I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-belief, and my first thought is that this in itself is an odd term. Do I believe in the tooth-fairy? Well, no, because she/he doesn’t exist. Do I believe in myself? Well, no, because… I don’t really know how to end that sentence! Of course I exist, but I don’t actually believe in myself, not in the sense that it’s meant: Obviously, self-belief is more about a sense of validation, and whether that comes from within, or if we need it to come from without. One of the features of borderline personality disorder is a ‘distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self’. I explain this in my book,
…my sense of self depended largely on other people and how they treated me. If people were nice to me, I believed myself to be nice also – if they weren’t nice then nor was I.
I often felt as thought the person I was with defined who I was in that moment…
A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder – a journey into borderline personality disorder (and out the other side)
For a long time, validation came from others and not from within myself. For years I subconsciously aligned myself with the predilections of those around me in the hope that this shift in attitude would then validate me, as a person. I like to think that this instinct lies dormant in me, as I succumb to the temptation far less often than I used to. But even now, if someone doesn’t like something that I do like I immediately question my own taste and preferences; perhaps I shouldn’t like it either? Of course, that is nonsense! But it still takes me a while to arrive at that conclusion, especially if it’s something I feel strongly about. Does my wife love me any less because she doesn’t like a particular music artist that I happen to love? Honestly, my gut response to that would be ‘yes’. But then I ask myself if I love her any less because she does like a particular artist who, when played, grates on my nerves like fingernails down a blackboard – of course I don’t – we just have different tastes! And yet is it so much harder to apply this logic when it comes to my own differing tastes than to those of others. Quite simply, I don’t believe in myself: I question myself, I doubt myself, I have no faith in myself.
I still find myself dismissing praise and affirmation mainly because it comes from friends and family and I assume they’re biased. They might think my poetry, writing, creativity etc is great but, I tell myself, that’s because they know me and they love me. I have a hard time believing that somebody with no personal connection will think that what I produce is great.
If somebody gives me positive criticism (and all that generally registers about this at the time is ‘criticism’) about something I’ve written, my first instinct is to rip ‘it’ to shreds and never ever write again – not even on a birthday card, or in the sand. The urge to question everything I’ve ever done is such that I seldom don’t give into it, at least for a few minutes. On that note; each time my wife read through another draft of my book I cringed. I would watch her, armed with her pen, scribbling notes all over the pages, and my puffed up pride at having produced a new draft was punctured and instantly deflated.
I have been questioning myself and my abilities (particularly as a writer) for some time now, and have recently been seeing a lot of hashtags on twitter about ‘Indie publishers’ and wondered what it meant. Surely it’s just self-publishing in disguise? Apparently not! and one article in particular clearly explained the difference. The first thing that I read when I googled Indie Authors is this:
Being an indie author is primarily an approach to writing and publishing, a matter of self-definition. If you see yourself as the creative director of your books, from concept to completion and beyond, then you’re indie. You don’t approach publishers with a longing for validation: “publish me please”.
I must admit, when this popped up at the top of my search results I had a shifty look over my shoulder, half expecting to see the thought-police right behind me, and I also felt slightly ashamed. I want the validation of a publisher, I need it. I need someone other than those who love me to tell me ‘I believe in you too’. Is believing in myself not good enough? It might be if I did actually believe in myself, define myself from within without the constant need for validation, but I find that incredibly hard, so right now, no – my self-belief is not enough.
I have never been good at waiting, so although my new manuscript is currently out in cyberspace scouting for a publisher/agent, I am seriously wondering whether or not indie publishing is something I could do. The one thing that really does appeal to me is the fact that I would have ultimate control over every creative aspect of my book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a control freak, but I’m certainly not impartial to my fair share of control here and there. That really does appeal to me!
But I also want to be able to hold my head up high and say, ‘look! a publisher believes in what I’ve written, they believe in me!’ Sadly, I’m not sure I could hold my head up high just as proud and with the same amount of confidence and say, ‘Hey! I believe in what I’ve written. I believe in myself!’
So that’s what I’m working on at the moment; not necessarily becoming an indie publisher overnight (although I could do if I wanted to!) but on being confident in who I am and what I do, and finding validation from within rather than constantly seeking it from others in order to define and, erm, validate who I am!
Wish me luck; I have a sneaky feeling this could be a long and bumpy ride, but in the mean time I might just have a go at designing a book cover, just because I can!