In the fifth grade, I wrote an essay at school about fire safety. I thought it was the cats pajamas, but when my uncle took a look at the rough draft, he told me exactly what he thought of it. Basically, that it was terrible. I can still remember my astonishment. My ego was bruised and my confidence shaken.
Of course I still ended up becoming a writer, but that crushed fifth grader shows up in my heart and my head when I become too emotionally attached to my creations. It’s difficult to find a balance between dedication and healthy boundaries when you love what you do and care about your clients. Lately, I’ve found that the key to finding this balance is a firm belief in the quality of my work.
Unless you’re living your life in a super safe bubble, criticism is inevitable. If I still thought like my fifth grader self, I’d lose traction, confidence, and an opportunity for growth, every time someone pointed out a way that my work could be better. Even the best can be better!
No matter how many people praise your work, it will never be enough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought that I’d finally be legit once I conquered the next goal on the horizon. Except, each time the horizon would move a little further away, leaving me in a perpetual chase.
I write this knowing that I still have insecurities. At the same time, when I look back to just a year ago, I realize that my perspective has shifted greatly in a very short amount of time. Part of this transition has come from striking out on my own as a writer. The other main factor has been my daughter. Since becoming a mother and business owner, I’ve let go of some negative habits and ways of thinking in favor of being more present with my family and in my career.
A few observations on how I made these strides:
1. Less procrastination: Avoiding work, especially when it seems challenging and intimidating is a one-way ticket to misery. As soon as I sit down and face my to-do list, I’m taking the power back. Insecurity, doubt, and stress lose their power over me. What I once looked at negatively, turns into a positive experience that I can see as an achievement.
2. Less obsession: After I’ve powered down my MacBook and stepped away from my work physically, I take a step away mentally too. In the past, I would think through a project again and again, not satisfied until someone else had put their stamp of approval on it. What a waste of time! It is so empowering to focus on the work in the moment and then let it be once I’m in another space.
3. Less attachment: I’ve started to draw a line between my self-worth and how the world perceives my writing and professional performance. I used to bank my entire career on each new assignment, thinking that if I didn’t knock this one out of the park, I was through. Today, I’ve built more confidence and I see my writing as something that can always be improved, but also something to be proud of. A strong track record has helped me get to this place and I’m learning how to own it!
4. More honesty: With myself and others. If I’m unsure about how a client is feeling about my work, I ask. Sometimes it feels safer to say nothing rather than hear criticism, but you’re probably just wasting your time and a chance to grow by skirting the issue. If the client is happy, I can move forward at ease. If they have concerns, I can address them and try to fix the problems. Realizing that you aren’t going to be able to please everyone (and that’s okay!), is freeing, not failure. Moving on isn’t the end of the world, especially if you do it with grace.
5. More focus: I’m figuring out what I do best and what will serve others the most. I am becoming more aligned with my passion everyday. This comes from experience, taking risks, and daily reflection.
6. More dedication: In this instance, I’m talking about dedication to my professional success. I know I love to write. I know I love working with passionate people to help them communicate their work to the world. I’m committed to learning how to deliver my services in innovative ways. I took another step toward this goal by signing up for Tara Gentile‘s CitizenU group coaching. Over the next five weeks, I’ll be working with 12 other small biz owners to build community and move our businesses forward. I’ll be sharing a lot of those lessons here!