I didn’t sleep last night.
This is normal for me — I’m prone to either vivid nightmares or anxiety dreams. Lately, the anxiety dreams have commandeered my sleep schedule making it all but impossible to get my much needed eight hours (joy).
Of course, last nights anxiety sesh was centered around the upcoming Twitter pitch fest. I’m so excited and ready to showcase some teasers, but I have a seriously bad problem with self-doubt. My boyfriend (bless him for being my rock when I can barely keep a hold of my sanity) turned to me last night and asked, “Do you believe in yourself?” My immediate, gut reaction was, “No.” Which is disheartening and sad and all other sorts of terrible adjectives. When did I stop believing in myself? After a moment of chewing on my lip, I settled with a “maybe,” rather than a “no.”
There’s just something so harsh about the word “no.” I grew up a competitive swimmer and I pushed myself to the limit every single day. I held a wall squat longer than most of the boys on my team. I was faster than some of them too. I had a 6-pack that never faded (thanks to being a butterflier), but most of all I had the drive to make something of myself and the belief that I could one day be an Olympic swimmer. My coaches believed in me too, saying that hard work is half the battle – the other half is heart and you’ve got tons of that to go around.
Injuries and a shift in interests later caused me to leave swimming as a career option (it still holds a very dear place in my heart). But I didn’t lose faith in myself or the gumption to do something amazing with my life and talents.
I think it was easy in swimming in the sense of maintaining faith because results were immediate: you either bested your fastest time or you didn’t. And if you didn’t, you kept working. Sure, there were peaks and valleys and definite low points, but I had a way to measure my growth. With writing, that isn’t exactly the case.
I can seek out beta readers, editors and friendly critiques and usually those result in positive responses. But there’s still that missing factor, the “I’d love to read your full manuscript” email that haunts my dreams. Well, last night it was more like, “Nice try with your Twitter pitches but you’re just not up to snuff.” Self-sabotage to the max. Our brains are incredibly good at it. It makes no sense to me, really. If we are biologically engineered to survive, why would our brains induce such feelings? All it made me want to do is crawl into bed, not go to work and definitely not face the world.
But I did. Because if anything, I have an incredibly diligent work ethic and I would feel even more guilty if I didn’t show up to work and left my coworkers with an increased workload.
I’m glad I decided to leave the house. While traffic was draining and the commute was anything but desirable, I made a little pit stop at my preferred gas station. I’ve been going there so frequently the employees there know my car (it is bright green so I guess that helps a little) and my name (imagine my shock when they said “Hey, Maxym!” and I had never even given them my first name…sneaky, I see what you did there. Looking at my credit card when I pay.). There is one man in particular whose customer service is probably the entire reason I continue to stop at that gas station. He always says hello when I walk in and he always asks how I’m doing. Plus, he’s always smiling. Today, our conversation went a little something like this (some paraphrasing involved):
Him: Hey! How are you doing today?
Me: Oh, good. And you?
Him: I’m having a fantastic day.
Me: Really? That’s great. Just happy to be at work?
Him: I’m just happy to be here?
Me: (puzzled look)
Him: There’s so much negativity in the world today. You just gotta hold on to the positivity and find it wherever you can, you know?
Yes, I do know. And thank you for reminding me of that. I’ve talked to a few of the employees before and for the most part, they work ridiculously long shifts and their jobs aren’t exactly thrilling. But here he was, smiling and happy just to be here. It was like a slap in the face (in a good way). Wallowing in self-doubt and self-pity isn’t going to get me anywhere. Will I still have low days? Sure. But I need to hold on to the positive days, the ones where my boyfriend tells me he believes in me without a doubt, where my mom tells me to keep my chin up, and my best friend oogles over my MS for another beta read. They might be bias, but they all believe in me.
What I’m getting at is, if you’re like me and you have moments of tears, frustration, self-doubt, or any other negative feeling, it’s okay. We all get frustrated with writing. Let out all of that emotion and wipe your slate clean. Then, hold onto the people who believe in you. Once you’ve done that, start believing in yourself again.