“No no, no no no no, no no, no no, no no, there’s no limits.”
The glorious lyrics from that aptly-named 90s band 2 Unlimited – a sterling member of Now 23’s line-up. (which included the confusingly great Super Mario Brothers club anthem).
Those immaculately-penned words never really sunk into my grey matter until literally four minutes ago. I was too busy in 1993 trying to sidle up to some acne-riddled youth in the village town hall disco; a melting pot of frustrated teens in search of Pogs* and snogs.
But I realised as I started slobbering on a good mate (@emilygrayphoto) today that I have a somewhat persistent Achilles heel: doubt.
The snot started bubbling when she perkily asked the simple question: “All OK with you?” Well, yeah it was until you asked that question and made me think about it and unleased a veritable Alton Towers log flume of tears. We were in some achingly hipster Shoreditch brunch gaf; there was a general sense of worry from all moustachioed patrons in the air: “Why are there mother people here; this is not a mother people place. Savages.”
I’ve nattered with intent on seven panels in the last three weeks about confidence and ‘going for it’, grabbing that ‘something’ when ‘having it all’ seems like the equivalent of bagging the Golden Snitch. (The Harry Potter thing in Quidditch; thought it was ‘snatch’ but J.K. wouldn’t have been so crude).
I’ve taken on a sort of vaguely Trump-worthy faux confidence myself, brushing over any fears I have of being a massive bell-end in the hope of instilling something, anything in others. Same gurning coat hanger smile, mildly more secure hair.
But that itself has ignited debilitating levels of doubt on my side of the raggedy fence; sparked up massive cause for momentary reflection. Because it feels dishonest talking about building the veritable Trump Tower of self-belief without referencing the iceberg of self-doubt lurking beneath those seemingly calm waters.
Doubt is a cruel mistress. She’s a wily sort who edges into your thoughts at 3.14am when there’s nothing but an irksome ‘Hater’s gonna hate’ cat meme for pixelated company. It sidles up to you in the dairy aisle of Asda and queries (oh so quietly, never judgementally but ever-so clearly) if it’s lactose that’s causing those painfully feral toddler tantrums.
‘Parenting the shit out of life’ and ‘survival of the ginnest’ is all well and good but is there something bigger at play here; are you ignoring digestational warning signs for a quick What’s App laugh. “Gawd, child splayed on floor again in Asda, hashtag blessed [insert crying-with-laughter-potential-sadness emoji]”
Doubt cheapens your brand, product and decisions. Despite knowing you can climb that goat-embellished, hulking great Himalayan mountain – nay range – something edges over and whispers: “what about the mortgage poppet chops? This isn’t a vanity project.”
Stay at home? You are doubting if you’re spending too much time with your kids – what about you? Is my rendition of Wind The Bobbin Up even on-point? Work away? Worrying if you spend too little time with them. The moment when Mae started calling for my Mum (@grandmother_pukka) in the night over me chopped me in two.
Sure, we all know Instagram isn’t real life (although it’s definitely not just fantasy) but when feeling like a crumpled snot-crusted tissue that missed the bin it’s hard to see the Valencia wheat from the Amaro chaf.
Ultimately you doubt if your milkshake – whatever maternal flavour – will, in fact, bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard.
Doubt feeds off the big stuff, the fun sponges of life: bricks and mortar, grub, frankly shabby broadband, a raincoat that doesn’t have your kid resembling a bloated Michelin Man. And then all the whispers, side notes and quiet concerns amass in one snotty bubble and push you over the immaculately-pruned edge.
You’re in hipster central with a slug trail of snot meandering down your ‘fun time Frankie’ top that felt like armour enough but was really just a playground slide for your doubt to come careering down, landing in an ugly heap on the wood chip floor.
It’s only when that snot bubble has burst that you can see doubt for what it really is. A flea on a fly on a rat on a cat on a rare Siberian snow leopard. You are the snow leopard.
No doubt about it.
*If you don’t know what a Pog is bless your youthful façade and fresh wisdom.
Image: Miles Aldridge
Written by: Anna Whitehouse.