For all that I like to preach the importance of self-confidence, it’s really one of those situations where I’m good at the talk but not quite so good at the walk. Self-confidence is one of those things I’ve struggled with my entire life and while it’s gotten much better – thank you anti-depressants – it’s still not quite all the way there. I’m awkward and insecure, I have things about myself that I hate, and I care what people think of me.
I just hide it better than some.
My insecurities don’t come so much in my physical appearance. I’ve reached a level of extreme self-awareness there. I know that I’m overweight, that my eyes are two different sizes, that I have the boobs of three women combined. It’s not exactly confidence, but it’s at least acceptance and I think that’s a pretty good start.
No, the parts that I’m most self-conscious about are the things inside. The parts of me that really make me me. Some things I don’t care if people judge me for, like my epic nerdiness or my eternal love affair with the Harry Potter books. I’m quirky and fun and flirty and giggly, and all of that is great. Some people don’t agree, some people judge me for those things, and you know what? I really don’t care, because those are my favourite parts of myself.
In the end, I suppose there’s really just the one thing that I’m truly afraid of having judged, and it’s the biggest part of who I am. My writing. When I write, I’m pouring my soul into my fiction. It’s an extension of my self, or who I am at my deepest core. So having people point and laugh and hate it is essentially like having them hate me. Hate my truest self.
And that is a f***ing terrifying prospect.
It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good writer. I do, and I know that technically I’m pretty good, and I even feel like a good writer sometimes. I think there are just times where I have a hard time believing it.
I’ve been publishing things online for years, from corny fanfiction to epic fanfictions (there’s a difference, people, trust me) to my own original fiction. I’ve even been published in literary journals, and been contacted by a publishing house – unfortunately for a novel I haven’t finished yet, but still… There’s all the evidence to support that this is genuinely something I could do for a living.
Yet deep down there’s part of me that still remembers those scathing reviews I used to get when I first started publishing my fiction online. I posted a copy of my second completed novel on fictionpress.com, and after a couple all-together useless “nice, post more” reviews, I opened my inbox one day to find It. The king of all flames.
A review written by a “professional flamer” that was nearly as long as the chapter he’d reviewed. He tore through every aspect of the first chapter, from word choice to setting to the very premise of the novel as a whole. He shredded my choice of gender for the horse, for the fact that two characters names started with the same letter. He then went on to tell me that I had wasted a year of my life in writing it and that I should give up and never write another word again because I was terrible.
I was only sixteen years old.
For a solid week after, I cried myself to sleep and didn’t write another word. I thought that perhaps he was right. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. Maybe I was being stupid by thinking I could write for a living.
And then one morning I woke up and decided to prove him wrong. I saved the review – I still have it to this day – and every time I feel discouraged I read it and remind myself that there will always be people like that in the world. There will always be people who are seeking to tear others down and tell them they can’t. But if we use that as motivation, if we fight to be better and show them that we can be stronger, than I think that’s where the confidence comes from.
It comes from continually trying to be the person worthy of such confidence.
So every day I sit down with pen in hand – even in this tech era, sometimes it’s nice to write long-hand – and I strive to show him that I can do this. That I can be better.
And in showing him, I show myself.
On days like that, I do believe.