IWSG: Your Own Approval

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blogfest created by Alex J. Cavanaugh that takes place on the first Wednesday of each month. Think of it as a coffee shop full of writers talking about things that they've overcome, or still need to overcome.

Since you guys already know my situation from recent blog updates on the query trenches, I won't go into any more insecurities (although I've got plenty!).

Today I want to talk about an insecurity I've overcome.

Here's the thing about me: I strive hard for other people's approval. I care a lot about what others think. That's just the way I was raised. I don't think it's a coincidence that my strength/passion/goal center on a field that is almost entirely dependent on the approval of others: readers and reviewers, agents, editors. And that's fine... I think it's normal to want other people to like us, and to like our work.

But it's not good when that's the only thing that makes us feel validated. And that's what I've come to realize over the years. I can't let other people's approval be the one thing that defines my perception of success - because my own approval is just as important. Maybe even more so.

When I first started blogging, I had this toxic friend who would make mean-spirited comments about everything I wrote. It cut me deeply because I cared about them, and were our situations reversed, I would have been as supportive and encouraging as I could be. But I kept getting snarky, underhanded remarks, and after a while, the friendship obviously dissolved.

It was a long time before I could understand where this person was coming from. Sometimes a lack of approval has nothing to do with you, but with the person from whom you seek it. And taking a step back - and talking to a mutual friend who cared about us both - made me see the picture more clearly.

And you know what?

The honest truth is that I'm proud of my blog, even when it might seem cheesy, or corny, or irreverent, or silly... because it's 100% me. I don't have to front with you guys. I can just be myself. And I've learned to like myself, and my writing... and I've learned that that's okay to say.

I think we should all tell ourselves that more often. You are a good writer. You are worthy. You are enough.

What are some things you've overcome?


Emma Adams said...

Good on you! Don't listen to negativity. I wish I wasn't so dependent on others for validation, too, but I think it comes with the writing profession. We want to be noticed. The best thing to do is try to be happy in yourself! Great post! :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Great post! I try to remind myself that what other people think of me is none of my business. I have to get on with being the best me I can be.

And you made a great point - sometimes others' disapproval has little to do with us and more to do with them. :)

Laura Marcella said...

Yes! The most important opinion, probably the only truly valuable opinion, is the one you have of yourself. We can't worry about what others think especially when it's mean criticism. Cruelty says more about the person dishing out the meanness than it says about what they're criticizing.

You're a wonderful writer, Julie, and I've always loved your blog. I wish we lived closer so we could meet up for writing sessions!

Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

Colin Smith said...

One of the things I like about your blog--maybe the thing I like most--and one of the things that's been most instructive to me in my blogging, is that it is unapologetically YOU. This is Julie's blog, and no doubt about it. The moment we try to be something or someone we're not, we fail both our readers, and ourselves.

This follows through into our novel writing. Yes, we need friends who won't be "yes-men" and just say what we want to hear. We need friends who will be a reality check, and keep our feet on the ground and our eyes focused. But those friends first need to be happy with who we are, so they can encourage us to be ourselves, and not what they want us to be. In other words, the best friends bring out the best of who we are.

Great post, Julie. And don't listen to the nay-sayers, either around you or in your head. You're a wonderful writer, and you're going to be published soon. :)

J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing that, Julie. Too true that sometimes we get stuck on toxic people that drag us down. Kudos to you for recognizing that you don't need that person's approval to be happy and do your thing.

Carrie-Anne said...

We can't really rely on others' opinions, particularly if they don't understand where our writing is coming from. It's apparently harder for some people to be nice, and to give a critique that's friendly yet honest. We shouldn't write for people who aren't our target audience anyway.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Maybe it was because you were bold enough to start this blog and be totally you here - and that person envied you for being so bold and it turned snarky because they weren't that bold.
My blog is me. Yes, it's a lot of news, but that's still me, because my wife says I am a plethora of useless information.

Tiana Smith said...

People often take their insecurities out on others, so it's sad that that "friend" of yours seemed to be doing that. Love your blog :)

Brandon Ax said...

I agree so much. Insecurity will be there, but ultimately it is our job to motivate ourselves. I have had friendships like the one you spoke of and it is a hard thing to overcome. I love your blog always have.

Crystal Collier said...

