’t touch it with a barge pole. If something does interest me, I’m all over it. So naturally when I took on the challenge of bodybuilding, I gave it my all. As I’ve talked about on previous posts, the challenge with the bodybuilding this year was for me to get through the process. Did I have what it takes mentally to stick to the diet? To push my body to its limits. To dare to walk on that stage. And that for me was where the challenge started and ended which is why on the morning of the competition I felt like a winner before I even stepped foot on stage.
 
But as with everything in my life, that’s only good enough for so long and my goal posts move…and move quickly. When on that stage I knew deep down I didn’t want to walk away empty handed so was over the moon to walk away with a trophy, placing sixth in my class. And after being adamant I wouldn’t do it again, here I am preparing for my next season in 2017. And this time, I want more success. I know I can get through the challenge of the process, I proved that this year so now it’s about doing better. And for me it’s always about doing better.
 
Photo cred: Fivos Averkiou
 
I can never be accused of having a lack of ambition. But I also struggle to enjoy a balanced life because of all these conflicting priorities. And that worries me as to whether it could impact on the success I have in any of those areas because I’m stretching myself too thin. There are 3 big goals that focus my life right now; achieving good results in my studies, to continue developing my career as a NHS professional and to have a really big season on stage next year in the bodybuilding world. All massive goals in their own rights and it’s not easy when you also want some form of a social life.
 
On my recent trip to Australia I got a new tattoo that pretty much sums up my approach to life as it translates from Latin to “Winners always work harder” and that’s how I continue to push myself. I’m my own worst critic and toughest judge and if I’m feeling a little tired after the end of an hour’s workout the angel on my shoulder will tell me to go home, the devil will plant the thought of “I bet the other girls aren’t going home” and before you know it I’ll find myself in the studio perfecting my posing. It’s a constant battle in my head and while I’ve achieved a lot of success in my life across different areas in my 26 years, I’m not sure it’s a healthy battle to have.
 
Only the people closest to me know of the struggles I had just a few weeks ago. Before I went on holiday I was the closest to breaking point I’ve been in a long time. I felt trapped, overwhelmed and like I was being pulled in every direction. Work was manic with many staff on leave over summer and an upcoming inspection; it was heavy going to say the least as a senior manager within my Directorate. I was forcing myself to train and diet harder in the weeks leading up to my holiday because of my irrational fear of being out of shape in Australia and having a day off the gym was just not an option even though I was working extra hours every day in the office. And then completing pre-course requisites for University and Maid of Honour duties for my sister’s wedding, I didn’t have a minute to myself. And getting my house in order (literally!) after buying my own place over summer. I compare myself to a duck in those situations; calm on the outside and paddling like hell underneath. No one would have known my struggles unless I told them as I’ve learned very much how to deal with it myself and carry on (again, something I’m harsh on myself to make sure I do).
 
 
Family time in Australia
 
My close friends and family stepped up during those couple of weeks and got me through one of the hardest points of my year and it was very much a reality check for me to give myself a bit of a break, mentally as much as physically. The holiday did me the world of good and helped put perspective on things and so far since coming home I’ve had a better balance in my life and feel much calmer. But I know this will be a constant struggle of mine over the coming years as I strive for success in all areas of my life. It’s important to hit a balance in life, which is never easy and I certainly don’t have the answer to it yet but with very good people around me, they sure do make the rollercoaster much easier to ride.

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