Will I always feel a failure?

July 21, 2012

in Personal

"Very poor writing this"...from Telegraph comments on an article

link = http://bit.ly/QPoKqE


I wonder when anyone ever feels they have arrived, and whether they ever do and how would they know?

I don’t suppose anyone is going to reply to this saying ‘I have’ so it’ll have to be reflections from the ‘not made it’ side.

If I think about it I have to concede that many people in the very tiny world of gardens would be likely to think I have made it and should shut up and be grateful. I have a half decent garden which quite a few people visit and which has featured in the odd book and very odd television programme. I’ve published a book and I founded and edit a website which attracts a lot of readers, if clicks represent readers. (nice space for self doubt here..)

I’m married to a successful garden photographer who takes great pictures of the garden and other people’s gardens and did the photographs for my book and one of his own. So I get some reflected glory.

I have a lot of good and supportive friends on twitter, who frequently delight me and cheer me up.

I do manage to get occasional garden pieces published, if not widely, in very respectable places – and, best of all, in my own voice with my own opinions. I no longer have to write vapid garden stories about other people’s depressing gardens.

I am also frequently thoroughly disliked, and in some circles this would appear to represent great success. There are a great garden magazines and newspapers who wouldn’t publish a piece by me if that was the only thing that stood between them and bankruptcy.

So I think I should be ashamed of myself for frequently feeling a failure. It is a kind of self indulgence. Self pity – yuk!!! Thinking about it, it really seems that way and I feel very embarrassed. But I think that awful feeling is bred in my bones and I may never be rid of it. I can always instantly return to the feelings of humiliation and shame that dogged my childhood and which have clung to me like goosegrass ever since. Like a pit that is always there behind me, waiting for me to step thoughtlessly backwards.

It opens up when an article is rejected. When I get the figures for the sale of my book. When I get little response to my blogs. Or when I think of other people’s infinitely greater successes. If a plant dies or looks sickly or a part of the garden fails to live up to my intentions. Or gets weedy. Or if only a couple of people visit the garden when it’s open.

So why do I keep sticking my neck out and risking the bad feelings by doing any of these things? The truth is – I don’t know, except that I think I imagine that if I do enough I can one day escape feeling bad and feel good about myself. And then love everyone from my place of happy contentment.

Not going to happen, is it?

Kitchen Door Panel copyright Anne Wareham

Bob Barfield July 24, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I cannot put into my own words but I hear everything you say I cannot attach anyfiles here but please go to this link and listen to this song which I was listening too today whilst working in a clients garden. It made me think of you. Music has always been my way of escaping, reasoning, hanging in there music has been with me all my life especially when I feel a failure over somthing which has been often.

Please listen its Andrea Bocelli – Because We Believe I will stop there and let him sing to you (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWtUM1J9eSc)

Look outside: its morning
This is a day you’ll remember
Hurry, get up and go
There are those who believe in you
Don’t give up

Once in every life
There comes a time
We walk out all alone
And into the light
The moment won’t last but then,
We remember it again
When we close our eyes.

Like stars across the sky
And in order to shine
You will have to win
We were born to shine
All of us here because we believe

Look ahead and never turn your back
On the caress of your dreams,
Your hopes and then,
Turn towards the day that will be
There is a finish line there.

Like stars across the sky
And in order to shine
You will have to win
Like stars across the sky

Don’t give up
Someone is with you

Like stars across the sky
We were born to shine
And in order to shine
You will have to win
And then, you will win!

anne July 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm

This is so kind of you and so thoughtful – feels amazing that you should have been thinking of me and that you should go to this trouble. I did listen, and like, and more – I will remember how comforting music can be in hard times. I think it is healing.

Evie July 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Anne, you don’t have to love everyone and certainly not those who aren’t worthy. But you know this.
A good friend of mine once told me, there are those who feel threatened by those who exhibit an ounce of wisdom, logic, intellect etc., etc., So they lash out in some very unkind ways. (It’s a dog-eat-dog world sometimes). In having to be strong against those types of people, we have to make choices we would not normally make. Cause and effect. That’s not to say blame them for how we are. Just understand the reasons we react the way we do, sometimes. And if we’re not happy with that, we can move away from the situaion and closer to what we do want to have in our lives.
Which is what it sounds like you’re doing. Let them stew in their own juice, as my mum used to say 😉

I think you know in your heart of hearts that you’re just fine. But I’m like you and sometimes have self doubts. The past can cause some real problems, emotionally and dent our lives a bit. Our adult minds question this, with a different wisdom.

I’ve never thought of you as anything else than an honest, polite, kind and thoughtful lady.

I’d best shut up now as reading back it sounds like I know everything (which I don’t), told you I have self doubts


anne July 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Interesting to think of having to ‘make choices we wouldn’t usually make.’ I guess it’s easier for any of us to be good, or to succeed in a relatively benign world. Which most of us are fortunate to be living in. Thank you for your kind words and thought provokingness, Evie. XXXXX

anne July 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm

PS I know I don’t have to love everyone, but wouldn’t it be good to feel able to? There’s a line in a song that I love: “I love you so much, I could love your wife..”

