I never wanted to be neurotic, but nothing defeats my best intentions like insecurity. There’s this huge tangle of fear, something our primitive brains are hardwired to act on and not always in a positive fashion. Yet the fears themselves aren’t tanglible. This isn’t about a lion in the grass about to take my selfish genes out of the breeding pool (what about the tube tie nearly two decades ago? You weren’t kicking up a fuss about how we were all going to die *then*.) No. These fears are modern monsters: inadequacy, failure, and oddly enough, of success.
I don’t think anything illustrates it better than this photo. There I am in the tee shirt with the cover of the SINGLE book I had out at the time. That’s Jade Lee beside me. Know how many books she has out?? Lots. Look at my face. You can plainly see that I feel like I don’t belong there beside such a successful, prolific author. (This was taken at the Romantic Times Booklover’s convention in 2011 at Linnea Sinclair’s Intergalactic Bar and Grille reader’s party.)
Fear of failure, for me seems relatively easy to overcome. Failure is never having tried. It’s winding up on your deathbed wondering what might have happened if only… Talk to a few of your aging relatives. Ask them what they wish they’d done. One of my grandmothers lived her life in bitter regret, pining for something (none of us knew what) she’d never had the opportunity to pursue. I thought she’d wanted to be a movie star. I was wrong. Just before she died, she confessed that she’d always, always wanted to be a trapeze artist. She’d never even tried. Had I known much earlier, I might have given her a day at trapeze school (there is one!) for her birthday – before she became blind and frail. Can you imagine wanting something so badly and never reaching out for it? #shudder That takes care of failure.
Fear of success? Much harder. There’s a great deal of subtle, psychological pressure to not rise too far above the socioeconimic level you grew up in. It’s merely because that’s where your friends mostly are. Your family still lives there. Everyone knows how to relate on that level. It’s not that anyone would begrudge your success, although that factors in, it’s that when you begin moving into a world that’s foreign to your current friends and family, they’re all hanging on your coattails yelling, “What! Don’t leave us! Don’t go!” I suspect that’s the origin of the fear of success – not to mention the fact that if you’re a big success, the pressure to keep doing well mounts. You end up with more riding on your shoulders. The only way I’ve found to shut this one off is to say, “One thing at a time.” Take the steps that matter to you and your career today – the stuff you can control (the writing in case anyone’s confused by my ramble). Let go of the ‘maybes’, the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘oughtas’. This really is a journey of a thousand steps. But you only take one step at a time. Besides. Get successful, get a beach house in Hawaii, buy your family airplane tickets to come visit you. Or move them all in somewhere down the beach from you. My folks would be all about asking what they could do to help clear more writing time for me then.
Inadequacy. This is the one that kills me. Every single day. It is the wellspring of all neuroses. It sounds something like, “I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never be as good as…” “I’ll never come up with an idea as good as…” “I don’t know enough.” “I’m not smart enough.”
The list goes on and on. And yet. No one’s asking me to be as good as anyone else. No one wants any of us to be as good as someone else. We’re being asked to BE ourselves on the page, to expose some aspect of ourselves to the reader in the way we put an idea together. Or in the way we reveal the world and the characters of our stories. This shouldn’t be that hard. Should it?
What do you do or say to keep or to get yourself moving when insecurity threatens?