Saturday, July 11, 2009

It Takes a Village to Build Self-Confidence

Writers know that self-confidence is a fragile thing. We're always one bad day of writing, one vague criticism, or one reject from an editor or agent away from declaring ourselves not worthy enough, not tough enough, or not good enough to handle this business. So where do we get the courage, the fortitude, the self-confidence to keep going in the face of all this? I always thought that self-confidence was something that was either inside you or not. I always thought that a belief in yourself meant that you didn't need others to believe in you. But this week I've seen someone very close to me struggle with their self-confidence, with their belief in their capabilities because of judgements from someone else. And I've come to realize that even if we might believe in ourselves sometimes we need to hear others say that they believe in you even when we might have stopped believing in ourselves. Especially when we've stopped believing in ourselves.

Friends and family are the most critical people in building - or re-building - the crumbling foundation of self-confidence. For writers, their critique partners, or their agents or editors are also key. If these people don't believe in you and tell you that you are good enough that your work is worthy, then you have to do the work of building your fragile self-esteem all by yourself. And some people can do that. Some people are very, very strong that way. Others need help. And there's something to be learned - for me at least - about how to support people when they're shaky. I've discovered that sometimes you need to back away from the struggle and re-trench. Sometimes you need to stop what you're doing for awhile altogether. And when someone you care about feels like quitting what is your job as a family member or friend or critique partner to do? Should you automatically say don't quit? Never give up? Nobody likes quitting after all but is it really quitting or taking another path? Who are we to say this is the way to go forward? No one has the right answers to these very personal questions.

All I know is that a person I care about is suffering and if that means they need to stop, re-group and try again later then that means I will support them. They are not quitters to me. They just need to find what the best building material is for their self-confidence and, once they figure that out, I'll be there helping to re-build that foundation.

1 comment:

  1. It is a tough thing. Especially since the group-think in the writing world is "never give up". But such a personal decision.

    I rely on my crit partners for support--probably more than I should. But I also trust them to be honest with me and not blow smoke up my *ss. There are lots of reasons people don't sell quickly and only one of them is the writing isn't good enough. Lots of people who are "good enough" even "great" take a long time to sell, but not all of us will be willing to keep trying and wait that out...