life, writing

Who are you going to believe in?

I know these past days (weeks) I’ve been a bit on the lower end of the happy scale. I’ve either complained a lot, or disappeared completely. Oops!

One of the things I’ve noticed (and I’m sure it’s happened to many of you) is that when you don’t feel great, when your health isn’t what it’s supposed to be, your mind decides that it’s the best time to go in for the kill and really fail you. You start pointing all your flaws out to yourself, or you lose all your self-confidence, or whatever it is that gets your kicks, so to speak. It’s like we enjoy putting ourselves down when we’re already pretty low.

Whenever I have the flu or a bad cold, and I’m in bed shivering, with temperature, coughing, sneezing, and overall in not a pretty state, I always notice how weak I’m feeling, and realise how fragile the human body is, and how little I can do to cure myself once I’m sick. True, eating healthy and all that should help prevent illness, but anyone can get sick any time. If you haven’t, I envy you.

Today, however, I don’t want to talk about feeling all down. These past days, something has happened that has made me realise something else we do to ourselves. We don’t believe in ourselves enough.

Imagine this situation. You and your friend have the same job and the same set of skills. Your friend says they want to apply for a job which would be sort of like a promotion, a job in a higher role. What is the most likely thing you would say to them? I’m guessing, go for it. You have the skills. You can do this. It’s such a great opportunity. You know, you would encourage them and support them, because that’s what good friends do. Not only that, you honestly believe that your friend matches the criteria for the role because you’re objective and you can totally see it.

If it were the other way around… Say your friend actually tells you about that same job offer and they say you should apply, that you are perfect for it. See, they’re not interested because they’re actually super happy where they are or whatever. And you go, and look at the job description, and see it’s for a higher role. Two things may happen here. One, you look at it and you think hell yeah, I’m totally qualified to do this, I’m going to apply. I rock!. Or two, you think what? Er… Have you read? They ask for x, y, z… I can’t do any of those things… I don’t know that software, I don’t have the experience required

If you’re the first type, I salute you. I want to be like you when I grow up. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably the second type (note here, there might be more types out there, but I just wanted to show a quick example and I don’t have all day! Also, I’ve been told I write really long posts…).

We just don’t believe in ourselves enough.

As you know, mainly because I can’t shut up about the stuff I do, I’m writing a novel. I am not writing as much as I would like to, but that’s another story (more on this at the bottom). I also write here, a lot. Whenever I publish a new post, I hope people will read it, and maybe will like it (I honestly don’t expect any other type of interaction), but I don’t think they will. Every time I hit publish, I’m assuming there’s nobody out there reading. Then, I look at the stats and I see the page views. Honestly, I expect at least half of those to be spambots of some sort, but sometimes I get likes and follows. Many times, friends will actually mention a post to me face to face, and will tell me they loved it. And do you know what my first reaction to that is? Really? Why?. Now I don’t ask those questions because I want to hear them praise me, but because I honestly wonder why they would like it. As soon as they leave, I check that said post to read and see what it was that made it special (mostly to see if I can replicate it!).

When people have read excerpts of my novel, which is a very rough draft still, they have told me they loved it. And all I can think of is the bad grammar, and the typos, and the fact that I want to change stuff still, and that this character sounds flat. I don’t know, all the negative stuff.

When I make a craft and I post it online, like on Instagram, and people start liking it and sometimes even commenting, I’m amazed. If someone actually says something along the lines of you are so talented! I love it, I would love to have one of these, or any variations… Honestly, most of the time I don’t understand. Can’t you see it’s all wonky? The zip doesn’t close properly! The seams don’t match each other… How can you like this abomination?. As you can see, I’m super kind to myself.

I know I have to believe in my skills more. I have friends that keep sending me job vacancies because they believe I have the required skills and experience, even if I don’t think so myself. Why?

Is it because of modesty? Either because we really are modest, or because we’ve been raised to not boast? Or is it something else? Why are some people able to get what they want, to pursue their dreams, or to take risks, while others just can’t believe they can make it?

I’m not sure if it has something to do with being extroverts and introverts, even though a lot of extroverts seem to be go-getters and very good at promoting themselves and their skills.1

Personally, I think it might be a mixture of different things (because nothing in life is ever as simple as black or white, is it?) and I’m not sure whether that makes it easier or more difficult to fix.

In previous posts I’ve talked about bullying. I do think having people telling you how little you’re worth every single day does have an influence in how you see yourself. Some people raised above it, and managed to come out stronger, and other people developed strong insecurities. I consider myself to be quite insecure, but I’m learning to fight it. I guess, if someone is telling you all the time how stupid, or ugly, or boring, or whatever, you are, you will end up believing it to some extent, especially if it’s your whole class. They can’t all be wrong, right?

My parents raised me to be polite and not shout, annoy, interrupt, and avoid a long etcetera of behaviours I see in a lot of teenagers these days. I was quiet. I guess thanks to my personality as well, if my parents told me to sit down and not bother the adults, then I would do as I was told. I’m guessing if I had any inclinations to misbehave, it would have been more difficult for them to raise me properly… Or is it all part of learnt behaviours? Did I pick up calm and harmony at home as a baby, so that later on my personality was moulded to that of my parents? I honestly have no clue.

