Beating Back Insecurity

Do you hear those voices, too? You know, the voices that attempt to convince your rational self that you’re not original enough or smart enough or talented enough to be a writer?  If so, I am deeply empathetic. And relieved I’m not alone.

I sometimes have the unsettling impression that I’m a pawn in a game of chess that exists only in my mind, desperately trying to avoid the squares marked “insecure” so I can safely land on the squares marked “confident” before I get checkmated. Problem is, I suck at chess.

These nagging feelings of insufficiency are not new to me. They didn’t suddenly manifest themselves after I left the corporate world to focus on writing.  In fact, insecurity was a character trait I regularly attempted to keep at bay (with decidedly mixed results) when I worked in an office full-time.  While I believe my fear of never being good enough often propelled me to do excellent work – convincing yourself you need to work harder and better than everyone else in order to succeed is the ultimate masochistic motivator if ever there was one – I am equally certain my fear held me back. You see, I’ve always had enormous difficulty parlaying whatever confidence I possess into the ability to effectively promote my skills.

So here I am today, trying mightily to ignore the pesky internal voice  that’s making me feel sorry for myself. Trying mightily to remind myself of what I’ve accomplished – both professionally and personally – since walking away two years ago from my legal marketing career.

And yet, that voice continues torture me. I’m now one writer in a vast sea of writers. My inner dialogue shifts on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis: “shit, I’m actually pretty good at this” or “shit, no one will ever want to publish my ramblings” or “shit, get over yourself and write that essay and pitch the hell out of it, for crying out loud!

I confess that I have trouble finding the head space for my personal writing while also managing my paid writing gigs.  It’s not that I don’t have the time to do both. I do. But I would do it infinitely better if I was more organized and had more confidence.  And now that I’ve started to write professionally, I’m scared that the effort it takes me to produce the paid work will diminish the enthusiasm I’ve always had to pursue my personal writing goals.

You see, before I dove into writing as a job, my personal writing was what I did to escape the challenges of my day job. But now that writing is also my day job, the personal and the professional are more inextricably linked than ever. And frankly, that realization has thrown me for an unexpected loop.

So many of us – regardless of our professions – struggle with the elusive quest for balance.  One of the lessons I’ve learned since forgoing a steady paycheck: you don’t suddenly find balance just because you no longer have to spend time in an office every day. Rather, you have to learn to balance other things. For me, some of those things include:

  • devoting more time to proactively seeking paid freelance work
  • promoting my blog to gain exposure for my personal writing
  • overcoming the fear to pitch personal essays
  • struggling to write at home when the cacophony made by the dog and the kids (and sometimes my husband) makes me want to pull out my hair – when the going gets tough, I get going to my office at Panera
  • advocating for myself so that my friends and family understand that writing is my job and not my hobby, even if most of the writing I’m doing is still unpaid

The biggest threat to my balancing act these days, however, is fear. Fear of not knowing where to start. Fear of rejection. Fear that I have nothing interesting to say. And fear that even if I do have something interesting to say, someone has already said it and said it better than I ever could.

I’ve discovered a lot of wonderful writers over the past year, which has been both incredibly inspiring and overwhelmingly intimidating. On good days, I tell myself that there’s room for me, too. On bad days, I long for a cave.


When you feel yourself succumbing to the voices of insecurity, what how do you banish them from your head?

18 thoughts on “Beating Back Insecurity”

  1. I am right here with you. I left an oncology nursing career for writing but life/house/kids/dogs(3)/family/friends/tennis/painting/Facebook….you name it, gets in the way if I don’t schedule my writing and stick to a routine. I’ve decided to make ‘writing dates’ and take myself somewhere beautiful and inspiring to write. Very well-written by the way! Love your voice.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment – I’m glad the post resonated with you. I love that you call your writing sessions “writing dates” – it conveys a personal element of self-care that I think is so important!

