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Friday, May 30, 2014

How Do You Overcome Lack of Confidence?

I received this question via Facebook and as I started to answer I realized it was a little more than a Facebook message, so I decided to blow the dust off my blog and post it here.

The actual question was "How did you get over (if you ever had it) the lack of confidence as you were writing?

First, LACK OF CONFIDENCE DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN'T DO THIS.

I have lacked confidence throughout all fifteen of the years I've been writing. Over and over and over again I struggle to believe I can do what I've set out to be. I doubt my writing ability, I doubt my ability to find time, I doubt that people will be happy with the result. I read reviews that paralyze me, I face discouragements that make me wish I'd never started, I continually fear that my best ideas are already used up and whatever I do next will be lousy. Every writer I know faces it, so, yes, I have certainly faced with lack of confidence--I am right now battling a fear of being able to do something new and getting over a rather stinging rejection that took me away from my computer for weeks.


Second, THE ONLY WAY TO OVERCOME LACK OF CONFIDENCE IS TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS.

Start with very small goals you know without a doubt you can accomplish that is not tied to anyone else's efforts but your own. Some examples of the easiest goals would be "Write for 15 minutes" or "Read a chapter in that how-to-write book"or "Look up submission guidelines for one agent." It will feel silly, because you know that you can do it, but that's the point. Most of us (especially women) live in a world of not only "I'm not enough" but "I shouldn't be enough." We compare and criticize ourselves to ridiculous levels about most things in our life. In the process, we train our brain to feel successful only when we are failing. It's neurotic, but we do it. Someone compliments our dinner and we point out that we didn't put enough carrots in the soup. Someone tells us we look nice and we point out that our pants are too tight. My best guess as to why we do this is that we are afraid of appearing arrogant and so we put ourselves down and create an atmosphere where we are more comfortable with our missing pieces than our wholeness. When we then take on something big, like writing, our brain is stuck in old patterns. We've trained our brain to be more attentive to our shortcomings and that's going to be a problem because we need to do well at this if we're to reach our goal. If you stay in that place of comfortable regret, you will never make this writing thing work. You have to allow yourself to be successful, it is the only way to build confidence and without that inner confidence, the outer pressure will crush this dream before it gets off the ground. This applies to much more than writing--in every part of our life it's through the accomplishment of objectives that we grow in our belief that we can do well at things. Set yourself up for success by setting small attainable goals.


Third, CELEBRATE ACCOMPLISHMENT.

When we accomplish those small and attainable goals, we need to celebrate them. In this case it's not a party (though it could be cake) it's simply being conscious that you did what you said you would do. You can say it out loud "I just wrote for 15 minutes!" you can write it down, you can tell a friend. Don't simply set another goal, take a moment to celebrate the one you just accomplished. This conscious practice of celebrating success floods your brain with happy chemicals that help teach your brain what to derive pleasure from. It is pleasurable to succeed at things, but since we're used to "I shouldn't be enough" it takes some training to get your brain on board with this. Find people who will celebrate with you--not everyone will--and share your success with them while inviting them to share their success with you. Many times we surround ourselves with people who are far more comfortable with our whining than our winning. Find people who will allow you to share your excitement and let them celebrate with you.

Four, TAKE FAILURE IN STRIDE.

Failure is both powerful and inevitable. You will face it and it will hurt. There will be some people who will try to spin it into "That wasn't fair" or "They don't know what they're talking about" and while it's nice to have that kind of support, if we don't "listen" to our failures and find out what they can teach us, we won't be better for them. On the other hand, if we let our failures stop us, we are giving them too much power. For me, I have tried to find a balance of feeling the hurt and embarrassment and disappointment for a period of time, and then forcing myself to be objective about it. Look for the truth in the failures and rejections, but don't live there. Remind yourself over and over again that this is a journey. You are not taking it only to accomplish something, you are here to learn. It's been said that you can learn more from your failures than your successes, I think this is true but it's up to you whether or not you approach them that way.

Best of luck. Happy Writing.