When Will I Learn?

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My writing often follows a particular pattern. I start out eager and excited, charged up and ready to go. I have a ton of ideas, and I feel like nothing in the world can stop me. Then I sit down to write. At first, it’s great. I think that at long last, I’ve found peace and comfort in my craft, that at long last, I’ve conquered self-doubt and am no longer overly concerned about getting it one hundred percent correct the first time around.

Then a few weeks into the cycle, self-doubt returns, at first just a creeping vine that tickles the periphery of my mind, warning me to be more careful, that I don’t want to make too many mistakes, that if people are ever going to take me seriously as an author I have to be more conscious of what I’m doing. Caution soon gives way to concern, and before long concern gives way to self-criticism and despair. Before I know what’s happened, I find myself once more stuck in the mud, with a blog that hasn’t been updated for over a month and books and short stories that haven’t been touched for nearly as long.

When I finally find the courage to come back up for air and try again, I discover that some of those who were interested in what I was doing had left, not because they’d stopped supporting me but because I had given up, because I had shown them through my actions that I had nothing left to share. In giving in to my fear of failure, I had failed. I had prophesied my own doom, then unwittingly made it come true.

I’ve made this mistake countless times before. Each time, I promised myself that I would never make it again, that this time things would be different. And still, before long, I find myself here once more.

When will I ever learn?

It’s okay to make mistakes.

It really is. Everyone makes them. That’s part of what it is to be human. The only way not to make mistakes is to sit in a dark corner of your room alone and do nothing. If you want to put yourself out there, if you want to connect with other people, if you want to change the world, you’re going to have to fail. Failure is a precursor to success, and you must be willing to face it daily if you’re ever to have a serious hope of making a difference.

But what if I make a bad impression?

Every time I tell myself it’s okay to make mistakes, this is the next doubt that enters my mind. What if others witness my failure? What will they think? Will they ever take me seriously again? The answer, I’ve discovered through experience, is that some will, and some won’t.

And that’s okay.

You’re not going to please everybody. Some people will love what you do, and others will hate it. Some will notice your mistakes, and others won’t. Some will support you in spite of them, and others will walk away.

Let them.

If somebody walks away from you because you made a mistake, then either they had unrealistic expectations or they were never very interested in what you were doing from the start. So why spend so much energy worrying about their opinion? Focus instead on doing what you love, what brings you joy and passion, on what gives meaning to your existence.

Don’t worry about what other people think. Those who resonate with your message will hear your authentic passion-infused voice and support you, and those who don’t don’t matter.

It’s really that simple.

And yet, it’s not…

The concept itself is easy enough to grasp. Do what you love and don’t let others get in your way. Be bold. Make mistakes. But when it’s time to actually put this philosophy into practice, most of us, myself included, fall flat on our faces. Every. Single. Time.

Self-doubt is a powerful force. It’s the demon that whispers in your head whether you’re awake or you’re asleep, that assaults you with softly-spoken assurances of failure and condemnation, that promises you the everlasting Hell of ridicule and humiliation should you even think of trying.

You must not listen to it.

Shun this evil force with all your strength, lest it hold you back from what you love for the rest of your Earthly life. Whenever you hear its voice, you must drown it out, not with shallow and vainglorious self-assurances of success, but with a realistically optimistic outlook rooted not in the opinions of others but in the fulfillment of your life’s purpose.

Each and every one of us has one, a reason for being, a mission to accomplish, and we can only achieve what we were created to do when we let go of our incessant need for approval and boldly step forward into the unknown.

Author: Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

9 thoughts on “When Will I Learn?”

  1. Good post Jeff. 🙂 let me ask you this, “Do you write because you want to or because you have to?”

    1. Thanks 🙂 Honestly, I think it’s a little of both. I write because it’s what I love to do. But when for whatever reason I decide not to write for a long time, usually because I feel discouraged and think that I’m no good, it eventually becomes a fire that burns me from the inside out until I have no choice but to try again.

      1. I sometimes imagine what life would be like without these “constraints.” Have you ever thought about what your day might look like if everything was perfect? What would you write about? That Williamson quote comes to mind. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

        1. I have thought about that. It’s precisely because of all the struggles I’ve had to deal with that I have things that I think are worth communicating. It’s frustrating, but without the struggle I suppose most if not all of us would be sitting on the couch bored because there’s nothing to do.

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