If you’ve been anywhere near the news this week (or have 6th formers lurking somewhere in your life) you’ll know it was A-Levels results day on Thursday. A day when they coerce unfeasible good-haired teenagers to open their results live on TV and radio for the entertainment of the masses. I don’t know about you, but even though my exams days are a long time ago I still get the familiar knot in my stomach and clammy hands when I hear these not-quite-adults open their envelopes and tell millions of strangers the few letters they’ve worked hard to achieve.
Regardless of how this bizarre media-results-day ritual goes, every year it reminds me of my first results day, when, as a 15 year old I rang up my school to find our my GCSE French grade, an exam I’d sat a year early like everyone did in top set at my school. I remember the genuine happiness in the school administrator’s voice that matched my own when she told me I’d got an ‘A’. Then this exchange happened:
SA: Your teacher Mr XX is in the office – he’s been congratulating all your classmates who’ve rang in. Would you like to speak to him?
Me: Um ok.
(A bit of mumbling, some rustling paper and a long pause)
SA: Oh actually he says to just tell you well done and he’ll see you in a few weeks.
Now I don’t really know why he didn’t speak to me – maybe he needed a pee or wanted to blow his nose or had just made a cup of tea. But to my 15 year old self the reason was clear – I had got an A when the vast majority of my classmates had got A*s. The grade that had felt like an amazing achievement 5 minutes before was now second best, a silver medal when I was expected to get gold. I wasn’t a failure by any stretch but I just wasn’t quite good enough to be important. Thinking about that moment this year,I know my confidence took a knock that day. I’m naturally an ambitious person but I’ve often found myself saying as an adult:
“I used to be competitive and then I realised I never won.”
I always say it in an off-hand, jokey way but deep down I think I’ve believed it for a long time. That really there’s no point competing or trying your best at something unless you’re going to be the best at it. That you’re going to win.
And now I realise that this feeling has been haunting my blogging for the last few weeks. It was my three-month blog-iversary this week and I can’t quite shake off the feeling that it’s not quite good enough. Not quite good enough to have my posts accepted by a news and blog website or to attract PR requests or to get more than a handful of views each day.
What if it’s always like that? What is the point of writing it if it’s always just not quite good enough?
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that actually that shouldn’t matter. I didn’t set up this blog to get loads of freebies or become a blogging superstar, I set it up to help me write regularly. And it has. I’m only just not quite good enough if I compare myself to other people so I’ve decided to stop and celebrate my writing achievements, not in comparison to yours or anyone else’s but on their own:
- In the last three months my blog has been visited 1,998 times, with my most popular day seeing 235 people reading some words I wrote. Six months ago no one had read anything I’d written (outside of work) for ten years.
- This week I reached 40 blog followers and over 600 Twitter followers. Most of these people are strangers but they still thought what I was writing was worth following.
- I got a story accepted as part of a new exhibition celebrating women’s creativity (you can read about it here) and I got to show the Child what I can do.
- The first radio script I have ever written made it through the first stage of BBC Writersroom call for comedy scripts. There’s still about a million stages to go before they invite you in for a coffee or even give you any feedback but someone thought what I’d written was worth reading more than ten pages.
These might not seem huge achievements to you but I hope by listing them here they’ll remind me, when I inevitably have another confidence wobble, that even when my best isn’t the best it is good enough.