Have you ever stopped doing what you love after a painful experience caused you to doubt or devalue yourself?
In high school, I enjoyed publishing fanfiction on online forums. It was my first foray into publicizing my writing for fun, and it was very exciting.
Each positive review set me soaring high.
But I noticed I’d hit publish sooner and sooner to feel that rush. I’d start new pieces with the anticipation of “likes.”
The hunger for validation and connection soon replaced the quality and satisfaction I felt in the writing itself.
Yet I couldn’t step away. Nothing else gave quite the same delicious thrill as reading, “Love this, can’t wait for the next one!” in response to something I’d created.
One day, I stumbled upon a random internet thread between 3 anonymous users ridiculing my stories and me as an author. I removed my fanfiction and stopped writing. Something so joyful had become tainted by other people’s opinions.
If I wasn’t happy with my own writing, it didn’t matter how many glowing reviews I received.
This is a recurring lesson in both writing and life.
Critical responses don’t matter as much as how you feel about them.
And how deeply you take them in. If you’re sensitive or have people-pleasing tendencies, it’s especially easy to lose yourself trying to make others happy.
You may want to shut yourself down to avoid feeling the pain again. You may focus harder on appeasing others so they only have good things to say. You might end up taking on their values and direction while getting further away from your own.
Others’ opinions of you will contradict. Getting caught up in external beliefs and values muddies your own creative waters.
The remedy is inner satisfaction and self-acceptance.
Though you may not have to regularly be around the cruel critiquers who put you down (or affirming applauders who lift you up), you do have to be around yourself 24/7.
It’s challenging to get back into the groove of intuitive joy in writing, but very much possible.
I’ve seen this in my own experience as well as when supporting clients navigating this process. The more authentic joy and satisfaction you find in the process, the quicker your desires become reality.
Having a good relationship with yourself doesn’t completely take away the crush of criticism, but can help put criticism into perspective so it doesn’t set you off your own course.
A path to finding inner satisfaction and self-acceptance as a sensitive creative artist:
Get to know your own patterns and tendencies. What makes you happy? When do you tend to second-guess yourself? What are your met and unmet needs? Who are you as a writer? What makes you feel most fulfilled? How can you best care for yourself when challenges arise?
Acknowledge your feelings, desires, and needs as valid. Affirm yourself so you don’t need the approval of others.
Credit yourself where credit is due. When you’ve accomplished something, celebrate it.
See the value of the learning journey. Everything you do contributes to knowing a bit more–nothing is lost as all can be applied to the next endeavor.
You are perfectly imperfect. It’s okay to be who you are. You have both flaws and gifts.
Don’t judge your path. As long as you are doing right by yourself and your integrity, you are right where you need to be. You may wish to be further along than you are, but will that really give you the fulfillment you crave? Or will you just want to be somewhere else instead?
Cultivate a relationship with your writing. Your writing is part of you, and separate.
Find the balance between doing and being. Don’t go so slow that you don’t move towards your desires, but don’t rush ahead at the expense of your own nervous system. Both doing and being-states are important.
A couple prompts to consider…
- How do you define satisfaction for yourself? Your current writing? Your creativity?
- What was a moment you felt satisfied (in writing, creativity, or life)? Describe it in detail. Then, ask why… Why was this satisfying? What made it satisfying? How can you apply these qualities to your current endeavors?
What was once a shameful experience is now something I hardly think about anymore.
Those times early in our lives where we put ourselves out there and receive rejection can be quite formative, setting up patterns we continue to see in ourselves.
Don’t lose hope–you can heal these patterns and consciously create new habits. I believe you can find radical loving self-acceptance.
Have you had a similar experience? I’m curious what has helped you rediscover inner satisfaction with something you love. Reply and let me know; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. Walker Hayes’ Acceptance Speech is a honest, catchy song about accepting yourself despite the accolades, awards, or applause you receive (or don’t). While it speaks particularly to musicians, the challenges of feeling good when looking in the mirror are universal.