It’s not just women who struggle with perfectionism – and mental illness. (Yes, I’m putting ’em in the same category). I was reminded of this whilst reading about Marcus Trescothick, the highest scoring batsman in county cricket. Despite his talent, he’ll never play for England again. A few years ago, whilst waiting to board a plane for India, he found himself in an airport branch of Dixons, rocking backwards and forwards and overcome by a paralysing anxiety. Here’s how he describes it;
“It’s not me. It’s somebody totally different who takes over. I think it always just lies dormant until the anxiety rises up. It’s more an anxiety issue I have, rather than a depression. Of course they’re two sides of the same coin but I can flip into anxiety state very quickly because my brain doesn’t cope well with it..You still get it at odd times, when you think something is going to happen,” he says. “You’re always only one step away from it and that’s why you need to maintain the good things in your life.”
For Trescothick, the buzz of competitive sport helped to channel and disguise what he now recognises as anxiety. It may even have improved his performance. What’s interesting however, are the ways in which his compulsions still operate, even away from the crowds and without the same external pressures. He says;
“I don’t work on adrenaline anymore. It’s desire now. You understand there’s not going to be 15,000 people watching you. But you reinvent the way you play. And through experience and desire and hard work you chase the same goal – to be the best.”
Trescothick concedes that his ambition now comes from within – but I wonder if it was ever thus. The pressures of fame and a competitive environment may have fuelled them – but at the end of the day, our biggest drives are internal rather than external. We are our own biggest critics and whether male or female, it’s against our own impossible standards that we will never match up.