The Easy Place

The Quest for Self Awareness One Moment at a Time

Confidence

My confidence has been a little shaky the past few days.   I had decided I needed some input on my writing and passed along one of my essays to a friend who is, let’s just say, generous with criticism.  I wanted to hear what he thought, up until the moment I heard it.

I’m surprised by how much his words impacted me.  He wasn’t harsh, his tone was actually benign, I suspect he thought he was being gentle.  But he picked my work apart and spun me into a place where I began to wonder if I could really write. 

As soon as I saw his critique, I busied myself fixing what suddenly seemed wrong.  And then, over the next few days, I began to question my talent as a writer.  What if all those little essays I enjoyed writing so much were actually silly and shallow?  What if my metaphors were clunky, my subtleties invisible, what if I’m so “concise” I’m really not saying anything at all?

It’s not surprising that his criticism nudged me off balance.  I’m new at this, writing and baring my soul, and my confidence is fragile.  All I want to hear is the good stuff, even though every bit of criticism I’ve received has made my writing better. 

The secret, I think, is to keep small things small and big things big.  The comments or critiques we receive in our lives are small by nature, they represent one perspective at one point in time.  Such critiques can be made instantly obsolete by simply doing things differently the next time.  To take them in as if they’re big, as I did with my friend’s remarks, gives them more weight than they ought to have.  

What is big, what is important, is the purpose behind our actions and the mark we’re trying to make in the world.  I regularly read a blog by a young man that probably wouldn’t get an “A” in a writing class but his words reflect the deepest truths, the clearest insights, the most loving sentiment.  While my friend would probably find fault with his sentence structure, what’s important is what he’s saying and contributing to the world. 

So , yeah, I may use to many “and’s” and some of my sentences might be a bit awkward, but I can’t let the flaws in my writing shake me.  I need to base my confidence on the fact that I have something to say, that my words sometimes help people, that this is what I feel like I’m meant to do.

And the fact that you’ve read all the way to the end of this post without getting bored and moving on helps, too. 

***

What do you do to recover when your confidence has been shaken?

***

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

14 responses to “Confidence

  1. Brianna Lee October 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I always find that critiques given by friends, partners and family members are often the ones I take most personally. I pout, sulk and throw a temper tantrum (inside, of course) because I know that what they are saying is true…

    “You mean that my drawing ISN’T PERFECT!?”

    My confidence is thrown out the window. Every time I put my pencil to the paper my mind races with doubtful thoughts. “What if I mess up? I am terrible at this- why do I keep trying? Why can’t I see my own mistakes?”

    What an annoying symptom of low self-esteem!

    To get me out of it, I remind myself that I am only human- and I am allowed to make mistakes! As my boyfriend reminds me (who is also an artist)

    “You cannot solve all of the world’s problems in one painting”

    Same goes for writing…
    :)

    • Melinda October 5, 2010 at 10:20 am

      Brianna,

      Love it! Maybe we should chalk it up to artist’s temperment? :)

      Thanks for your comments, its reassuring to hear that others feel the same way I do.

      Melinda

    • Melinda November 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm

      Brianna – I was just looking back through my comments and checked out your website and OMG, you are talented! Your work is absolutely beautiful.

      Melinda

  2. Beth October 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Melinda, As always I am so impressed with how you are able to uncover the essence in whatever you experience and find the perfect nugget to write about. There is a way in which your writing expands the experience to capture the heart of the larger human experience and helps us all to remember what we are doing here.

    When my confidence has been shaken I usually retreat into myself for a while. I look inside to find what it is that makes me unique from others. Then I look for what I have in common with others. It all helps to put things in perspective. When I come out of my shell I share what I have discovered with people I trust or with total strangers. When I hear my own words coming back to me I regain my confidence knowing that it is all really just a process of remembering who we are.

    I really like your comment about keeping small things small and big things big.

    • Melinda October 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

      Beth,

      Your comments on my blog are always so yummy, I sense a writer in there somewhere!

      Thanks so much, I work at trying to capture not just the concept I’m addressing but also at finding the deeper truths, the fallacy behind the things we tell ourselves. I love how you’re able to expand on them in your comments.

      Great description on what you do when your confidence is shaken, I hope my readers read this far down!

      Melinda

  3. Helen Marsh October 6, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Melinda, thank you for writing your blog so openly and honestly. Still being involved in the corporate world, I struggle with the whole “criticism” and “critique” thing (don’t even get me started on performance review systems!). While I completely understand growth, learning, and development (it’s my field) — and how feedback and others’ perspectives can help us to grow, learn and develop — there is something toxic about how it’s delivered and how we, in turn, internalize it. Adds to the fear and “protective” instinct that seems so prevalent in organizations, which, in turn, gets in the way of people showing up authentically.

    • Melinda October 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Helen,

      I agree with you. The corporate method of trying to mold employees to fit what they need can be soul-crushing. It used to bug me at you-know-where when they’d pay lip service to diversity. To them it meant having a woman or a black guy in management, to me it means honoring our individual contributions and not trying to stretch us into a one-size-fits-all “ideal employee” mold.

      And I agree about internalizing the feedback. It’s one of the things I’m trying to fight with my blog – we do so much damage to ourselves when we treat other’s opinions about us as the truth.

      When my friend Michael and I disagree about something he’ll sometimes say, “I hear that you think that.” How great would it be to respond to “corrective feedback” by saying “I hear that you think that”?

      Helen, thanks for your comments and your support!

      <3 Melinda

  4. Susan October 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Well, Melinda, all I can say is that whenever I get the notice that you have something new posted, I drop whatever I’m doing and read it. That has to count for a lot more than any negative comments!

  5. Marcia October 6, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for another great post, Mindy.
    And your writing style, topics, insights are perfect to me! (Notice I started that sentence with the word “and”?)

    I am going to borrow “keep small things small and big things big” as my mantra for awhile.

  6. Steven Handel October 7, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Melinda, your writing sounds really clear and easy-to-follow. That is key! Be mindful of your friends criticism, but as you said don’t let them become bigger things than they are. Just keep writing, keep practicing, and eventually you will develop your own style and voice.

    Keep up the good work. I hope to read more from you soon!

  7. lorena216 October 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    It’s really hard to bounce back from the ‘constructive criticism’ we thought we wanted to hear. As an aspiring writer (in a non-professional sense) I completly empathizewith this. It only takes a couple of strange looks or neutral remarks to make you feel like a failure, especially from a friend. A friend of mine gave me a great book called ‘The Right to Write’ by Julia Cameron and I couldn’t be more grateful for what this book has done. If you haven’t already I suggest taking a look . It has given me the small steps needed to get myself really writing again after a long dry spell post college.

    As far as what I do to boost my confidence after someone shakes it? First I have to remind myself not to link it to every other ‘failure’ I’ve perceived in my life (which as we all know is not very easy) Then I remind myself how far I’ve come from those past ‘failures’ and mistakes and that this painful moment will help me evolve if I let myself learn from it. I wish it was as easy for me to take my own advice as it is to dispense it but I hope that it helps :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: