Monday, October 17, 2005

How Much Am I Worth?

I received an e-mail from a friend the other day. In it, she apologized TO ME for feeling bad. She said she felt like she was letting me down by feeling so bad. An awful lot of people don't really understand how anybody could feel that way. I'm not one of them. I understand only too well.

One of my biggest struggles in life is to convince myself that my feelings, good or bad, have value. Hw am I supposed to take time for myself if I feel guilty about it, if I feel like I'm letting some other person down? How can I value my feelings enough to take ownership of them so I can begin to deal with them? These are serious questions that many people have to face on a daily basis.

The fact is, I am worth every bit as much as any other person in the world. My feelings are just as valid any anyone else's. If I feel bad, that is a valid feeling. I am allowed to feel bad, good, silly, lazy, or whatever.

How does a person go about convincing him/herself of these truths? By paying attention and by carrying on an internal conversation. I am training myself to be aware of my feelings. Once I realize that I'm feeling bad about feeling bad, I can try to discover why I feel that way and start telling myself that it's okay for me not to be perfect. Through repetition, it becomes true. If I tell myself enough times, I will come to believe it. I am already well on the way to overcoming this particular obstacle, though there is still a lot of work yet to be done.

I carry on the same self-conversation about my writing. I know, on the surface of my mind, that I am a good writer. Underneath, I am still not convinced of that. I can now submit non-fiction articles without the fear of them being pinned to the office bulletin board for ridicule. Fiction is still hard. I am still searching for validation as a fiction writer, but it is hard to come by, mostly because fiction is so subjective. It is so hard to hit just the right editor for a story at a time when he/she is most receptive to it. There is a lot of chance involved, but my inner mind persists in seeing rejections as reflecting badly on me.

The struggle between the internal critic and the internal booster is vicious. The booster has my support, but the critic has the inertia of a lot of years behind him. I may never get to the point where the booster takes over, but I can keep up the fight. In order to succeed, I am going to have to give myself permission to be good at the things I enjoy. You can probably hear the critic howling about that sentence all the way to Australia.

Just to twist that knife a little harder, I am going to brag that Zette has accepted my article "Studies in Lines and Shadows: Character Development for Short Stories" for the November/December issue of Vision. Yay me! Take that, critic!


At 6:30 PM, Blogger Melly said...

Congrats Carter.
I never checked Vision out, but I will now.

Now to the issue at hand. Two related ones in fact.

I don't usually feel bad for feeling bad, but I do feel bad if I allow my feelings to take over and affect my behaviour. It doesn't happen often, but when it does I feel awful, no one has to suffer because of my bad feelings - right?

About the writing. Ouch. Almost too painful to talk about. I think I feel the same way. I think most writers do unless they're bestsellers. I have no idea how to overcome that, let me know if you find out :)

At 7:55 PM, Blogger Jean said...

Congrats on your article acceptance. Yes, Melly, check Vision out--it's an excellent e-zine.

I do sometimes feel bad for burdening my friends with my whining while I'm feeling bad. I have to live with myself, and on those days when I can't get away, I don't always like to subject other people to the me I can't stand being around.

One thing I'd like to improve is my self-talk--that running dialog that goes on in your head that you tend not to notice. It tends to run toward the negative side, and, supposedly, your mind feels obligated to make that bad stuff a reality in your life. Ideally, I'd create and sustain the soundtrack the my mind would feel obligated to bring to life in matters that I'd like to make happen in my life.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Debra Young said...

Congrats, Carter. I look forward to reading it, d:)

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Carter said...

Melly, I don't know if we can actually overcome those feelings. I think it's more a matter of trying to negotiate some kind of truce, however temporary.

Like Jean said, Vision is a wonderful resource full of great articles. Check it out.

Jean, that internal dialogue is what I'm working on. By actively taking part, I can provide some balance to the constant negative reinforcement.

Thanks Debra!


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