It feels like now or never for Suzy. If she can overcome the obstacles in her way.

As lockdown slowly lifts many of us are re-assessing our lives, with current circumstances encouraging – or even forcing – us to do so. The past year has brought me time to think and to review and now feels very much the time to make changes. As ever though, it’s not that easy. I know what I want to do; I know what I need to do – but actually doing it is so much harder.

Having just turned 50, with three children in their late teens, my career path has been slightly wiggly. After training as a journalist and completing an English degree, I became side-tracked, working in communications and marketing before having a family and then completing a PGCE to become a teacher in my early forties. This was a challenge and, although there have been aspects of teaching I’ve enjoyed, I haven’t found the sense of happiness and satisfaction I had hoped for. If I’m honest, the original call of wanting to write was always there, but over the years became buried, feeling increasingly out of reach and impossible. There was always an excuse, a reason not to try. Although the ‘now or never’ feeling is sharply in focus, I can’t deny that I’m stuck with two major stumbling blocks in my way.

Comparing and despairing
However unhelpful it can be, who hasn’t fallen into the trap of constantly holding their own lives up against those of their friends and acquaintances? And, even more unrealistically, against people we don’t know – those in the media, celebrities and even total strangers on social media. It’s easy to scroll through anyone’s profile, make a snap judgement and reach the conclusion they have the perfect life. When I read about other writers I tend to despair when I see their list of best-sellers or numerous published articles and the task ahead then seems insurmountable.

These comparisons drag us down, but in reality our view of ourselves can be skewed. Have you ever had a conversation where someone confides their first impressions of you, or tells you how together you seem, when your own reality and self-image is the polar opposite? And let’s not forget that the people we envy on social media are only showing their best moments, not their wobbly ones.

Another pitfall is worrying about how we measure up in terms of where we think we ‘should’ be. This can be a direct bi-product of re-assessing – we start to think What have I done, What have I achieved? Am I where I thought I would be now? It can feel as though there’s a big disparity between what we thought life would look like and reality. It can also feel as though society has created an invisible ‘tick list’ we have to live up to by certain points in our lives. Is any of this really true though? There is no tick-list, and it’s all too easy to focus on what we haven’t done rather than what we have achieved.

On a good day comparisons don’t need to have a negative effect. If you can gain inspiration, resolve or ideas from someone who is accomplished in your line of work, or who’s forged a path you aspire to, then all to the good – but when you feel an unhealthy comparison making you feel worse about yourself it’s time to stop.

Zero confidence
Making those comparisons can have a direct effect on the other barrier which can hold us back – a lack of confidence. This is something I’ve always struggled with and I’m envious of those who seem effortlessly confident (even though they’re probably not). When I fall into the trap of thinking everyone else is so much better than me it leads to the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ feeling, I just freeze and the result is total inactivity. I know I need to get writing, to approach people and make contact, but when your confidence is low it’s easy to find excuses and 101 displacement activities present themselves – even the laundry basket looks enticing.

There are always going to be obstacles in the way, but some of these are created by ourselves. I need to train myself out of the negative habits of over-thinking and worrying and to embrace a more ‘have a go’ attitude. So far I’ve only taken small steps, creating a basic website and writing short articles, but at least I’m moving forwards. Writing might become something I combine with another job, it might remain as a hobby, but it could result in more. I’m going to stop making those comparisons, focus more on myself rather than others and keep tapping away at my keyboard. Fingers crossed; with each word I’ll get a little more confident.

Words: Suzy Wilson.

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