Balancing Confidence (Watching the Ego)

Jodie Llewellyn recently wrote about confidence in writing, which got me thinking.

I vacillate between having too much confidence in my writing, and not enough.  In my comment to the post I noted that one of the things I think I lack confidence in is my ability to take my ideas and translate them well to the page.  I know that I have the ability to write well, and I know that some of the ideas I have are good ideas, but I feel like perhaps I am going to lose something in translating the ideas onto the page.  And I get very nervous about sharing what I have written with others.  This blog is proving to be a good exercise in trying to break through that fear.  Though, I have to admit, I am still cringing before each and every post and having to reassure myself that it will be okay.  I tell myself that the worst that will happen is … well, okay my imagination can come up with some pretty spectacular “worst,” which I will refrain from sharing, but somehow I manage to talk myself down from them.

Perhaps that’s why I often preface my work with some sort of disclaimer.  I know that I shouldn’t — that it betrays my own uncertainty, lowers the bar of expectation, and is dictating, in some ways, how I want others to approach my work.  I don’t want to do this — I want people to come to my work honestly and openly.  Ideally, I want people to find something in what I write that speaks to them on some level, to identify with my own experiences, or to be challenged by them, or to provide counter-points.  But it is hard to resist making the statement that, “This is a draft,” or “I’m just going to ramble a bit.”  Making excuses, in-case someone decides to be critical in a way that I have a hard time handling.  So that I can say to myself, “well, I warned them.”

There are moments when I get little boosts to my writing confidence: when I get published in some way, when someone complimented my style, when I got chosen to be “Freshly Pressed” (yes, I’m certainly still riding on that high!)  And I try to remind myself to carry humility with that confidence, because certainly with every “up” there are “downs.”  And every time I begin to feel that I’m just that good of  a writer, and allow myself to build up an ego about it, life conspires to keep me humble — to remind me that I may have some talent, but that doesn’t mean I can just slide by and not put in honest effort and hard work.

I began learning about balance at a young age.
I began learning about balance at a young age.

And, as with so many things in my life, I see a clear connection between my writing-world and, well, the real-world (as though I can differentiate the two, that’s like tearing apart my writing-life and my spiritual-life, or my spiritual-life and my everyday-life…. all pieces are interconnected…).  It’s important to have confidence, but we have to walk that fine line between being over-confidence and just-confident-enough.  And it’s important to learn how to separate out the compliments, and the criticisms.  To find the constructive feedback in both, and to accept the compliments as they are intended.

Do you know how hard it can be to simply say “Thank You?”  Think about it.  Think about all the times someone has given you a compliment and you’ve tried to minimize it in some way.  Or the times you’ve given someone a sincere compliment only to have it brushed off.  (“Oh, it was no big deal.”)

How do we balance confidence and humility?  How can we learn to really accept the compliments we are given, without allowing ourselves to get too caught up in them (or too caught up in a need for that external validation!) How can we learn to embrace the productive feedback that can come with criticism, or with negative reviews, without letting it chip away at us until we are too frightened to share of ourselves?

 

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13 thoughts on “Balancing Confidence (Watching the Ego)”

  1. Gosh, if you figure out the secret to that, let me know!

    Every time I get a new follower, or a post gets a lot of likes, I crow about it to my girlfriend, declaring myself to be “Internet famous”. I finally confided in her the other day that I do that so that -I- will believe it. I don’t. Yet. I’m still amazed anyone wants to read the crap I write. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I crow about any successes on my personal Facebook page, because I know my friends and family will 1) help me celebrate 2) help me feel like it’s real and 3) keep me humble (“That’s great Allison, but….”)

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        1. I have two FB pages. My “writer page”, which is linked to this, and my personal page, which is where I connect with family and friends. The writer page is much quieter than I’d like just now.

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    1. One of my Uncles noted this over on my FB:
      “Isn’t it that:
      Confidence is believing in your own worth and abilities.
      Humility is realizing that others are worthy and able (and no one is really “better” than anyone else)
      Egotism is overrating your abilities and thinking others less than you”
      I really like that, because then I feel like I’m doing it right 🙂

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  2. I often feel it’s about intention. What do we write for? Is it for ourselves? To somehow harmonise our thoughts with reality. Or is it to be a speck of admiration in the minds of others?
    Expecting an outcome, good or bad, often undermines the purpose. I believe being comfortable with our writing is enough, and in that comfort we can then positively accept suggestions of improvement.

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    1. Intention is important, certainly — and for me, at least, the intention of writing is because I can’t stop writing. It is for me, and to get those words onto the page, to tell the stories and make sense of things. I don’t question the quality of the writing I do for myself, I don’t care what others would think of it because I love the writing of it, or it helps me in some way, or something.
      But, if I’m sharing that writing, that is where the question of outcomes, and acceptance, come into play. And constructive criticism, suggestions of improvement are good, and nourishing in its own way, but there are those who just share negativity.
      I share it because I hope that what I write will resonate with others, will speak to them in some way, will spark conversation or encourage reflection. I share because I hope the story will entertain, or inspire, or somehow create a response in those reading it. Writing is (often) a solitary action, but the sharing of writing makes it communal, puts it in the realm where the thoughts of others do matter.
      I’m not arguing with you, really… maybe just wishing I had the confidence in my own writing that I don’t need those specks of admiration. to help push me to continue to share what I write.

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      1. I hope I didn’t cause offence. I was talking more to myself than anything. I personally started my blog as a healing process and reading this post of yours made me wonder why I even then check the “stats” page.

        As for confidence, as a reader of your blog I think you have the balance set just right. In contrast, I am nowhere near the right amount of confidence one needs to share their writings. I have an immense amount of draft posts which I am far too afraid to share in fear that it may reveal too much or even be laughed at.

        I sincerely apologise if I upset you in any way.

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        1. No, you didn’t offend! I almost didn’t post my response because I was worried I might offend. What you did was cause me to think more about writing, about why I write, and about why I share it.
          For what it’s with, I love your posts on your page. They are rich and powerful. And while I know you write for yourself, as a healing process (which I find intriguing) your writing has also affected me and resonated with me greatly. I imagine it more like the post for my grandpa. I wrote that for me, plain and simple. It proved to also be important for others, but I wouldn’t have cared if it was mostly ignored because I wrote it for me.
          The stats page can be kinda evil…it does add a different dimension to posting….one I’m not sure I like.
          And I hour you can build your writing confidence to what more, because I think your work is powerful and beautiful…but building confidence takes time (or the appearance of confidence… I don’t want to count the number of go-nowhere posts and drafts I have about…).
          Intention, like you said, is so important! Remembering and holding to our reasons for deciding to share these pieces of ourselves.
          🙂

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          1. I wasn’t sure how to reply as your kindness left me, in all honesty, speechless. But it would be impolite of me to not thank you. I am grateful for your thoughts.
            Also, today whilst reading some persian poetry I came across a beautiful verse by Shamz Tabrizi. It was very difficult finding it in English but I had to because I felt like sharing it with you.

            “This world is like a mountain. Your echo depends on you. If you scream good things, the world will give it back. If you scream bad things, the world will give it back. Even if someone says badly about you, speak well about him. Change your heart to change the world.”

            Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s an interesting question that you pose! I think real, genuine confidence means that you can take criticism and not let it impact on your sense of self, and take genuinely personal and nasty criticism and see it as a reflection on the person who is giving it rather than yourself! It’s certainly a hard thing to learn though.

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