It’s Not Size That Counts

Photo credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, via / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s the little things. No really, it is. I know that in today’s society we’re sold on the mantra ‘Think big or go home’ but all I have to say to that is OH PISS OFF. I can just imagine some shiny foreheaded motivational speaker/fitness guru metaphorically masturbating to his own importance as he counts his millions, selling some rubbish lifestyle that really has nothing to do with its participant’s interests but more to do with product placement and some crappy inspiration porn.

One of my many jobs involves being a logger for competence and conduct hearings. This job does not require me to know shorthand but it does require me to type rather quickly. This is not really an issue until someone has the audacity to say the word ‘necessary’. This word has been the bane of my life for 34 years, some would say it would be necessary (I am so funny) to learn it but, what with my brain working the way it does, some spellings just won’t stick no matter how hard I try. So last week, as I sat uncomfortably, tapping away furiously to catch all the mumblings of a particularly lovely legal advisor, I realised with unexpected joy that I had typed my nemesis perfectly not only once but many times. No annoying red squiggle line for me! I sat proudly in front on my desk basking in the light of  what was for me a massive achievement. I had always equated my lack of spelling skills as a sign of immaturity and stupidity. Now I could be a real grown up! I can spell necessary and necessarily with ease. Oh,  and Decision. What an effing genius I am! Now I just have to master the word ‘secretary’ without spellcheck and then I’m Madeline Albright.

I joke but in all seriousness to me this is a big deal. I don’t care if someone else learnt it at five years old as opposed to my 34. It was hard for me and I managed to overcome a hurdle that I had internalised as something to mean I was stupid. I felt the same the day I learnt to climb a rope. In a room full of circus performers it meant very little but to me I had conquered the world and, even though that was four years ago and I have since then performed in various shows doing various circus type acts, I still look on that moment as one of my best achievements.

It was hard for me and I managed to overcome a hurdle that I had internalised as something to mean I was stupid.

What is it with us and our belittling of ourselves and the things that actually mean so much to us personally? I am not saying that there should be a celebratory party in my honor for my greatness that I managed to spell a word correctly without aid, or being able to climb a rope. I know all about perspective, but I am asking why do we diminish those achievements so quickly? Especially when those are the things that sustain us through everyday life. Yes we can achieve greatness but that can take months, years even, of hard graft. And often those big things are made up of tiny achievements all stuck together to make a whole. Writing an email here, having the courage to have a simple conversation with a boss there, getting all those ideas out on a page even if no one else sees it.

Perhaps the reason we diminish our worthiness by minimising what we consider ‘little’ achievements is because of how we are raised in a world obsessed with fame and money. Why does it matter that I can spell ‘necessary’ if I ‘failed’ at being an actor? We are so concerned and fearful of failure that we can’t see those things that enrich our lives. As Brene Brown (my new hero) writes in her book, Daring Greatly, “There are no prerequisites for worthiness.” So why is it that we continue to beat ourselves up when really we’re doing just fine as we are?

I wonder whether, if I had been taught to look at my dreams as a series of small steps, rather than a massive gulf to overcome, then perhaps things wouldn’t have been so overwhelming, leading me to run the opposite direction out of fear and intimidation. I don’t know the answer to these questions because I haven’t discovered alternate realities yet but for the moment I will look on my ‘necessary’  win as something amazing and to be proud of. I don’t care if no one else cares because at the end of the day they will have their own achievements to bask in that I don’t need to know about and that’s ok by me. Clearly it is ‘necessary’  and a ‘decision’  we all need to live with!


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Ailsa is a London based writer and blogger with a background in theatre and performing arts.