We all have one…
That squealing, sour, taunting voice that not only sneers at us from inside our heads, but has burrowed itself into our chests so that even thinking about stepping toward something better makes our heart start to race with fear and doubt. For those of us who are building a freelance business of our own… that voice is pressing at our every instinct to duck and run.
Probably like most of you, that despicable voice has been with me most of my life. It echoed in my skull every time I started to dream of following my passion. Scolding me and reminding me that I could not do it because, not only was I unskilled and a laughing stock to those around me… but also because I was undisciplined and unworthy.
For me, personally, feeling like I wasn’t trying hard enough was as painful as failing in general…
As I’ve talked about in previous posts, I spent most of my professional career trying to force myself into roles that didn’t make me feel whole. Several of those roles brought me into contact with people who, in hindsight, were bitter… and so they took out their bitterness upon anyone who had a low enough self esteem to listen.
Each and every time I would face one of those people, that little voice would scratch a little check mark on the inside of my skull, say “see?“, and laugh at me.
I became so familiar with this voice that it evolved into a genuine entity that I could picture in my mind. A deformed, cold, bitter thing that looked like me, but was comprised only out of my absolute worst parts. A thing that was never clearly in view enough for me to confront, but always present to breathe down my neck.
God, it sucked… and the older I got, the worse it got. This was because I started to realize that I was the one at fault.
I was the one allowing other people to dictate my worth as a person and a professional.
I was letting two vicious voices, out of the dozens more that loved and believed in me, drown out the affirmation. I was convinced that the positive feedback I was given was just people being kind to me.
It was so exhausting…
It didn’t matter how many times someone else told me I was talented, or doing well – because that other voice would just say: “They’re only saying this because they feel sorry for you. They’re just trying to be nice because you’re pathetic.“
I was so angry at myself for each and everyday I let pass where I continued to put myself in that weak position… but the voice was strong, and it knew just where to cut so that I could never quite bring myself to get that running start and make a move.
I had lost total faith in my abilities. I had believed that my best was not good enough – because, by goodness, I was trying my absolute best… but each time I felt like I had failed, that little voice would mock me: “See, you’ll never be smart enough. You’ll never be skilled enough. Why can’t you just do something right?“
And I never had an answer other than “I’m trying… I’m trying so hard!”
And it would always reply: “Not hard enough, it seems…“
For awhile it had worked, I had even managed to convince myself that the thing I had always wanted to do with my life wasn’t for me. It didn’t make me happy, and I was not talented or hard working enough to be that person fulfilled by a career in the creative industry.
I feel pathetic even writing it, but I think it’s important to admit out loud.
Even my personal life suffered, because the smiley face and sense of humor I wore for 8-10 hours a day acted as a barely there lid for the emotional tatters and self disdain I had bubbling inside of me.
I would come home unhappy, not really realizing that just by being unhappy, I was making the person I loved unhappy just by bringing that energy into the house… and even when they made me aware of it, it had become so second nature that I didn’t even realize half the time that I was doing it.
But I really didn’t know what to do, guys… I had given up on myself.
I’m actually writing this blog around 11PM, because I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about my son, a little boy who is going to, somehow, emerge from my imperfect body and become a grown adult human one day.
A human who’s views on life, and themselves, will be heavily impacted by the way his father and I view our lives, and ourselves.
That realization was enough to overwhelm that otherwise dominant voice for the first time… ever.
Personally, I grew up around a person who’s bitterness for themselves and lack of (what they perceived to be) success, deeply affected the way that they treated those around them. And it was not a good look, my friends…
I refused to be that person… and as the child in my belly grew from a blueberry, to a kiwi, to a honeydew melon, and now a watermelon (these pregnancy apps, I swear…), I knew that I did not have the luxury of letting a couple of tiny voices from tiny people stop me from becoming the person I wanted to be.
While it might have been a very slow crawl into knee-deep water, applying for my first freelance writing job was one of the most frightening moves I had ever made.
All I kept thinking about was how I was setting myself up to let someone down. I was opening myself up to another deep laceration to my self-esteem, because I just knew the client dumb enough to hire me was probably going to hate my work…
But that wasn’t what happened. Not even a little bit.
I was hired to write for my first two clients.
I busted my ass to write the best blogs I possibly could.
I completed those jobs well before their deadline.
… and my clients were happy. Happy enough to have even left me lovely reviews.
It was then, for the first time in my life, I felt I had an abrupt but firm grasp of what I was supposed to do. The thing I loved to do most was writing- and I was starting to see that not only did my writing make me happy, but it also made others happy. Happy enough to want to work with me again!
That scary first step really was a turning point…
The voice is quieter now… it tries to twist me up and make me second guess myself; but every time I take another step toward something that scares me, I shove it off the edge of an imaginary building, and enjoy watching it plummet and disappear into the mental nether…
… and each time it has work that much harder to get back to me.
Every new client and every new opportunity for a project no longer scares me. Instead I feel excited to take on the challenge and prove that I can do it!
(Don’t get me wrong… I mean, I still get a little nervous, but my passion outweighs the terror)
Now, instead of worrying about how I could screw things up, I can’t wait to research, write content, and be myself for clients! I can’t WAIT to help them and make a difference in their own businesses… and I get to do it on my terms.
My confidence has begun to grow enough that, if I ever do happen to encounter a client who might not be right for me in the future, I won’t feel the pressure to struggle and suffer to please them… I’ll just move on, and that is because I’m beginning to see that my passion can help others. I can support my family, and I can be the mother and partner that the two most important boys in my life deserve, and still be happy in my career. I don’t have to trade security for self care and fulfillment.
I can be the successful and self sufficient woman I had wanted to be since I was a little girl.
And all it took to start changing everything was one scary step. Nose pinched, eyes closed, and teeth gritted, all to build a little momentum.
What’s my point? Well, aside from the catharsis of getting this off my chest… I wanted to start a discussion on this topic so that there was a chance that, whoever reads it, will feel a bit better about where they are and how they’re feeling. I hope they’ll see that they’re not alone, and that they can overcome that voice – even if that voice is screaming that they can’t.
It’s hard, it hurts, and it’s scary… but it’s the only way to reach your full potential. Allowing yourself to believe you aren’t good enough is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter who you heard it from, or when you heard it, or why.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your dad, a friend- or even if it’s a boss! You are the only one who can forge your path.
Believe me, I know that’s a far more scary and overwhelming thought than it is motivating right now… but it’s true, pal.
Quite frankly, I’m finding out more and more, that if there’s something you want to do… but it scares you to even think about doing it… that means it’s probably EXACTLY what you need to do.
(unless it involves, ya know… murdering someone– then that’s not really the direction you want to go in…)
Awkward humor armor aside *ahem*, I really hope you know that you CAN do it. Whatever IT is.
And even though I might just be a faceless blog among the many that you might come across today, my empathy and belief in you is very real and very personal.
Stay strong during these tough times, because the only way you get over a hill is by climbing it. Even if you need to take breaks, cry, eat multiple pints of ice cream, or just close your eyes and sleep for awhile… as long as you keep taking a step forward, your path will keep unfurling ahead of you… waiting for you to create the life and the person you want to be.
All my love,