Friday, April 4, 2014


Someone recently asked the question on Facebook about what the definition of success was. I replied that success was when other people asked for your opinion or advice. I was referring to professional success. If someone values your viewpoint and actively seeks your counsel, shouldn’t that point to how successful you’ve been in that career? If you weren’t respected or knowledgeable, no one would care what you thought or what you would do in his/her situation. They’d avoid you, let you make your mistakes, and probably laugh at you behind your back (or even in front of you depending on how sinister he/she was and how bad you were at your job).

I’ve been teaching for fifteen years. I feel pretty good about the work I do there every cycle of 180 days. I see my students growing. I’ve examined the data. I make an impact.

Now success on a personal level is a whole other animal. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m my own worst critic. I rarely feel successful on a personal level. I doubt myself constantly. I complete personal projects and wonder almost obsessively whether or not I’ve just created an amazing masterpiece or an overflowing bucket of crap. I have encounters with other humans then analyze those encounters from every angle, worrying that I made the wrong impression, gave off an awkward vibe, made a fool of myself… oh, the list goes on.
Can we say insecure? Sure we can. Can we fix it?

Maybe. Though I’m nearly forty years into my existence and I’ve felt this way since about age ten. That’s three decades of self doubt. I’m going to need a damn big eraser to clean that mess up. Perhaps I should just hit the backspace key and have myself a do over.
Nah. That’s not the answer.

The answer rests in one word. Confidence. I sort of feel like Frodo Baggins and his crew. I’m on a quest. I’m not looking to throw a ring into the fires of Mount Doom though. I just want to find some confidence. Maybe I need a trip to the wizard in Oz. I’m sure he’s got a jar full of confidence in his shop. It’s right before the jar full of brains and after the jar full of courage. (C’mon, you know he’s got that stuff organized alphabetically, you know, if he were a real wizard.)
At least I don’t let this lack of confidence keep me from trying things. I try stuff. I just automatically think I suck at whatever it is I’m trying. I set goals, but call myself every degrading name in the book as I battle my own demons and try to reach those goals.

I eventually reach the goals.

I think.

What about you? Where do you think you’re successful? Where do you think you need a little (or big) push?




Leah St. James said...

Chris, you're not along in battling those self-demons, and I've been going at it waaaay more years than you have. :-) Lately, success for me on my day job is getting to the end of the day without blowing my stack at something, or someone. (It's "a bit" stressful.) As far as writing, success will be if I can finish my current WIP before the summer! (It was due March 31.) Sigh.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Chris. Take credit for being in there swinging! My greatest doubts in life happen in the mother, grandmother realm. The job was okay, but the only reward turned out to be the paycheck. My writing life. Priceless!

Susan Coryell said...

Chris: I could identify with your questioning your own work--don't we all do that? Or, perhaps a Danielle Steele or David Baldacci doesn't have to worry any more--they sell no matter what. Must be nice! Thanks for a thought-provoking blog. I'm changing my mantra to: confidence!

Jannine Gallant said...

I think I'm in the minority. I rarely doubt my self-worth. I know what I'm good at and what I'm bad at, and I just avoid the things I don't do well. I live in Tahoe, and my daughters started skiing better than me when they were around age 8. I'm a horrible skier, so now I snowshoe with my dog in the nice quiet woods without the crowds. We're both a lot happier. I think life's all about trying things but sticking with the ones you're good at. And learning how to recognize the successes from the failures! Great post, Chris.

Barbara Edwards said...

I agree that it took years for me to stop being so critical of myself and let the good vibes work. I am finally able to say with pride, I write romance and not cringe.

Alicia Dean said...

Ugh...I hate that I don't remember to read these posts every day. See, I'm unsuccessful at being on time for the Prose blogs. And I always get something out of them. Chris, I know what you mean, to a degree. We all have self-doubt. I realize that I have my strengths and weaknesses as a writer (Not to mention in other areas of my life), but I try not to beat myself up and be too self-critical. I'm always surprised at positive feedback on my stuff, yet not all that surprised at rejections and bad reviews. So, I'm sure that shows a lack of confidence. However, I think we need to spend more time building ourselves up than tearing ourselves down. I read somewhere one time that we should treat ourselves as kindly as we do our friends and family. (The ones we actually love and treat kindly, LOL). Rather than criticizing yourself, ask, 'would i say that to a friend' No, you wouldn't. You would encourage her and tell her how great she is and point out and insist she (or he) focus on the positives. Well, that's exactly how we should talk to ourselves. I'm not saying I do that all the time (or even very often), but I think it's something we should all try to do.
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