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A couple of weeks ago, I travelled back to Graz from visiting my family in Ireland. Every journey I embark on, short or long, I imagine myself showing up like so:
I calmly swan into the airport looking well-rested, with hair and makeup done. I have an elegant coat on and heeled boots, with one of those eency-weency suitcases that fits nothing more than a jumper and a toothbrush. In my neat designer handbag I have a book to read, my phone and my passport, basta così.
This woman embodies all that I dream of; she’s hugely successful, she always gets up early, never misses a day of yoga or eats unhealthy food, she only leaves the house with a decent outfit on, she makes everyone in the room laugh and feel seen, so people gravitate to her or want to be more like her. Even I want to be more like her.
When we meet for the first time, I’ll probably show you this version of myself. This isn’t conscious, it’s what every human tries to do when they meet new people - hide their vulnerabilities, impress, and convince themselves in the process that this is who they truly are, so that they can feel better about themselves.
But the truth is, we only actually warm to each other when that shield comes down and we can relate on a gritty, human level.
Don’t get me wrong, I manage to embody aspects of her on different days, but I’m not the whole package (that would be exhausting — just writing about her made me yawn).
But back to my journey. Given that I’ve travelled around the world and moved countries a fair few times, you’d think that I’d have the solo-travelling thing down; that I’d know how to pack light or remember to bring decent snacks, but no, not so.
With every trip, I promise myself that I’ll show up as Better Tamzin, but as I near my departure I look over my shoulder and there she is, sweating and trying to catch up: Worse Tamzin.
She, on the other hand, rolls into the airport after a Bad Start at midnight — why do I always seem to have flights at 6am that leave from airports about a four-hour bus-ride from where I’m staying? Why don’t I have a chauffeur? What failures in life have led me to this bus-taking-necessity?
Now, you might think that missing one night of sleep is No Big Deal, but my partner will tell you, if I miss my bedtime I basically turn into a toddler who has missed bedtime, dinner and lost their favourite teddy all-in-one. I make no apology for this, I NEED my sleep and if you happen to be around when I’m missing it — well then, it’s your fault.
So I arrive at the airport in a bad mood, I don’t have my hair or make-up done (duh), I’m wearing shabby runners (who wants to run through an airport in heels?) and about fifteen layers of clothing - not because I couldn’t fit more in my case (I couldn’t) but because I always get cold on planes (really cold).
Then, because it’s winter (I reject winter) there’s the scarf, gloves, hat or Things That Drop. Do I really care enough to bend down and pick up that glove? I don’t need gloves anyway, do I? (Spoiler: yes I do - I still live in Europe where January is chilly, despite my delusions.)
On descending from the bus, I find that my suitcase wheel is broken, so I drag my 20kgs across car parks and terminals and start to regret the fifteen layers of insulation (but my feet are still cold).
Travel and holidays also make me suffer from an affliction known as the I WILL GET SO MUCH WORK DONE virus, most commonly found in self-employed artists. This disease causes the side-effect of heavy carry-on bags in which I fit everything I might need for creative work; laptop, ipad, camera and five books. (I didn’t open my laptop once and I forgot my camera battery).
I needn’t tell you that the bathroom is a struggle with so many layers and bags in tow, followed by the shock of seeing myself in the mirror and wondering who on earth is that, but I do eventually make it to security.
YES I KNOW I HAVE TO TAKE OUT MY LAPTOP AND ELECTRONICS AND BAG OF LIQUIDS BUT JUST GIVE ME A SEC AND STOP SHOUTING THIS EARLY IN THE MORNING.
Six layers off, a quiet gloat to myself about not wearing the chic winter boots I would also have had to remove (wait, did I get something right?!), and after all my tubs of STUFF go through the scanners, I finally make it to the gate, where I can sit with a coffee and begin the ritual of berating myself for forgetting Better Me at home.
For the zillionth time I look around and wonder How Does She Look That Good and Carry So Little - did she pack nothing but a thong? and swear to myself that Next Time I Will Be Better.
This version of me who gets my resentment and disdain — she shows up. She’s here for me. She’s working hard, she’s making an effort and she gets the job done. Above all, she makes it from A to B, even if a little less elegantly than she’d like.
I’ve spent far too long blaming her, getting irritated when she’s around and generally denying her existence.
But like I said, if I met you, I’d far prefer to see your human side, so why should I feel any differently about myself?
When I work with clients on Soul Signs, I’m not interested in hearing about the polished, picture-perfect image you want to project to the world. If I was, I can tell you that the sessions wouldn’t be so transformational, and the resulting artwork and story wouldn’t hold so much weight.
Worse Me might not feel so confident or deserving. She’s the one who sometimes spends days on the couch thinking she’s a failure. She’s the one who leaves those nice outfits in the wardrobe and instead goes out in a hoodie and jeans, only to wish later that she didn’t ‘look like such a wreck’ (her words).
So instead of hiding her and pretending she doesn’t exist, I’ve decided to make friends with her. It’s time to value what she has to offer and not compare her constantly to the better version of myself. Different versions come and go, and I have to give time to them all.
It’s time I show you the truth of her too, as everyone shows up online only as their best selves, wanting to give that impression of who they are. I am quite open about my struggles, but I still tend to only show up when I’m feeling good and projecting that energy. Not anymore, because that’s not the full picture.
Whether I appear to be invincible one day or messy and doubtful the next, you can be sure that that’s the truth of who I am, right at that moment.
Let me know what you’ll be doing to stop being so hard on the ‘worse’ versions of you, maybe make a date with them to hear what they have to say — they exist for a reason.
Until next week,
I wish I could sit with you for a cup of coffee (tea for me as I am not a coffee drinker) and discuss this very subject with you. You wrote your feelings about it in such an honest, beautiful manner. I used to be that woman at the beginning of your story here. It became a joke with family and close friends; even my own children after I had them. Always dressed in a certain manner, fully made up with my hair just so. The expensive leather boots with heels even worn with my jeans while shopping. Then my personal life experiences led to my examining this part of myself. Truly digging deeply into all of it. It’s a process, but trust me, it’s worth every minute of examining it.
Ah I absolutely love this, especially the commentary through the airport. This sentence particularly stuck with me, "This version of me who gets my resentment and disdain — she shows up. She’s here for me. She’s working hard, she’s making an effort and she gets the job done. Above all, she makes it from A to B, even if a little less elegantly than she’d like."
This is absolutely the version of me I'm trying to bring to my substack. Grateful to meet yours :)