Saturday, October 23, 2010

Self-doubt and Happiness

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." - Sylvia Plath

Quoting someone who stuck their head in the oven isn't probably the best starting point for an entry, but this struck home for me when I read it. My urges to isolate have gotten stronger and stronger the longer I am unemployed. I was actually doing pretty exceptionally well (for me) connecting with people, making phone calls, going out, and having a pretty good time. There was still the ever present undercurrent of anxiety, but I wasn't generally finding myself wanting to unzip my skin and jump out the window or anything quite that alarming. My confidence was growing, and I felt like things were going to go well here.
Then, little by little, I allowed self-doubt to creep in. Something planted the seed in my brain, then I fertilized it with some bullshit negative self-talk and nurtured it until it sprouted up like a fucking mutant sunflower from hell. The next thing I knew, I felt my new-found confidence slipping away, and the urge to curl up in the shadow of the ugly freak-plant that was practically sprouting out of my ears started taking over. Fortunately, I noticed this pretty rapidly, instead of just lolling about and making myself more miserable. The way I tend to slip into talking to myself in my head sometimes is a manner of speaking I would never even consider using toward someone else. Even if I hated the shit out of them. So, I refuse to do that anymore. Self-doubt is an enemy to creativity, certainly, but it is also an enemy to happiness, progress, friendships, and simply being at ease, among other things. For me, anyway.

So-Fuck that, I say. I am making a conscious decision and a declaration to choose not to doubt or mentally berate myself. I may have to recommit to this 800 times a day, but I am not going to allow myself to perpetuate thinking I'm going to feel shitty, feeling shitty, and fearing I'm going to continue to feel shitty. I'm hardly a demi-goddess being fed grapes by servants in the lap of luxury while someone gorgeous plays a golden harp for me or anything, but I've got it pretty damn good. Especially considering how much I've screwed up. 

Last night it occurred to me that I may have spent too much of my life behaving like I'm at a rehearsal for my 'real' life...The real deal, The Show, Being An Adult...and in my mind a lot of that "rehearsal time" went really well, opening night came and went and I didn't really notice because I was putting on such a good performance. Then all of a sudden I blew my lines and shit my pants and puked on my co-star's face, and all of the scenery came crashing down around me. I should have known this was coming, but I didn't. So, then I'm standing in this mess like "How in the HELL did this happen? This has to be a bad dream." But this isn't some embarrassing naked-in-your-underwear at your high school nightmare. It's real life, and I fucked up, and it doesn't matter how well I was doing before, because now I've made such a mess that actually cleaning up the whole thing and continuing like before this awfulness happened seems completely impossible. 

However, in my opinion, the only thing that is truly going to keep me from getting over ugly bumps in the road, putting humpty dumpty back together again and all that--is thinking that I CAN'T. It might take a really long time, but as long as I don't get lazy or give up, I'm pretty sure I can set things straight. I think "I can't" actually means "I don't want to fail."  Self-doubt. It will get your ass, every time.

I used to think that happiness was a destination. If I worked hard enough, and I did everything just right, if I was perfect...If I got the right grades, if I got the right job. If. Should. You SHOULD. I should. I Can't. I'll never. I put so much pressure on myself, I'm half surprised I didn't have an aneurysm. I think I've finally reached the point that I can say I know that happiness is not I 'place' that I am trying to get to, and if it was, being impossibly hard on myself certainly wouldn't help me get there. I'm not going to be happy just because of a job, or because I impressed so-and-so, or graduated with a 4.0 and perfect attendance. Happiness is tied to self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. It comes from love, both of yourself and others. Happiness doesn't Have to be a goddamn Holiday Parade. It can be a simple smile. 

Let's close with another gem from my pal, Sylvie, shall we?
"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy."


  1. Hi. So I was just reading the comments on Jenny Lawson's latest post about twitter when I read your comparison between twitter and snails with down-syndrome on tranquilizes in the mud. Loved it and had to dig deeper.

    Read your latest post. Loved it too. It's very much the reality vs expectations problem, that we all face, and how to deal when these values clash.

    If you don't mind, I will be following your writing in the future with humble enthusiasm.

  2. I certainly don't mind! Some indication that I'm not writing as if I'm talking to someone else, while in reality just typing stories to myself about myself like I've got some sort of disorder, is always appreciated.