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Do you struggle with self-doubt? Does it take you by surprise when someone praises your work? And do you find yourself slipping back into uncertainty until the next encourager comes along, giving you enough assurance to propel your project another furlong toward your goal?
I can relate. It took several years, from conception to the bookshelves, to write my first book. It seemed that ninety percent of that time I thought, This is stupid and no one is going to want to read it.
Then someone did read it. I still remember sitting in the downtown library, receiving the email for my first great endorsement, and thinking, This is not the best place to scream for joy.
And yet, strangely enough, I eventually slipped back into self-doubting until the next endorsement came, or an encouraging critique from a friend who'd read part of the manuscript. Those words were the fuel that revved my creative engine and kept me writing. Armed with wavering confidence, I pressed toward the front line of battle, looked uncertainty square in the eyes and finished the book.
It hit the shelves and I waited, as unsure of myself and my work as ever.
But then--amazingly, surprisingly enough--feedback started rolling in. This time from a source I'd anticipated for nine years: readers. They were whom I'd written for. Not for endorsers or reviewers or publishers or proofreaders.
I'd carefully crafted sentences, thousands of them, to drape around the tired souls of hard-working mothers and make them feel beautiful again. They tried on my words and began to tell me--are telling me--how they feel:
I'm in chapter five and haven't stopped crying since I started reading the book.
What you said about discipline has haunted me for days; I might be abusing my son.
I'm going to have to read chapter six a few more times!
And so it goes. I feel self-doubt, at least for now, has made its exit. Never underestimate your power to encourage.
What about you? In what area do you doubt yourself, and what did someone say or do to keep you going? Please comment and tell the rest of us what amazing, world-changing work you are going to finish, no matter what.
Do you need assurance that you are pursuing the right thing? Here are some tips:
1. Ask a professional in the field. Your friends and family are naturally going to praise your work, because it's yours. Ask someone you're not personally connected to for a brutally honest opinion.
2. Be ready to hear the truth. You may have a beautiful voice or flair for drama, but you may not be meant to cut an album in Nashville or grace a stage on Broadway. Be okay with that. There is still a multitude of people who will be touched by your gift. Don't cheat them out of it while pining for something bigger.
3. Ask a friend who loves and respects you to tell you the truth about what you should be doing. Chances are you may have a gift that's been dormant for too long. A true friend will encourage you to not waste time pursuing what you weren't meant to do, and to go after what only you can do. At one time my husband and I were trying to invent a new toy. We went to a patent meeting and everything. It was a ridiculous waste of time!