Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Believing in yourself

Either you do or you don't. I wonder what the proportions are on the split: how many do believe and how many don't. Me? I'm up and down. Some days I do. Others I don't. Some days I do stuff and it clicks. Others it doesn't. Some days, yes; some, no.

Believing in yourself is a good thing. Psychologists talk about believing in yourself as "self-efficacy"--a trait that has been correlated with a number of other positive traits, like success in school and psychological well-being.

I've been having some trouble believing in myself recently. But that difficulty is not necessarily reflective of a with me. That point was driven home to me today, talking with a writer who had gotten some difficult feedback on her dissertation. "I don't have anything to say," she told me. I'm sure she believed it. Partly she believed it because the feedback she had received had projected that. Partly she was just forgetting herself. The same writer has also told me about her own sense of the work's importance, and of her experience of others who have been interested in her work. Which is the reality? Is it true that she has nothing to say because one person told her that? Or is it true that she does have something to say, because someone else told her so?

I used to think that brutal honesty--with self and others--was always the way to go. Nowadays, I'm not as certain of the truth. It's easy to find a flaw. But what does a flaw mean? Or, as they say in industry, is it a feature or a bug? Is that flaw a flaw from all perspectives?

I lean now more toward practicing optimism and practicing believing in myself (as any reader of this blog is surely aware by now). It seems like the logically soundest route to follow. Now I admit that this route is more appropriate for those of us who have trouble believing in ourselves--those who do believe in themselves maybe ought to watch out for hubris, instead. Anyway, for those who doubt, it seems like practicing your belief in yourself is generally the best practice, because it leads to action, rather than hesitation.

For writers suffering from any sort of writer's block due to lack of self-belief, it's a worthwhile exercise to step back from the project for a moment and to explore the reasons that motivated the project at the start, as it's often the case that we have good reasons for our work, it's just that in the process of working on the details and research, we lost sight of that driving force.

No comments: