I’ve spend most of the last few weeks in the final edits of two books. Two books. That’s kind of a big deal. My Life with a Wounded Warrior, a collection of personal essays about living with and loving a man with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Clueless Gringos in Paradise, a funny romp with this same warrior and me on our re-location to Central America with two humongous PTSD service dogs.
You’d think I’d be proud of my accomplishments, wouldn’t you? I’ve set things up so that a few bucks from the sale of each book will go to Freedom Dogs. That’s a great joy to me. I should be thrilled. I mean, come on, most people don’t get even one book written, let alone find a publisher and live through the editing process. These two are my third and fourth published books. And, I have three more sitting at the publisher’s waiting their turn to be released.
So, why am I not thrilled? Why am I not so big-headed I have to readjust the band on my ball cap?
Well, mostly because that’s not the way I was raised. I was brought up to understand that success is just God’s way of setting you up to knock you on your ass.
My grandmother told me, “Always expect the worst, that way you won’t be disappointed.”
The first time I spoke to a paying group, my mother, bless her heart, said, “Well, that’s a switch, Pamela, being paid to speak. Usually people want to pay you to shut-up.”
After the release of my first novel, Redneck Goddess, my sister commented, “Anyone can write a book. I’m just busy with the actual living of life right now, don’t have a lot of time for putting a bunch of words on paper.”
When my second novel, Bigfoot Blues, was released last year, my niece told me, “Well, you’re good at writing fiction ‘cause you’re just like grandpa–a big fat liar.”
Now, to be clear, these very same people actually are proud of me. All of them–mother, sister, niece–read my books and tell friends about them and tell me, over and over, how proud they are of what I’ve done.
The issue isn’t them. The issue is me. I gloss over their positive remarks, believe in my heart of hearts that the negative put-downs are the way they truly feel. My mother tells me how proud she is of me nearly every time I talk to her. My sister talked me into a gig at her local library. My niece set me up and went with me to her son’s school where I spoke to the kids and had a wonderful time and she tells me over and over how much she loves the books.
I do my best to reprogram myself to expect good things. My self-talk is a virtual love fest that almost, very nearly, drowns out the sound of those childhood waves pounding on all that low self-esteem. But my most potent weapon against this self-destructive-I-don’t deserve-the-joy inclination of mine is in the choosing of my friends.
I surround myself with people who believe in me, often, more than I believe in myself. The Sisterhood-Patty Stith, Ruth Weeks, Linda Apple, and Jan Morrill are my bedrock. Mona Krause, and Bonnie Tesh, and Sylvia Forbes, and Jim Davis, and Beth Carter, and Greg Camp, and Velda Brotherton, and Kim and Duke Pennell and a dozen more friends who take the time to encourage and lift me up–these people are my antidote for the poison of self-doubt.
So, first of all, thank you, all of you, for your kind words and support. Now, here’s my pledge for the day. I’m going to stop worrying about book promotion, quit expecting a dark cloud to pour icy rain on my head at any moment. I’m going to allow myself the rest of the day to rejoice in the upcoming release of two new books of which I am truly proud. Tomorrow, or even tonight as I lie in the dark and listen to the snoring of my husband and the dog, the worry may creep back. But for right now this minute, I give myself permission to leap for joy and turn somersaults. Mental somersaults of course. At sixty-two, I can change my thinking, not turn back the clock.
My question to you is this:
Do you downplay your accomplishments? Expect the worst? If so, how do you combat this tendency to rob yourself of much deserved joy?