DO YOU RELY ON OTHERS TO MAKE YOU HAPPY?
AS a blogger, it’s hard not to think that you suck sometimes.
That your work has little meaning. Or to put it bluntly… that it’s total and utter crap.
I feel this way every couple of weeks at least. It’s a regular occurrence in my world. An old, familiar enemy.
And then, if your own self doubt and creative paralysis is not enough, well then there are always the ‘numbers’ to make you wobble. AKA your stats. Your social media figures. Your monthly visitors. Etc, etc, etc.
Every single day, I am asked to share my ‘numbers’ with others.
Numbers. Numbers. Bloody numbers.
All I want to do is sit and write and be creative and yet, sadly it is the numbers that often count more than the words. Go figure.
The clients and PRs that I work with, have to ask for them. It’s their job and I don’t hold it against them. These kind of things are essential to them so they know what they’re dealing with and with whom.
I’ve no problem with this, at all. It’s the way of the blogging land.
But numbers, if you concentrate on them and if you care about them too much, can take you to a dark place if you’re not careful. As can blogging awards and nominations. As can even how much money you make and earn.
If you need big numbers, nominations and prizes to feel good about yourself. If you need them to be happy. If you need them for some kind of validation, then well you are screwed.
Especially in the world that we live in now.
I’m sure most of us have felt that surge in good feeling, when we’ve popped a little snapshot on social media and received a positive response from others. It feels great doesn’t it?
But what about all the other times when you’ve shared something and it hasn’t been received so favourably? What then?
Did it bother you? Were you disappointed? Or could you not give two hoots?
I’ve always thought when it comes to praise and validation from others, that I had a pretty healthy grasp on things.
Particularly when it came to my work. That I didn’t need others to tell me I’d done alright, in order for me to believe it.
When I started out as a trainee journalist, I was blessed with a tough but fair boss who didn’t believe in the concept of ‘gushing praise’ or any other real praise for that matter.
It was a standing joke in our office.
The only way I’d know if I’d written a cracker of a story, was if he’d say something along the lines of: ” Yep, it’s alright that.” These kind of phrases were dished out rarely but boy when they were…well they mattered.
And when I started off as a freelancer over six years ago, I soon realised that any kind of praise or validation would really have to come from myself. Bar a happy client at the end of a project, no one else was going to say to me; “you’ve done great today, Kate!”
There was no boss to tell me my work was fantastic, no colleague to say something lovely or confidence boosting. Just little ol’ me.
So I thought I had this self esteem thang, nailed.
But, I was wrong.
Because last year I found myself feeling devastated, my confidence a little broken.
I’d been shortlisted for a pretty big blogging award and was beyond thrilled at first. Until I didn’t make the final cut. Until I didn’t see my name in a list of other bloggers who had made it to the finals.
Because it took me to a really vulnerable place and it crushed me for a while. It triggered something in me. Old memories perhaps, unpleasant stuff, a nasty little inner voice.
And it really hurt.
Not so much the disappointment, but the realisation that I was depending on external validation to feel good about myself. That even in my mid thirties, I still needed other people to tell me that my work was OK.
That I craved knowing how people felt about me and my blog.
When you focus only on numbers, they’re never enough, are they? And it’s the same with external validation.
You cannot get enough of it. You’re always craving more, always looking for your next ‘they love me’ fix.
But over the past year or so, I can say to you all, quite proudly, that I’ve changed. And that validation from others isn’t something I am still hungry for.
I dunno. Perhaps I’ve grown up but…
I don’t post anywhere near as many selfies as I once did and now find myself unintentionally cringing at people who post selfies to their accounts all of the time (even though I know I used to do exactly the same thing.)
I didn’t put myself up for the blogging awards this season or ask anyone to vote for me in them. And whilst I know I’m now very unlikely to make any shortlist because of that, I feel so much happier knowing that the few people who did nominate me, did it because they wanted to, not because I asked.
I no longer look at my blogging numbers with a critical eye and whilst I will always care about how many people read, like or share my words, I feel more grateful about my own success than I have in years.
And I am really doing my best – although it’s really bloody hard at times! – to not care so much about what other people may think of me.
All in all, I guess you could say that I’m trying to find my own sense of contentment and peace with who I am, what I do and what I create.
I still struggle at times.
I’m still keen to improve my social media following. I’m still determined for my blog to reach as many people as possible.
But I’m coming from a much healthier place. And a happier one too.
We all need to know we’re loved. We all want our talents to be recognised. We all crave to know that we matter.
But it’s important to remember, that this is a song we need to sing to ourselves first.
And if no one joins in the chorus?
Well that’s just fine.
Because our songs can and will, still be sung.