Hey, we will have no disparaging comments about cheese here! Cheese makes the world go round, remember? And I love your blog. It's funny how that antagonism can be so huge in our eyes, but often it's a source that drives us to reach even further. (I say this in my own vocal performance journey and the opposition I experienced from my brother. Ack.)

Michelle Wallace said...

Your post made me think of the words by Oscar Wilde: Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
Writer In Transit

Donna Hole said...

I love visiting your blog Julie. And reading your stories. And listening to the music. When can I hear you play?

I'm so happy you discovered your opinion of your success is as important as anyone else's. But just so we're clear; you are one of my favorite fairy tale authors :)

Be happy Dear.


Donna Hole said...

I love visiting your blog Julie. And reading your stories. And listening to the music. When can I hear you play?

I'm so happy you discovered your opinion of your success is as important as anyone else's. But just so we're clear; you are one of my favorite fairy tale authors :)

Be happy Dear.


S.K. Anthony said...

I'm newer to your blog but I love your words: our own opinion matters the most. Sad that we do need reassurance from others, God knows I do, but this is a good reminder to step back and pat my own back.

Fantastic post :)

Nick Wilford said...

It's natural to want others to like us, but we have to please ourselves most of all. Not always easy, but if we do, everything will come across in the best possible way.

stu said...

Of course, on those occasions that you find yourself saying the opposite, it's also important to listen. Being positive is fine, but insisting on it can sometimes mask moments when your intuition about a work has legitimate concerns.

Tony Laplume said...

I wonder if that friend was just being mean to be mean or if they had legitimate concerns about your writing. I know I have a friend with a brother who makes snarky comments about her work, and when we were in a writing group together she'd tell us about it. It sounded like she was using his feedback constructively.

Sometimes even when you don't like or agree with what you're hearing you should still welcome it, because a reaction is a reaction. If you're absolutely convinced the reaction isn't helpful, then ignore it and/or them. If it's a case of learning to accept your own approval, then that's fantastic. But sometimes that snarky voice really is trying to tell you something that you should be hearing. There's plenty to say about how personal taste affects reactions. But if you can rule that out, it shouldn't matter how the message is delivered. Take it for what it is, a note to improve on.

All that being said, I have no idea how that friend was really conducting themselves, whether honestly or just to be mean, so this is not to say that they were right or wrong.

workofheart09 said...

Oh, I LOVE this post. It's so easy to seek others' approval, but so necessary to value our own, too. I'm glad you've gotten to the point where you can see the whole picture more clearly, because the images you portray here - through words, music, and more - are lovely. Truly, your blog is such a ray of optimism and one of my favorites to read. <3

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Like you, it matters to me what people think of me. Knowing that someone doesn't like me is really hard -- and I can think of a particular case where a parent of one of my students went over my head to complain about me to the principal.

Luckily, the principal knew me -- and had encountered her before. The principal laughed off the phone call and joked about it with me.

That was validation. :) I just had to accept that one of those two people's opinion of me mattered, and the other one didn't.

Julie Dao said...

Emma: It definitely comes with the writing profession. It seems (from all of the Goodreads drama that I've heard about lately) that there are many people out there who enjoy nothing more than tearing others down. So yes, being happy in yourself is much-needed (and a tough, TOUGH skin).

Madeline: That's a great way to think about it! Being the best you that you can be - totally.

Laura: It's harder to get back up when people knock you down if you don't believe in yourself. I wish we lived closer too! :( I would love to get together and write. Maybe someday we'll meet up at a conference!

Colin: I totally agree. I am of the opinion that if you only have friends/critique partners who tell you good things, you are lying to yourself. We need constructive criticism... absolutely. But the key word there is constructive. We need people who will not only point out the flaws, but help us bring out the best in our writing. That's the tricky part... weeding out the people who only care about the flaws. Thanks for your encouragement as always, Colin - much, much appreciated.

J.L.: Yes, it's been a long time coming, but I think I can finally pick out the toxic people from the ones who are trying to help!

Carrie-Anne: Great points! I do think it's nice to get opinions from people who don't read my work, though. For example, I had a CP who wrote sci-fi and another who wrote women's fiction, and they brought some fresh perspectives to their critique of my work.

Alex: I think the person was frustrated with their life choice (they made the same choices that I did, once upon a time) and didn't realize that writing doesn't have to be a separate choice. So they felt stuck. I love your blog! It is very "Alex" and always full of interesting information.

