At the end of the last lesson we started thinking about the importance praising ourselves instead of waiting to hear it from others. For authors, this is especially important because out work is going to be critiqued by strangers who care little for our feelings, and have no need to make us feel good about ourselves.
Unfortunately, no matter how great our book might be, there's always going to be people who don't like it - that's just a fact.
That's why it's so important to be our own cheerleaders.
Now I know this might sound strange to you, but try thinking of it like cleaning the bathroom.
You see, my partner is great around the yard, and even cooks our dinner. I know, I’m very lucky, right? But he will not clean the bathroom. Like ever...
Now I have no doubt in my mind that he loves me, but if I waited for him to take the initiative and clean our bathroom, pretty soon we would have no clean towels, the sink would be full of grime, and I don’t even want to think about the toilet. Eeeeek!
You know what I mean, right?
So, despite the fact it would mean a lot to me if he took the initiative, and cleaned it once in a while, I also know that by waiting for him to do it, scum is building by the minute.
Put into context, if you wait for someone else to do the thing you need most, it might never get done. And if what you need most is someone to tell you you’re great – do it yourself!
If you wait for someone else to do the thing you need most – it might never get done. And if what you need most is someone to tell you you’re great – do it yourself...
You see, even though I have to clean the bathroom myself, and probably always will, when I go in to take a shower I do it in a lovely clean, sparkling, environment that smells like lavender.
So, whether he did it or I did it myself - the outcome is the same. Clean bathroom.
The point is, even though what we want is for someone else to tell us we’re great (or clean the bathroom), what we really need is the result it creates.
In fact, if you’re like most people, when someone gives you praise you might struggle to believe them anyway, right? That’s because we don’t take the time to praise ourselves, so when it comes from an external source it feels unfamiliar and maybe even
The outcome is we revert back to some self-deprecating response – like ‘No, you’re the one that’s amazing, I just got lucky’ or something along those lines.
The other downside of relying on external praise, especially if we're lucky enough to have a partner that encourages and praises your writing, is that we start to become reliant upon it for how we feel about ourselves. The phrase ‘I don’t know who I am without him’ comes to mind.
Now in a song that’s a pretty romantic gesture, but in real life it’s actually not all that helpful when you're reliant upon someone else to make you feel worthy.
You need to emotionally stand on your own two feet - especially when you present your book to the world.
Does that make sense?
So how do we praise ourselves in a way that doesn’t feel forced and that sticks?
First of all, if we start staring into our own eyes in the mirror and saying things like ‘you're great’, it can feel pretty weird.
In fact, for some of us saying anything positive about ourselves with true authenticity can feel strange.
So, the best way to start singing your own praises and making them stick, is by focusing on things that are indisputably true.
Here’s what I mean…
When I was learning this skill, and believe me it is a skill that takes time, I didn’t know where to start.
I had made so many mistakes, and messed up so many relationships, that I felt pretty much worthless to everyone around me, including myself.
Aside from my mum, I really had no one left who thought anything positive about me, so external praise was a long way off.
But I knew that if I was ever going to become what I considered a successful person with a full life, and who contributed to the lives of others, I would first have to believe that I could.
And I would have to convince myself because at that stage, based on my behaviour, no one else was ever going to believe that I could change.
I knew that simply telling myself the things I wanted to hear would never stick because there was so much tangible evidence to the contrary.
I couldn’t start telling myself ‘ýou are a thoughtful person, because at that stage all the evidence suggested I was not.
And tangible proof can be hard to dispute, right?
So that’s where I started. I looked for things I could tell myself and actually believe. Things that were backed up by tangible evidence.
So that’s where I started. I looked for things I could tell myself and actually believe. Things that were backed up by tangible evidence...
The first thing I focused on telling myself was that despite all my bad choices I had never intentionally set out to hurt anyone.
I decided to praise myself by saying – ‘Despite all my bad decisions, no matter what situation I found myself in I never intentionally tried to hurt anyone or make them feel bad. Even at my worst, I was still a caring person.’
I knew that was true without a doubt, and so by praising myself for it, I also created the first steps to a reinforcing belief - that I would be able to create a life for myself that allowed me to care for, and help others.
The second thing I added to my list of praise was having an openness to change. I wanted to be better, and I knew I was willing to do whatever it took.
‘That became: 'I have made mistakes, but I am resilient and open to change. I have it in me to do whatever it takes to change my life.’
Do you see what I mean?
I knew those qualities were real. I didn’t have to convince myself because I knew it was true. Once you begin to believe positive things about yourself it's like a flow-on effect.
One positive quality creates another and another until you actually begin to see all the amazing attributes you have.
And the best part is, once you embrace and believe them, no matter what happens in your life you will always have yourself to fall back on.
So, now that you know how important it is to praise ourselves, here’s what we need to do:
1. First you need to identify what it is you need to hear. What is it you would most want a loved one or important person in your life to say to you? Download and print Page 6 of your Workbook and list all the praise you’d like to hear from someone in your life. It’s not important to list who they are because it’s not about eliciting praise from them, it’s about believing it yourself. Be sure to keep your ideas current to right now. Don't write things like - 'I'm so proud you won a Pulitzer', even if that is your goal. Stick with things that apply now, like 'I'm so proud you're working toward such a prestigious goal'.
2. Now download and print Page 7 of your Workbook. List all the things you know are true and positive about yourself and your writing. Maybe you know without a doubt you are super creative, great at world building, awesome at editing, excel at writing dialogue, a whiz at research, and don't just limit it to writing. Think of all your positive qualities... Write down everything you can think of and what actions or behaviors are example of how you know that.
3. Now, take a look at your two lists - is there a cross over between what you want to hear and an item on your list of positive attributes? Every area of praise you seek that matches an attribute you have can become a true and evidence-based compliment to give yourself and believe without a doubt. Maybe you wrote that wish for someone to tell you they admire your dedication to finishing your book. On your positive list do you have something about always dedicating time to write or being great at time management? If so, that's a true and evidence-based compliment you can give yourself - you are a focused writer who dedicates time to achieving their goals.
4. Now, what if you don’t find a cross over? That’s okay because now you have a chance to create one. So, using the example above, if the praise you seek relates to your dedication but you've been a bit haphazard with time management, sit down and sort that out. Find a way to commit regular time to writing your book, not because you’re seeking external praise, but so you can know without a doubt that you are a focused writer who dedicates time to achieving their goals.
You can download Pages 6 & 7 of your print-friendly Workbook below: