All that (the real post this time)

Back in October, I wrote about needing to put a little more Lenny Dykstra into my attitude about writing and publication.

I’ve always cared deeply about doing good work, and I’ve done a lot of it, but I’ve always taken my failures to heart, and I’ve always questioned my successes, whether I really earned them.  (Even to say “I’ve done good work” without a qualifier takes a bitten lip.)

And the more I think about it, the more I think that on one hand, there are ways this attitude has served me.  I sought to do good work before I sought publication; I listened very carefully to others; I aimed for quiet excellence and only put myself forward diffidently.  I had some great opportunities–but there’s no denying I missed out on others.  For example, in college I wrote and took creative writing classes, but didn’t get involved with any of the several literary magazines I could have.  I was involved with a lot of things in college–I wrote for the newspaper, worked in the theater, was the most politically active I’ve ever been–but it was more than I could do to submit to a literary magazine or show up to offer to work on one.  To do so would have been to openly show desire for the thing I wanted, and that is something I have always found it very hard to do!

Some part of this is gendered, of course.  Nice girls don’t let their desires show, seek recognition, or act as if they are more deserving than other people.  As a woman and a feminist, I am not willing to reject completely (even if I could) such modes of interaction as collaboration, care for others, communality.  I value these traits in both genders and try to foster them in my students.  In teaching girls and boys, in particular, I have a lot of opportunities to experience how different people balance respect and care for others’ needs with respect and care for their own.  As a teacher, I’m often urging students (whether female or male, fifteen or forty) to value their own work highly, speak up about their opinions, be proud of what they’ve done.

In most of my life, I’m actually pretty satisfied with my ability to assert my needs and opinions–to speak up.  The thing I’m not satisfied with is hard to articulate, but it’s to do with operating out of a place of anxiety–of being concerned about falling short, about not being good enough, and particularly about being exposed as inadequate.  It’s rooted, I think, in something other than lack of self-esteem.  I have a lot of self-esteem–I know I’m smart, highly capable, funny, attractive.  It’s more about functioning too much in a mode of humility and not enough in a mode of pride.

I was definitely taught to be privately proud and publicly humble.  And a lot of the time, this is a great way to be!  The thing is that a lot of my dissatisfactions with my life and work can be traced to operating too much out of humility, anxiety, underconfidence.  I think this is the thing that I’m getting stuck on.

Mind you, I know my life is wonderful.  If I couldn’t change a single thing, I’d still be thrilled to be who I am, doing what I do.  I still want, though, to be the best version of myself I can be–the one who enjoys life the most and  puts as much good work into the world as possible.

I also want my work, my writing, to make a place for itself in the world, and I’d do for it what I might not be able to do just for myself, so that it can be here when I’m gone.

And finally, I think I’m ready to test whether my worldview–the disaster mentality, the sense of impending panic, the difficulty being in the moment without anticipating the next problem or concern, the Sunday-night feeling of impending doom–might possibly not be the way I have to live.

So!  My resolution is to act like I know I’m fabulous, damnit.

  • I deserve time to write and the conditions I need to get my work done.  Among other things, I deserve to spend two weeks at a writers’ colony.
  • I deserve to have my work published.  In fact, magazines and presses should be falling over themselves to get my work.
  • I’m an effective teacher.  I contribute a lot to both my institutions.  I deserve everything I earn and then some.  I can operate from a position of confidence and competence.
  • I deserve to do things that I know matter, like seeing people I care about, without feeling guilty about taking time away from the jobs that I am, after all, performing with great competence.
  • I deserve to spend time having fun.
  • I deserve to spend money and time on things that make life easier, like a cleaning service (which we’ve had for about six months and I wish we’d gotten years ago) or make me feel good (like massages–I need one right now–or going out for a run).
  • I can care for the people I love, and I don’t have to take on other people’s problems.
  • I can choose to eat pretty much exactly what I want to–food I want, that nourishes and pleases me.

I’m feeling a powerful urge to put in a little disclaimer here, to defuse all this self-centeredness and self-aggrandizement, just in case you think I’m really that asshole, so I think I’ll just stop.  For now, I am that asshole/Lenny Dykstra/my bête noire (whose confidence, by the way, is one of the things I both envy and dislike about him).

I rock!  See you soon.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Just don’t go getting arrested as he did!

    And you DO rock!

    Reply

  2. “act like I know I’m fabulous, damnit”

    Oh my gosh, I LOVE this as a resolution — wonderful!

    Reply

  3. […] a chance to bring my new attitude to the table.  I was tired and sore last week and I decided to take it easy wherever […]

    Reply

  4. […] as you can imagine.  Sometimes I have no idea how much work I am really doing, and despite my resolution to be fabulous, I become convinced that I am screwing up […]

    Reply

  5. […] also decided that I needed to start acting like I know I’m fabulous, kind of along the lines of Lenny Dykstra, but, as Bardiac pointed out, without the getting […]

    Reply

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