Somersaults

Pam's front cover 2I’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.

Clueless Gringos in Paradise_rev3-frontYou’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?  

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About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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9 Responses to Somersaults

  1. Jan Morrill says:

    More and more, Pam, I live by “It is what it is.” This (usually, not always) helps me with my worries. And if worry of the future does sneak in, but fall back is, “What will be, will be.” We can prepare (which you do) and beyond that, there’s not much else we can do. Congratulations on your new releases. My gosh. You’re an inspiration!

  2. No one would ever get published if they downplayed their achievements, I think you can have a healthy balance between marketing something your proud to take ownership of and you believe in and not taking it for granted when it proves to be a success. I don’t believe that everyone can write a book…..I’m struggling just to get a 15,000 thesis written, edited, proofed AND trying to make it stand out as exceptional, so in the highly competitive world of publishing I applaud anyone who gets there work into print (either tangibly or on-line). The Tipsy Lit blog has just posted a really interesting piece for those trying to get the hallowed first publication and how as writers we always doubt ourselves and play down our achievements. I think with such an admirable motivation for getting as many sales as possible you’d be more than justified to sell yourself and your work more confidently; if you’re not enthusiastic about your books then you can’t really expect anyone else to be, or want to bother reading them, I think you should absolutely be proud of yourself and not rely on anyone else to give you that validation, whether you were raised that way or not!

  3. truthsbyruth says:

    Aw, Pam. never, ever downplay your accomplishments. Shout them from every nook and corner of the world and laugh in face of those who don’t believe. J.K. Rowling is laughing all the way to the bank.

  4. Katie Cross says:

    I try not to talk about what I do, just because I process things in an emotional, personal kind of way that I probably shouldn’t. But I definitely don’t give myself all the credit that I could get. That’s exactly how my mom and my husband are too, so I’m not surprised to see it in myself.

    • I’m not convinced our way is bad, Katie. Nor do I think it has anything to do with belief in our work or in self-confidence. It’s simply our way. I do my best to allow myself joy in accomplishments though, and I do this mainly through my choice of friends who celebrate for me and, sort of, carry me along in their joy.

  5. Brenda Black says:

    Four fabulous, diverse books and three more on the way? Shout, girl, shout. Break your arm patting yourself on the back. Dance on tables, okay, as you say, mentally. Go eat fancy food at an expensive restaurant. Rejoice! And some where in there be extremely thankful for the gift of words.

  6. I hear ya. Reminds me of what Brené Brown says: there are three shields we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability: perfectionism; numbing (using alcohol, drugs, food or work to deaden true feeling); and ‘foreboding joy’, the dread that kills happiness. (www.brenebrown.com) It’s just fine to celebrate yourself quietly, but it’s great to exorcise the voices that tell us not to get too comfortable with happiness. Ditto Jan Morrill and Doris Day: Que sera, sera! (all hum along!)

  7. Rachel Patton says:

    You’re funny:). As your niece speaking… I simply meant that Grandpas stories, well some flat out lies, will only get as far as my cousins and I and maybe a few pour over to our children. Now you on the other hand…. You have been able to embrace that story telling and for endless generations leave an impression! ;).
    Now to get to the self destruction thing. Yep, I have the exact same problem and have to convince myself again and over again everyday that I am a good person, wife, mother and friend. Being a hard worker, that I may be a little too confident about. Then again, I did just quit a job I love because the biggest moron with horrible kitchen manners that no one likes, was made as the manager. Which then starts the crying of why I always get the shit end if the stick and feel I’m robbed yet again.
    To show more of my ignorance, I’m considering returning to this same job to no less then be tortured more then before. And who knows… Maybe my presence will chase that gross little lying midget right on outa there.

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