Evie July 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I love what everyone teaches me about life, that’s probably the closest I can get to loving everyone! That song explains how deeply someone can love another, can see why you like it. Though I couldn’t personally do that to a married woman; love her husband :\

(Like to think I could find my own, not into pilfering)


anne July 21, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Me too – and beware anyone who looks at mine! But it’s a good joke.. XX

Paul Steer July 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm

All I can say is amen, I identify with your feelings, The worst thing with me though is I try to live vicariously sometimes, to try and cover up my failings. Perhaps that is what our obsession with celebrity is all about ? I also identify with the anxiety produced by seeing plants fail in the garden, strange because nobody but Sue and me ever see my garden ! I am so encouraged by your willingness to share your vulnerability in this way, even Monty showed that he suffers from carrot failure ! None of us is perfect and neither is any garden…. I think perfection is a lie.

anne July 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Monty suffers from carrot failure?! There is hope for all of us.Thank you for that encouragement, Paul.

John July 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm

What is “success”? Take Bob Diamond. Not so long ago he was praised as the man who turned Barclays around and protected it, almost single-handedly from the banking crisis. Now he’s villified because he did what he did.

If someone rejects your writings, it’s because you stick to your guns. You say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t use big words to get your message across. You are prepared to suffer for what you believe in and for what you believe (there is a difference!). People may say they don’t agree with you but if you didn’t say what you believe in the first place, they would be denied that opportunity. In a sense, by stirring the debate, you motivate them to stand up and say something for themselves. Is that not success?

If nothing else, you’ve motivated me to think more about what I do in the garden and, more fundamentally, why. You’ve also got me thinking more about all those insignificant things like garden design and garden designers, about working with nature rather than trying to tame her. And I know I’m not the only one. Is that not success?

And you get more blog comments than I.

Remember that the only person with whom you will have to sleep EVERY night of your life is yourself. So if you can put your head on the pillow and sleep comfortably with yourself (and so with your conscience) that is all you need. Being able to do that is success in itself.

Damn, the soap box was a bit rotten thanks to the rain. It’s just collapsed under me 🙂

anne July 21, 2012 at 6:59 pm

John! What can I say to you in your heap of rotten soap box!? That you should sleep soundly reflecting on your own kindness and generosity – and we must stop this or there will be sweet gooo leaking out of my blog!
And you are so right about the vagaries of this world…
Thank you XXXXX

sarah July 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Anne I was so touched by your blog and so much of what you say resonates strongly. Perhaps our feelings are normal and some are just super fortunate and some just good at covering up. x

anne July 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm

That could well be (if awful) but even in the closest relationship it can be hard to tell just what someone else is feeling. We will have to believe it’s like that and extend our compassion to all the apparently smug!

Zoë July 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I could have written that!

Not that I am a published garden writer or anything, but those feelings of worthlessness and self hate. Goosegrass is the prefect way to describe how they cling.

One’s childhood has a lot to answer for, and its all but impossible to change those habits
learned so early in ones life. Parents are like Gods – they say it, they do it, therefore it must be true.

Beautifully written by the way

anne July 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Thank you.

It’s bizzare – I think we all know there are others out there feeling the same. Yet when I feel swiped or useless I always feel as if that it’s just me. The worst:= me.

I hate to feel, so long after, stuck with childhood horrors and have tried very hard to leave them behind, often successfully. But the pit is still there… Bah!

Sharon July 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm

And you are not afraid to express your views or challenge (I doubt that you ever have a brown nose – forgive vulgarity). That makes many people uncomfortable, some of whom choose not to affirm or even be pleasant in response. Once, when working my socks off for a voluntary activity (with no small level of achievement) I was asked by the bullying committee chair “do you know how many pwoole’s backs you put up”. Upset beyond measure … But actually his problem really, not mine. No, Anne, you are not a failure, and you have the permission of many not to feel one!!!

anne July 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm

This is very kind too – but I guess, from what you say, that you may well know that other thing which we should all feel ashamed of but seems immovable: how much more powerful that slap in the face from the committee chair is than the no doubt appreciative comments and praise you got elsewhere?

*Sighs. Vows to do better.*

Thank you! I will start practising on these.

Sharon July 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Yes, the slap hurts badly. Easy to counsel others!

anne July 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm

We can keep trying to let the good things in….somehow…(but we’ll never beat that slap, I bet)

Tessa Stuart July 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I recognise what you say. And the answer is probably not. But it is very possible to move to a place of semi-contentment where one validates oneself. The world has its own not always correct views. I think a better guide is your own internal lodestone as to whether what you have done is good. You will know. Inside all of us is that little child who may’ve stood on the sidelines in the playground, not being picked, been humiliated, and when those feelings re-emerge, we can choose to comfort the child ourselves. Because we, as adults, have the power to do that that we didn’t have as children.

Comparison of ourselves with others is invidious and best avoided. What we have done is enough. Enough is good.

anne July 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Good (and kind) thinking. Thank you. XXXX

Tessa Stuart July 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Anne, I also think that creating something of beauty and intelligence that others can share and enjoy, as you have done, in your garden and your writing, is one of the highest arts.


anne July 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm

That is a truly delightful thing to hear. Another good thought… XXXX

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