It’s hard to be easy on yourself.
Like most, I’ve long been aware of the fact that I truly am my worst critic. No one obsesses over my mistakes and translates them into failures quite as harshly as myself.
Case in point:
I’ve been having a hard time with school lately. Working full time and then rushing to class two nights a week is draining, and to be honest, I haven’t been enjoying chef school as much as I thought I would. It’s hard – really, really hard – in a way that I’m not used to. As it turns out, a liberal arts degree doesn’t really make you cut out for a hard-ass chef’s kitchen.
But this week was different. Despite my usual fretting and mad scrambling to get everything done on time for the chef, I received a really good compliment from him. Like really good.
After I got over my initial shock, I was elated. I danced in my car on the drive home from class. I cried a little. I actually believed that maybe going to chef school wasn’t just some frivolous pipe dream, but could actually lead to something I never thought myself capable of. I was, as I announced to my boyfriend that night, proud of myself.
And then something stupid happened. I’m not 100 per cent sure where it came from, but suddenly the idea popped in my head that maybe I hadn’t turned the gas oven off at school.
At this point, a normal person would probably brush the worry aside and go back to basking in their temporary glory.
But not me. I neurotically fixated on this minute detail, going through all of the nightmarish possibilities over and over until well past 1 am. Visions of the George Brown campus bursting into flames danced over my eyelids, but most of all, I pictured the chef peering down at me next class, taking back what he’d said that had made me feel so good.
It’s almost like a perverse denial of self-respect, like my mind couldn’t allow myself to be proud, so it desperately sought out some way to cloud my happiness. It’s frustrating, but sadly not something that’s by any means foreign to my psyche.
My mom is no stranger to this self-deprecating behavior. Despite being a successful overachiever, over the years I’ve watched her struggle with her own doubts and fears. So naturally, I knew who to call when I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling.
As expected, she knew exactly what I was going through, and had had a similar situation just last week. But what she said really stuck with me. Probably because it was true.
We don’t let ourselves accept compliments when we don’t think we deserve them, she said. We find some way to negate the positive, some justification for our own feelings of self-doubt.
Most of the successful people I know suffer from this, so I guess in a way I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for being hard on myself. But nonetheless, if you have any pointers for getting over this – or at the very least, pushing them aside in order to sleep at night – I’d love to hear them.
This recipe comes from my mom, who’s aptly from Nova Scotia. Every fall, she hauls out her classic old Nova Scotia recipe book and automatically thumbs her way to the blueberry-spattered page. It’s a favourite of mine too, especially since it’s such a simple dessert to throw together when you’re busy trying to get dinner on the table.
1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup white sugar
4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 9-inch unbaked deep dish pie shell
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, cold, cubed
Whipped Cream (optional)
1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp white sugar, or to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
2. In a large bowl, add 1/4 cup flour, white sugar and blueberries, stirring to coat berries. Stir in lemon juice and transfer to pie shell.
3. Prepare topping: In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, rubbing between your fingers if needed. Pack over berry mixture.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚F and bake for 45 to 50 more minutes. (NOTE: If using fresh blueberries, bake for 10 to 15 minutes less.)
5. Prepare whipped cream: In a medium bowl, use an electric hand mixer to whip cream, vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form. Taste for sweetness and adjust as desired. Serve over pie.