Tiana: It was very sad to lose them, but I'd rather spend my time with someone who wants to see the best in me. I love your blog, too! <3

Brandon: Thank you, friend, that means a lot to me. Writing is driven solely by self-motivation and self-confidence. They are tough but necessary things to acquire!

Crystal: I was trying to say that "cheesy" is good, and those who don't recognize that are uncool! (Now I want some Parmesan. *sigh*) So sorry that you didn't get the support you needed from your brother. It's a zillion times harder when the person is a family member, isn't it? I've been there for sure.

Michelle: Ah, one of my favorite quotes!

Donna: Thanks, sweet friend. I love your blog and your comments, and always look forward to reading your excerpts and short stories!

S.K.: Yes, you deserve a pat on the back! It's important to remember!

Nick: I figure that if we at least learn to like our own writing, we can believe that someone else out there will!

Stu: Totally agree. The problem with me is that those moments are like 95% of my writing process (the tearing myself down, insecurity, etc.) and the positivity has to be more forced.

Tony: You've made some excellent points here - thank you for your insight! I assure you the friend I spoke of was purely toxic, and that nothing they said could be construed as constructive or pertinent to helping me improve. But yes, I always try to keep my mind open to feedback that I can use to improve my work. That's the whole idea, after all - to get better as a writer. No point in writing if all we want to hear is good stuff.

Shari: And your blog is one of my favorites as well, and everything lovely and positive. <3

Dianne: There will always be people who have to complain about everything and anything. Glad you kept your head up high - that must have been a really difficult situation, even though the principal clearly knew that the person was out of line. We have to take the bad along with the good and roll with the punches, I guess... can't make everyone happy!

Emilie Bordeleau-Laroche said...

Well said! We all have insecurities and it's a matter of how we deal with them. I always think "I'll never be good enough to be published" or "they all do it so much better..."
Then I just remind myself that I write for me, and no one else and thinking of being published so early is like planning what you'll buy when you win the lottery.

I really like your blog! It's well written and you always have something interesting to say! It's fun to read about someone going through something similar! Good for you for overcoming you insecurities and writing about it!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Good for you, Julie!

YOU should BE PROUD OF YOURSELF. You give us you and there is no other person like YOU in our blogosphere.

Writers should be REAL, how else could we relate to their writing if they weren't.

Writers are davy readers ... we see through the disguise, so don't try to hide or make ups stories. WE know.,, lol.

What I've learned is ALWAYS write from your heart and soul. Then you will have success because you've given us truth...

Have a fantastic weekend.

DL Hammons said...

So...basically...you're just now catching up with the rest of us? :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I love this. We need to look inwards for approval. It's not just about what others think.

I had to get rid of many toxic people years ago. They do nothing but drag us down. The catty little remarks really take a toll when they're added up.

Lydia Kang said...

I worried about what people thought about me and my blog. Strangely, I found that lots of friends and colleagues regularly read it, but didn't talk to me about it! and yet, they keep reading it, every week. So...in the end, I just decided, to hell with it. I'm just going to do what makes me happy and let it go. I'm glad you could make sense of what's happening. That step back helps.

LD Masterson said...

Well said, Julie.

Jay Noel said...

I too have the same issue. Seeking approval, or at least some kind of validation, has always been important to me.

As I've gotten older, however, I'm getting better at not being so dependent on others to define me.

Julie Dao said...

Emilie: Such a great way to put it. We should definitely write the best story we can, first and foremost, and worry about the rest later. I'll try to remember that! I'm glad you like my blog and I agree, it's nice to know that there are other people out there going through the same thing!

Michael: Totally! I like that even if two writers come up with the same exact idea, they still won't write the same story. No one else in the world can write the way we each can. We all bring something different and unique.

Don: :D :D

Medeia: And who needs that in their lives? Glad you got rid of them!

Lydia: I get that impression, too, that people I know read my blog but they don't tell me that they do. It's an uncomfortable feeling sometimes, wondering if they're thinking about what you just wrote when you see them, because it's another side of you and sometimes you'd like to keep the different compartments of your life separate.

L.D.: Thank you!

Jay: It's a hard habit to kick, but glad that we are learning not to rely on others' opinions so much!

Margo Berendsen said...

So late visiting here! Having just posted a completely cheesy post... I love that you shared this. It's 100% me and it made me happy. Your posts always make me happy too :)

Julie Dao said...

Margo: Your comments make me happy! <3 <3

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