For many years, even if I knew the answer to a question, I wouldn’t raise my hand, not only for fear of being bullied, but also for fear of getting it wrong (and then being bullied for it!). I wouldn’t go as far as to pretend I was dumber than I was just to fit in, but I always sort of brushed it off.

Many years later, I’m pretty much the same in some aspects, while I force myself to change in others. Before, I would have never noticed my lack of belief in myself. Now when I do, I try to change it into blind faith, not in some entity above, but blind faith in myself and in the fact that I can do anything I set my mind to.

If someone said to me that I looked really nice, that an outfit looked great on me, etc., I would normally reply by saying something like nah, seriously, I look really tired today, this outfit? Ugh, it makes me look a bit fat, to be honest, now your outfit does look amazing!. I don’t know, something like that. Now, I try to just say thank you. Why not?

I’m toying with the idea of selling some of the things I make, like the cotton and leather clutch (I was thinking of making another one and auctioning it for charity, but I’m not sure if I will end up doing it – because I don’t believe anyone would want to pay money for it!). People seem to like them… would they buy it? I’m thinking maybe I could try. The worst that can happen is that I end up with a couple of extra clutches for myself!

The other day, I was looking at the photographs of a photographer whose blog I follow, and while looking at them I thought that his photos were quite similar to mine. His just looked a bit better. We had the same sort of composition, and even some of them weren’t perfectly perfect. They had some editing done, of course, but it was minimal, mainly to get the light right and stuff like that, not any heavy post-processing or alterations (like adding clouds or that sort of thing). It made me happy to realise that maybe my photos aren’t that bad. Yes, a bunch of you have told me in the past, but you know, most of you are my friends or family, and you’re going to try to make me feel better about myself, kind of like when your nan tells you you’re the most pretty/handsome of all the people ever (my nan doesn’t tell me these things, by the way…).

People have asked me to make them things, and I always think that I will disappoint them with the final product. Why do I always do this?

At work, I had to run an event where the main person in charge wasn’t going to be present on the date, and I was terrified that I was going to mess it up and it was going to be a disaster. When everyone saw the stand, they all said they loved it, and my boss congratulated me on it… I still keep saying that I just followed the plan someone else had set for me. That it wasn’t really my effort. If I think about it rationally, it was sort of my effort. I made it work. I thought about having a garden and I hired the furniture and a tree needed to make it happen. On the day, I was in charge of setting up everything to make it look nice, direct the dresser about where to put what and organise the team to bring all the stuff to the stand. However, I did have a lot of help, from the person who came up with the idea and tagline, to the interns that helped me on the day (See? Even here, in my own blog, I don’t feel comfortable taking credit!).

My usual question, or worry, if you like, is asking myself why people would want to listen to me, why they would want to pay money for what I do, why they would want to do what I tell them… Why?

I really would like to follow some of my dreams, but I don’t know if I actually can, if I have what it takes.

The novel… Do you want to know a secret? For a while, I had writer’s block. I had put my main character in a tight situation and I had no clue how to get her out of it. Then, one day I realised I had been a complete idiot. The whole point of the book, her whole reason to be there in the first place, was what would actually get her out of the situation! After that, I completely lost the drive. If I couldn’t see something as blatantly obvious as that, maybe I shouldn’t be writing in the first place. It’s sort of, who am I to think this is a story worth writing? Who am I to think I’m going to write it good enough for people to want to read it? I think I have some sort of writer’s block, but one that doesn’t have anything to do with lack of inspiration. I have the story there, all laid out in a document (it’s in a very secret location, guarded by hot security guys and sharks with lasers!). I know how the story is going to end, and I know how I would want even a second and maybe even a third book to continue the story. Why can’t I write it?

Because I don’t believe in myself.

I watched a film about J.K. Rowling the other day (gosh, I hadn’t cried so much in a long time, and mainly because I felt embarrassed about myself, and identified with some bits, and happy for her and all at the same time!) and it inspired me to write again. She never really gave up. At some point, when people asked her about it, and about whether she wanted to sell a lot of books and all that, she replied

I just wanted to write.

And here I am, writing on this blog, assuming nobody will read it, even though I know someone will (hi, mum, hi dad!), not really writing because of the stats or the likes and follows, but because I want to write2. And so I’ve started writing on my novel again, slowly, with rusty fingers, and words laboriously dripping out into the keyboard, but hey, the word count keeps going up. J.K. Rowling spent six years3 writing and polishing and finally publishing her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. So far, I’ve been writing for three years. It hasn’t been that long, really, since I’ve only been writing one or two months each year, but I’ve decided that I need to believe in myself and write the story I’ve been wanting to write. If nobody out there wants to read it, so be it. I know at least a person who definitely wants to, and that’s me.

I think that already makes it worth the effort, don’t you think?

Afterthought: Am I the only one who has just read the post title and automatically sang Who you gonna call? Yeah? OK, never mind…

  1. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I recommend you read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Here’s the website
  2. I must say I do care about the follows and likes. Currently, at the time of writing this post, there are 244 of you, beautiful, amazing people following me, either through here, or through the social media (Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter). I am extremely grateful that at some point you decided to receive some sort of notification whenever I publish something new. Thank you. 
  3. See the timeline on her website