I recently discovered that the fuel for many of my accomplishments in my life is "I'll show you." As a child, somewhere around 6th grade, I assessed that I wasn't smart enough to accomplish what I wanted in my life, so I began to rely on sheer will to get things done. All I needed was one person to challenge me, to doubt me, and I was off. When I conceived of my first book and a friend said, "You'll never get that published. You know how many self-help books there are already?" I had the fuel I needed to get published. When this same friend said, "Well, that's nice, but you'll never sell more than 20,000 copies" I geared myself up to sell hundreds of thousands. When a guy I went to high school said, "You're a writer? But you could never spell," I became even more determined to be a successful writer.
But like many adaptations, this one has outlived its usefulness. Because I no longer believe the master assessment I'm not smart enough (which is just another version of the ubiquitous "I'm not good enough") the challenge mode no longer gets me going. It leaves me
cold. I don't care to prove myself to others anymore. I only want to create a life that satisfies me.
The only hitch is, I have yet to allow myself access to a more sustainable way of creating and promoting my work. I know what the way
looks like, but it terrifies me because the sustainable way of creating means feeling all my emotions--not just the narrow bandwidth
of "I'll show you." It means tolerating a whole lot of bodily sensation. Sustainable creating means stopping when something feels
off and taking the time--and it might be a lot of time--to feel my way into what is right. All of this scares me so much, I keep saying to
that path, "No thanks. I'll just stay right here. No reason to venture down there."
What a lie! There is every reason in the world. Everything I care about creating, every way I care about being, lies down that path.
Anyway, the old way is closed to me. I can't create from "I'll show you anymore." Nothing will come that way, I've burned those circuits
out. Yet I'm balking, complaining, dragging my feet, acting confused, doing everything but moving forward down the new path.
Okay, that's not entirely true. What I am doing is taking little toe trips down the new path. One or two toes go a little ways, then
hightail it back to the familiar warmth of the stuck place that the rest of my body refuses to leave. These brave toes have hired a
writing coach, written a bit more of my novel, pulled me into yoga and writing practice--not reliably, not a lot, but some. I want to
acknowledge those toes--good work guys!
I also want to acknowledge how important self-kindness is right now. I refuse to beat myself up for not being willing to learn to create in a
new way. I keep moving back into a mood of curiousity or at least a mood of conscious and loving self-soothing. A lot of long showers and
hugs from my husband.
The mood of my stuck place is resignation. I assess other people can create from a sustained, emotionally rich place but me, no, that is
not available to me. The opposite of resignation is a mood of ambition. Yet I associate that opposite with the "I'll show you" place, the body of hyperness that needs sugar to fuel it, which then feeds the resignation. I don't know how to be in ambition and still be soft, open, and present. Ambition is all about being out of my body, out of my feeling, out of center, living in the future.
So these days, I'm asking myself (or thinking about asking myself):
How do we create from a deeply rooted, grounded, belly place?
How do we create from all that we are, even when that creating is painful, scary, exhilarating, intense?
How do we make space to create in this way when everyday life demands and deadlines encourage thin lips, hunched shoulders and the endless march of to-do, to-do, to-do?
How we stay in a mood of lightness about wanting to do deeper, live richer?
Today, all I know is how much I don't know and that self-kindness is my best friend.
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of The Woman's Comfort Book, The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life and three other titles. You can visit her popular website at ComfortQueen.com where over 600 articles about self-care, an interactive Inner Organizer, and a wonderful CQ store await you. Jennifer also works with a few clients at a time as a life coach.