“I’m bad at maths” – and other lies I tell

Let’s get something straight – I’m objectively OK at maths. I got a B at GCSE. I enjoy research data. I can get by in life. It’s such a simple thing so why am I exploring this? A friend gifted me a copy of Rachel Hollis’ book ‘Girl Wash Your Face’. The premise of this book is addressing the lies we tell ourselves (chapters named as such): “I should be further along by now”, “I’m a terrible writer” and “I need a hero”. This was just after a week-long work cult looking at personal effectiveness and power, where we explored the relationship between thoughts, feelings and external experiences. It wasn’t until I was applying for CEO jobs that my own lie of “I’m bad at maths” started to really resonate with me – and hammered home my understanding of what Rachel and my course were trying to outline.

In the height of my anxiety, I was applying for ambitious roles – because it was the most natural step for a go-getter, right? My tribe and fellow professionals were supportive and, on paper, I was a good candidate. I had experience, a vision and the drive. It was logical. So that’s what I did.

And it was horrible. Not the interview, or the panel, or the structure of the process. In fact, it was one of the most positive recruitment experiences I had had! So, what went wrong? My narrative that I was bad at maths was stumped up against psychometric testing required at that level. This combined with my crippling anxiety meant that I couldn’t get past just doing what I needed to do. This lie that I had been telling myself had formed into a belief; I believed that I was bad at maths. I believed that I couldn’t demonstrate my ability to work out percentages, analyse stats and budget forecasts.

Objectively, I’ve set and managed multi-departmental annual budgets worth over £1 million. I worked on recruitment and student data throughout my career. I happily completed project bids and evaluation projects. But this lie, this belief, combined with my ill mental health, made me less than rational. It consumed my self-confidence, leaving me feeling completely unprepared to something that I really wanted to do.

I bombed it – full blown apocalyptic decimation. Half an hour before my panel interview. Even after a pep talk from my people, I couldn’t shake it off. So, for the first time in a very long time, I bombed the interview too. This then reinforced other lies I told myself – “I’m not good enough” and “they found out you’re a fraud”. For those of you who have experienced anxiety, you’ll recognise that I went into a spiral. Hard.

A very honest but tough conversation with my partner helped me realise the most harmful result of my lie about my mathematical abilities was that it hid some hard-hitting truths from me.

I just wasn’t ready

I wasn’t ready to get back to work. I wasn’t ready to take on the world. I wasn’t well enough. Yet. And that hurt. It was frustrating.  To the point where I’m still reeling from it. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt like I let people down. I felt like I lost a huge part of my identity.

It was then that the very first seed of this blog was sown. I wanted to focus on getting better, to feeling more like my authentic self. Don’t get me wrong, this is difficult when depression kicks in too! It’s been six months from that point to finally getting around to writing my first post, but I’ve been taking each day as it comes since. And will continue to do so each day after.

Where-ever you are on your own story, I hope you can outshine some of the lies that are holding you back.

Lou

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