I recently offered to write something for someone that I had never done before. It feels like stepping off a cliff. I find myself plunging into swirling self-doubt, foggy clouds of negative comments stream through my mind. “I can’t do it.” “I’m not good enough.” “He’ll work out I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Self-doubt is fascinating if you can manage to be objective about it, and this applies to self-doubt in any situation. Think how you feel when you want to hack your horse alone for the first time, or try a leg yield. How much are you held back by your self-doubt? What does the little voice in your head say?
When I can be sufficiently objective, I can challenge the little voice. “I can’t do it.” This one I always tackle by starting the task, immediately I can quash the little voice – see I AM doing it. The moment you first ask for the step of leg yield, the first step on the hack you are doing it. It doesn’t matter whether it goes well or badly, the point is you are doing it.
“I’m not good enough.” This old chestnut… Yes you are. You are always good enough, always more than enough. If you spend all day wearing old pyjamas, lying on your sofa eating biscuits you are still more than enough. You are awesome and incredible.
My personal favorite little voice: “He’ll work out I don’t know what I’m doing.” This one is just insulting to everyone. If someone employs you to do a job, you have to give them some credit that they will try and pick the best person for the job. Why wouldn’t they? It makes no sense. If you choose an electrician, or a farrier, you don’t think, “he seems a bit rubbish – I’ll choose him” do you? Yet, if someone chooses us to do something, we insist on thinking that they have chosen badly. Why do we grant others such bad decision making, why do we listen to our little voices? Self-doubt, lack of self-belief, lack of self-confidence.
Let’s shout out the negative little voices – let’s replace them with voices that say “you are awesome.” “You have worked hard at this therefore you will be able to do it.” “Trust in yourself.” “It’s okay to be nervous, just breathe.” Imagine it would be like having your own personal support band in your head…
The actual quote is: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man,” by Heraclitus. It is quite a fitting quote for the times, as our “old life” slowly begins to resume. But the thing is, it isn’t our old life, it’s a new normal. While the same activities may resume, they are strangely not the same.
Take returning to school. You would think that this would be the same. The same school run, the same lessons, the same timetable, the same children. Even the same teachers, the same chat by the school gates. But it isn’t, it is more complicated than that, we have all been changed, for better or worse, it has happened. The school run is physically the same, it is my perception that is different. The same children are sat in the classrooms, but they are different They have been changed by the past year. We all have.
So that something that should feel familiar feels strangely alien and we have to feel our way forwards towards a new way of being. Time will breed familiarity, the school run will start to feel routine, the chat will return to the everyday murmurings. But at the moment everything feels brand new. Like we had the chance to start over, to do things differently this time, to do them better.
Maybe we will just fall back into our old tracks, our old routines. Perhaps we will gossip in the same way. Possibly we will stand in the same place by the railings. Just speak to the same people, but I’m not so sure. We have changed, the river has changed, the old ways have been washed away, and maybe, just maybe, we have the chance to build something entirely new.
…no really, they do!
You meet people who just seem lucky, the horse they pick wins, their raffle tickets comes up first, their card hand bristles with great cards, while yours is full of nondescript 3s and 4s.
I noticed the other day whilst playing scrabble with my grandfather that every handful of letters he picked out were consistently full of high scoring fantastic letters. Every hand, without fail. My hand had the usual mix of indifferent letters with the occasional good ones thrown in.
It’s such a great metaphor for life. Some people simply do have great luck, what they do with it is up to them. Most people have average luck. But in scrabble if you play well it is possible to beat the person with the great set of letters, not every time, but it is possible.
So when you see the lucky girl at the show, with the amazing horse and the seemingly effortless life, remember you can also do well. You can have trained harder, you can have spent more time with your horse, so that you know instinctively that they are going to struggle with the flag in the corner, so you are going to need extra bend coming into that corner to prevent a spook.
My dressage cobs could on a good day beat flighty warmbloods simply by steadily carrying out their tests and being well trained. So, we may not have all the luck, but if we do the most we can with the luck we are given, we can achieve anything!
And remember even the lucky have bad days, and every so often I can beat my grandfather at scrabble and my satisfaction is always increased by knowing that I have beaten him with a less strong hand than his hand.
This is Britain, number one topic of conversation in Britain is the weather. The thing about the weather is it is always changing, you can never depend on it, and you can’t predict what sort of weather you are going to get on any given day.
One day you are schooling your horse in lovely sunshine, the next day it is too hot and he is really sluggish. The next day you get on and the wind is blowing and he is really spooky, and then the following day it is pouring with rain and your horse spend the entire session pushing his quarters inwards. It can get really frustrating!
Acceptance is the key to everything. If you turn up at the show on Sunday morning, and the weather which has previously been perfectly sunny all week, suddenly turns into a howling gale, the first thing to do is to accept it. Yes, your horse would have gone better in perfect weather, but so would everyone else’s. Yes, you would have had a nicer day in the sunshine, but it’s not happening. Some things we can control, for example our reactions to our circumstances, how well we have prepared our horse for the show, but on the day we can’t control everything.
If you never ride your horse when it is windy, you are going to struggle at the show. However, if you have made a point of always riding your horse in all weathers, you can at least feel prepared going into the ring.
So remember, we live in Britain we can’t control the weather, but we can control how we cope with it. Make sure your horse is used to being worked in all types of weather. Remember to accept that the conditions on the day may not be perfect, but we just have to make the best of what we have.