Do Our Brains Need Us to Be Nice To Ourselves to Thrive? Can I Fix That in Mine?!
I recently completed an 8 week writing seminar where they send you a daily prompt and set you up with a partner (that rotates weekly) and you write twelve minutes off the prompt and email it to each other and you and your partner give each other ONLY POSITIVE FEEDBACK. Before I started it, I thought it might annoy me because it's so imbalanced- I'm used to asking for negative feedback, critique that will help me improve my work...but with this daily exercise, I increased my new novel's word count by 20,000 words in eight weeks (which is a ton for me)! I went way over the twelve-minute mark daily, obviously, as I was feeling encouraged and joyful about what I was working on. I realized that this is a first, rough draft- it doesn't need to be finessed yet, it just needs to be finished. And to do that, I need to believe in it, and in me. And to do THAT, I need to be hearing nice things- ideally the nice things would be coming from inside my brain, but that's never how my brain has worked, so this really worked to have other people reading my shit and giving me love about it. It felt like being cuddled and pet every day for a month and a half. My writing is the most ME, the most vulnerable, crucial way I share my insides, so when people read it, and even more, when they tell me it moved them or made them laugh, I feel like I'm contributing something, that all of this (me) is worth it. Now that the eight weeks is over and I have nowhere to send my daily words and get my daily affirmation, I'm feeling genuinely depressed, and I haven't made any progress on the book all week. It's now that I count my submissions for the year- pieces to magazine editors and my novel to lit agents- and see how many rejections I've had. Yes, I earned more from freelancing in the first two months of 2022 than I did in all of 2021, but I automatically focus on all the "no's" I've gotten and how far I have to go to make real money, or real impact. I notice how few subscribers to my website/mailing listI have and how many I've lost since I started. It might have nothing to do with me or everything to do with me, but I'll never know- editors just don't respond, fans just disappear. I feel ghosted so often that I'm sure I deserve it. I feel like no one wants what I'm selling, which is to say, no one wants me. I look around and don't see a win and worry that there will never be a win. (And if you ARE a subscriber and are reading this, I feel like a whiny brat and hope you're getting something out of it- thank you and bless you and please don't leave).
So, even if the wins were small and mandated by the rules of the writing seminar, those daily positive responses to my work was FUELING me.
I've been reflecting lately on how lonely my life is and small my world feels as a stay at home mom/writer now. The things that I do regularly for my family and home, friends, and community have such vague, questionable value, such indirect outcomes, such little feedback, and feel like never enough. I don't have anyone grading my progress and output as an employee or human, and it leaves me feeling lost, unmoored.
Obviously, my therapist is telling me this is a great time to learn to validate, comfort, and prop up myself and learn not to lean on external validation or judgement. I really want to be in a place where I can do that for myself. I read a lot about nurturing the delicate little flower inside you that blossoms when you stop cutting it down, but man, I don't know how to leave that flower alone to grow. I need to stop hurting my own feelings all the time and focusing only on my flaws and failures. I need to talk nicely to myself and when I do choose to let other people in, they need to speak gently to me, too. I always thought I thrived on negative reinforcement- in school and work and life I could always do better, be better, if I rode myself hard enough...but it left me feeling chronically less-than and scrambling to find a boss to please. it left me feeling like I'm always owing- everyone but me. So a shit-ton of therapy, this book, and the writing seminar has got me thinking about how I talk to myself and the way the little plant me could flourish if it were nurtured instead of threatened.
I'm trying. That's as far as I've gotten. I'm currently trying to con my friends into doing the daily writing/feedback thingy with me. It leaves me feeling needy, but if I NEED it, so be it.