I’ve tried to write this post on and off for almost 6 months now, but couldn’t find quite the right angle. Lately I’ve discovered Grooveshark and have had loads of fun making playlists for my books (I’m there under savannah.foley if you’re interested), which resulted in listening to the music I love much more frequently.
One of those songs, Marry Song by Band of Horses, has a few lines in it that really spoke to me, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today:
I won’t drown in the ocean
Or starve in my place at the table
I think a lot of times in life we worry about our ‘place at the table’ in a spiritual sense. Will we be provided for? Do we even deserve to be provided for?
Do we deserve happiness, love, and success?
Many people that struggle with this, battling an internal sense of low self-worth. In writers especially I see it often; the industry is subjective and tricky. Some (like me) languish for years in the wings, waiting for their place at the publishing table, wondering why it hasn’t happened yet. Especially when we see others go out there and find success so quickly. It’s easy to wonder, am I not good enough? Is there something about me, specifically, that prevents this dream from coming true? Do I even deserve this success?
And even if it does happen… these same writers grapple with feeling like frauds. Of being so fearful of success because they are secretly waiting for someone to come along and say it was all a mistake, that of course they wouldn’t have really chosen you.
They don’t believe they deserve a place at the table.
I follow a few popular crunchy-yoga-creative-lifestyle blogs, and their particular culture seems rife with low self-esteem, and guides for how to battle your way past it. They offer classes on bravery, and loving yourself. Books and time and projects are devoted to helping people convince themselves that they deserve love and happiness. That it’s okay to declare themselves artists, and to pursue their big, crazy dreams.
I see posters, necklaces, and touchstones with the word ‘courage’ on them: remember to have courage to go after what you really want. The courage to chase your dreams. The courage to do something different. To say no for once. To stop serving others and give in to some ‘me’ time. To take steps towards truly helping yourself.
To tell the truth? I am baffled by this.
I can’t tell if it’s my personality type, or self-centeredness, or what, but I firmly believe I deserve a seat at the table, in both life and publishing. I believe in a God that wants success for me, that is holding my seat for me and preparing to feed me when it’s time for me to arrive.
I don’t need a ‘Courage!’ reminder to say that, but posting this does fill me with apprehension. I feel that sometimes a lack of self-confidence is the socially acceptable thing to feel, which is 50 shades of messed up. I feel it’s part of our culture, especially girl-culture, to self-deprecate, so it’s awkward to say these things publicly. Yet how could you look at the paragraph above and add ‘don’t to the sentences, and expect me to have a healthy mental outlook? If I said that I don’t believe I deserve a seat at the table? If I said I don’t believe I deserve success, or that my work deserves recognition?
I would be a sad and vulnerable person, right? Of course you want me to believe I deserve success. I want you to believe the same thing about yourself! So why is it so hard to admit it, to say it in public?
I feel that sometimes girls use the confession of their self-doubt as a way to elicit praise, support, or even paint themselves as non-threatening. Who doesn’t want to be friends with the nice, humble writer who breathily confesses she never dreamed something as amazing as a significant deal would happen to her; that she’s just so darn grateful for the journey?
I mean, I’m not accusing here. After all, who wants to stand up in front of the world and say, ‘FINALLY my hard work and talent has been recognized!!!’ (as, let’s admit it, will probably be my reaction)? Isn’t it better to play the humble card and do the Miss America wave, tearily accepting your crown and blushing with all the attention you never really expected you’d receive?
(I can’t help but sense a whiff of misogyny about it. Girls aren’t supposed to be competitive. We’re supposed to be humble. To be just so honored and grateful for the opportunity. To be sweet. Plus, if you do dare to express confidence in yourself, there are so many ways you can be torn down: She thinks she’s all that. Who do you think you are? I can’t believe she’s wearing that at her weight. Etc.)
Part of the problem might be the thin line between confidence and arrogance. Personally I feel that arrogance stems from entitlement, and confidence stems from a trust in yourself and the work you’ve put in.
I’ll admit I’ve been arrogant in the past, but in this industry you learn really quickly that there is always someone with a bigger deal, a better track record, more sales, more buzz, a bigger promotional budget, etc. I’ve seen advice to hope for nothing, and then you’ll be pleased by anything that comes along.
I have learned first hand that all the talent in the world means crap if you don’t put in the hours to get it done. Creating books is hard work, and if you sit back and smirk at everyone while proclaiming how great you are without actually doing the work, you will get left behind. The work comes first. It has to. In this way I have been humbled by the discipline and labor that writing takes.
But that hasn’t stopped me from believing there’s a spot out there for me, and moreover that I am worthy of that spot. What kind of spot is up to chance and the publishing company, of course.
Nevertheless, I believe I deserve a place at the table.
What about you? Have you ever felt like you don’t really ‘deserve a place at the table’? Alternately, did anyone ever shame you for your self-confidence?