We talk about it a lot, here and elsewhere, this idea of being good enough. Living in fear. Writers often face the dreaded imposter syndrome, especially when we start to find a little bit of success. Oh no, they’re paying attention. They’re going to discover I have no idea what I’m doing!
But how can we expect others to love us when we can’t eve do it ourselves half the time?
Seriously. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the things we’ve done wrong in our lives and our careers, we can’t see past them enough to notice the good things, and thereby cut ourselves some slack and realize we ARE good enough.
So just to get started, here are a few things we can do to help.
First understand just how unique you are. I know I’ve talked about this very thing here already, recently in fact. But I can’t stress it enough. In the 8,000,000,000 people on this planet–not to mention how many have gone before–none of them are just like you. Many of them may share your opinions and thoughts on certain things, but NO ONE is going to approach a topic the EXACT same way you will. No will write the same song, no one will paint the same picture. They may come close, but none of them see the world the same way you do, so no matter what your creative outlet, it’s always going to be branded with YOUR unique insights.
Next, say what you want about daily affirmations. The only people who really deny they work are the people not using them. Successful people the world over will tell you they do certain things EVERY MORNING, and of all the variations, two things crop up most often across the board: mediation and affirmations. You can find affirmations for whatever area of life you need by doing a simple online search. Affirmations for writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists. And pay attention to how many of these different lists contain the same affirmations across the spectrum. Part of the reason you don’t believe enough in yourself is very likely because, growing up, you weren’t given the encouragement you needed, especially when you decided to get into your creative field. Personally, I know exactly where part of my insecurities in writing come from. Despite teachers, mentors, friends and family being 100% supportive from the start, I had ONE AUNT who scoffed at a short story one day and wouldn’t read it because she thought it was “a joke.” I know she didn’t mean it to be mean, but it cut deep and I feel sometimes like I’m still trying to dig my way out of that hole. Affirmations help, though.
Next, in order to really love yourself, you have to fill your life with other things you love. Forget all that “I don’t have time” bull. Fucking MAKE TIME. Your life is not so chock full of activities that you can’t eek out a couple of hours a week to do something YOU want to do. If you love movies but never seem to make it to one, dammit treat yourself. The only time I’ve ever home to eat is in the afternoons, but my daughter hates Chinese and Mexican foods. Well, sometimes I have to say then go make yourself something for lunch, because I’m ordering Chinese. Indulge once in a while. Be selfish. Remind yourself and everyone around that, yes, I love you, but I also have to take care of MYSELF.
We think in language, so we have to be careful especially when we’re talking to ourselves. Shut up, you do it, too. And I guarantee when you screw up, you chide yourself for the mistake. Instead, kill that negativity and think about how you can do better next time, what you can learn from the experience. And let’s face it, we put ourselves down for some really stupid stuff sometimes. From now on, STOP IT. If you mess up for fall down or realize halfway through a big meeting that you have salsa on your white shirt … it’s not the end of the world and you are NOT the first person to wear salsa into a meeting. If nothing else, I’ve done that, so you’re in good company.
And while we’re on the subject, can we stop with the self-deprecating remarks? On the RARE occasion I make one about myself, you better believe it’s done with the utmost sarcasm because I KNOW I’m pretty awesome. A lot of times we use this approach in order to beat someone else to the punch. If we think they’re going to criticize something about us, we have to get the dig in first just so they know WE know. Fuck that. Own it. Own all of it. I’m not forcing anyone to be in the same room with me, I’m not forcing them to interact with me. If they choose to do those things, they’ll choose to do it with every bit of me, bad hair day and all. My bucket of fucks is EMPTY, y’all.
And can we for ONCE just learn to take a compliment? This is the tip I most need to pay attention to myself because I have a stock 5-word reply in any and every complimentary situation. When someone likes my new book or I did a great job on something I work, I usually just shrug and say, “I don’t like to brag.” Why can’t I just say, “Thank you”? It’s not hard. It’s three fewer words, in fact. “Thank you.” Being paid a compliment is FAR from the worst thing to happen to you in any given day–and if it is, then I want your life–but so often we feel unworthy of the compliment. Look, people are selfish and self-absorbed, so if they’re going to take the time and effort to even OFFER a compliment, whether heartfelt or obligatory, take the damn thing!
I’ve got some incredibly talented friends, writers, musicians, filmmakers, voiceover artists, improv actors, and holy crap I wish I had their talents. But I can’t compare myself to them. Every time you compare yourself to someone you think is better than you at something, you’re only doing yourself further emotional and mental harm. The idea is to love ourselves MORE. And the way to do that is NOT by reminding ourselves how so and so can write circles around you, or someone else is able to write and record an entire song in a day while you can barely manage “Ode to Joy” on the guitar. This ain’t about them, it’s about YOU.
Next, here’s a big one. You know all those terrible things you’ve done in the past? All the things you wish you could take back, you wish you could change, you wish you could time travel to do differently? Yeah, you can’t do any of those things. So your best option is just to suck it up and FORGIVE YOURSELF. Chances are, whoever you think you’ve wronged, if they really are your friends, they’ve already forgiven you. And if they haven’t, then they’re not your friend and you’ve lost NOTHING by not having them in your life. And I say all of this as someone who knows how to hold a grudge. If you’ve said you’re sorry, and you’ve said it with nothing but truth in your heart, and they said I forgive you, then the next thing you HAVE to do is learn to forgive yourself. You can’t possibly learn to truly love yourself if you’re constantly thinking about what a terrible person you were THAT ONE TIME. Or even those dozen times. We all fuck up. We make mistakes and we try like hell NOT to make them again. But holding onto those mistakes … man, that’s no way to live at all. Forgive yourself.
Finally, the most important step in learning to love ourselves is this: just love yourself. SOMEONE’S got to, right?
We’re not perfect, but it’s not about being perfect, it’s about finding happiness in your own skin. It’s about looking yourself in the mirror and knowing you are the best person you know how to be, the happiest person you know how to be, and the most deserving person you know how to be.
So now can we PLEASE stop with all the “I can’t do that, I’m not good enough” nonsense?