  2. Ha ha! Someone HAS already said it… but not the way YOU said it! As long as you enjoy saying it, it’s worthwhile. And we enjoy hearing you say it! 😀

    Fear – pffffft! If you don’t feel a little fear, it’s probably not worth doing!

    Hedgehog hugs x

  3. Hello Jennifer! I’m glad I found my way here to read this. You are not alone (I know you know that but sometimes we need to have it affirmed.) There will always be something or someone that gets in the way of our creativity. This time last year, when I was still working, it was work and family responsibilities. Now, (I won’t bore you with the details), it’s because I don’t have space, or a proper desk to work at, or a laptop to call my own, or… anything and everything that I can find to stand between me and the page.

    There will be good days and there will be days that are not so good… Run with them, either way. Even the bad days can bring gifts unlooked for. These are the days when our inner voice most needs to be heard because without a doubt it has something of worth to teach us.

    Lovely post, lovely writing. I will be back for more.

    1. Thanks so much, Tracey, for your kind words of encouragement. It’s so easy to find excuses to procrastinate or to feel insufficient, but you’re right, we must take the good with the bad and forge ahead!

  4. Yes, so true! Everyone has this voice, whether it be about writing or anything else. Just knowing it’s a voice and not truth is hard the battle! Every time I sit down to write a blog my voice tells me how pointless it is, how no one cares what I have to say. The thing I tell myself is that each of us has a unique story to share that’s going to resonate with someone – we all have an audience somewhere. So if I can reach that one person or two it’s worth it!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this – you’re right – I think it’s also about finding the right community of people – sort of like I’ve found so many of you – a supportive group that appreciates the struggles and the effort!

  5. I think some of us interpret limited success or even a total lack of success as a reflection of our abilities as writers. We think that if we’re not succeeding as much we’d like, we must not be very good. But, in fact, this is simply the harsh reality of being a writer. Every day I see writers worrying because their book isn’t selling, and many of them truly believe that it’s because of a personal failing or some fault with their book. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s not. How many talented actors never make it in Hollywood? How many amazing musicians never land a record deal? Do we really believe that the garage band that doesn’t “make it” is truly inferior to the one that does? Of course not. We recognize that, in addition to hard work and practice, success in that field requires the right combination of being seen by the right people at the right time, having the right look and the right sound for the moment, and a hundred other factors that have nothing to do with the proficiency of the musicians or the potential popularity of their music – if anyone knew they existed. Succeeding in writing is no different, except that the competition is even stiffer.

    As to the balance, I think you should be looking at what you really want to be writing. Personally, I never wanted to become a freelancer because I think I would find that work draining if it was full-time, and because it would get in the way of the writing I actually wanted to do. For me it would be roughly the equivalent of a porn star going home and going to bed with to her husband – more of the same after an already long day. But that’s me and not you. Ultimately, however, I think you need to think seriously about what makes you happy, which was why you chose this path to begin with.

    1. Hi, Lori – thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I love the porn star analogy – it had me laughing out loud. The freelance thing is something I definitely need to figure out – I’m doing it part-time, which is something I enjoy so far – but the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, either. As I’ve done more of it, I have become more acutely aware of the danger it poses w/r/t my personal writing – and will have to be mindful that the “work” doesn’t get in the way of the “passion.” For now, I’m determinedly trying to focus on the pleasure I derive from my personal writing, which often – if not always – is enough to propel me forward. And when my family and people like you and others read my blog and enjoy it or relate to it – that’s just icing on the cake. Thanks again for the advice and encouragement!

    1. Thanks so much for the super kind words! No, my creative writing will not be going anywhere any time soon. I just need to get my act together and try to drown out the negativity when it rears its ugly head. I’ll get there – we’re all a work in progress, aren’t we?

  6. I think all the positive feedback to your post is a very good sign you’re on the right track! Still, it does feel like you’re in limbo, doesn’t it? Hopefully it’ll feel more secure at some point 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Ariel. Limbo is definitely the story of my life – but writing is great therapy. Getting my thoughts down the other day was a huge help. I hope you’re doing well – have you been working on any writing projects lately?

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