I hate to say it, but what other people think is important to me. I really wish it wasn’t and I try to not let it be, often without success.
So perhaps I should have prepared myself for how this unhealthy habit of mine would be affected by launching a blog!
The advice is to write like no-one is reading and to write for myself. I am doing that as best I can and the reason I am blogging is because I love words and I want get into the habit of writing. I have set myself the target of writing every other day so that I can find my style and my way. Ultimately I would love to write fiction but I have so far been unable to pluck up the courage – too terrified that it will be cheese and jazz hands all the way when what I am aiming for is be on the short list for The Man Booker Prize! So, in the meantime, here I am. It is a start.
The downside is that over the last week in particular, I have started to feel increasingly anxious. A nagging feeling that something isn’t right, butterflies in my tummy signalling the fight or flight instinct, worrying about what people really think when I publish a new piece. Does it pop-up on my friends’ facebook feed and they roll their eyes? Do they whisper to each other that it is so embarrassing? Do they ask “who does she think she is”?
When I published my first post I hadn’t done the school run for a few days and it was the weekend. I didn’t think how I would feel as I walked the girls into school. I was just writing, finally inspired to get down to it. But when I got to the school gates, I struggled to look people in the eyes, I sat in the celebration assembly on Friday distracted by what might be behind people’s smiles when they said hello and at a lovely fundraising coffee morning on the last day of term, when the organiser had gone to so much trouble, I wanted to run home and hide.
I am taken back to the first term H started school and the walks back to the car where I would chastise myself for being ridiculous, slightly shaking and slightly sweating, consumed by the fear that the other mums didn’t like me and that I would never fit in. That I would always be on the edge.
I’m shaking again as I type this. Ashamed that I am so silly.
I know that in reality, everybody has enough on their plates to spend too much time opining on my latest venture. Everyone has their own busy schedule, their own cares and concerns and my blog and whether or not I do it, is not going to take up their time. I also know, that actually, when you read a book or an article, you want to enjoy it and you want the writer to succeed. I also know I have lots of wonderful friends who are supportive, loving and kind and I have been lucky to get lots of encouragement from so many.
So why do I still feel this way?
In lots of ways, my chosen media almost conditions you to it – you post a picture of your most loved ones on facebook and are pleased when it gets so many likes….a little rush knowing other people also think them adorable. Yes, we are on social media to be connected and I love it for that, but narcissism is an unavoidable element of it. I’d love to say I am immune, but it’s human nature.
Equally, the need for approval is just, unfortunately, a fundamental part of my make-up. A part I would like to let go of. It puts a lot of pressure on you and speculating about what other people think, imagining conversations which are not happening, inventing opinions not held, is, if nothing else, a waste of energy. It’s exhausting.
My friend and mentor said to me “worrying about what people think of you is the quickest route to failure”. This could not be more true than when I am writing. Unless I let go of these feelings, I am never going to be myself. My writing will not be authentic and will not be a true reflection of me. If it is not these things then it will not be pleasurable for either me or the people reading it (I know, I know, write like no-one is reading!!).
Of course, whilst I am feeling uncomfortable and paranoid, I could make the decision to stop. Certainly, that would be an easy option. It’s not the option I am going to take though. One of the reasons for choosing a blog is to hold myself accountable for my commitment to write. Also, I want to fight. I am facing my fears: practice makes perfect right? So if at the moment I need to manage my self-doubt demons daily, then I should get pretty good at it! I once read that “confidence is like a muscle: the more you use it the stronger it gets”. Above all else, I want to teach the girls to live bravely and that it is ok to put yourself out there. We were talking just the other day about the words ‘individual’ and ‘unique’ which should be celebrated. We are all wonderfully weird. Let’s not be afraid!