I am not a “writer.” That may already be obvious based on my poor grammar, terrible sentence structure, and lack of words that sound…well, good. I am a math major and I love numbers and graphs and equations; these things genuinely bring me joy. I’ve always been good at writing and articulating my thoughts, especially in school, but when I tried to branch out into creative writing, I fell flat. I’ve tried since I was 8 years old to keep a journal and I just cannot do it. I hated it because I knew I could write, but I struggled with figuring out what to say. From then on I assumed writing just wasn’t “for me.”
My breakthrough came with Twitter. On a daily basis, I have about 50 trillion thoughts running through my brain (don’t most people?), and I realized that I feel an overwhelming sense of relief when I’m able to get any of these thoughts written down in a somewhat-coherent manner. I truly believe that Twitter has helped me gain a love for writing. I’ve always thought I was funny (because it’s the truth) but before Twitter, I never had an outlet for that humor besides my close friends. Public forums scare the crap out of me, but with Twitter, I have an outlet slightly larger than my close friends where I can say whatever I want without worrying about my cheeks melting off my face. Slowly but surely, my Twitter became less about updating friends about what I was doing every second, and more about posting whatever clever jokes and witticisms I could come up with.
Still, I did not feel fulfilled with Twitter. I had more to say and I wanted a bigger audience. I found out that a friend of a friend got an article published on this site, a website that I’ve adored since starting college four years ago, and I knew I had to give it a try. I banged out an article in about two hours. It was all over the place. It actually read exactly the same as how I tell stories in person, which is starting the story, forgetting halfway through what the point of the story was, trying to go back to my original point, and then ultimately finishing off with a completely different story.
After a lot of editing, I heard back that my article had been published and I was thrilled. That initial excitement quickly faded when I realized that people, real living, breathing people, were going to read my thoughts that I had always kept to myself. I panicked and imagined the comments that were going to be posted on the article…this blows, who cares, you suck, go die. Haven’t you been on YouTube? Anonymous commenters can be so cruel. I was lucky with that first article to get a positive reaction from friends and strangers alike, but even if I hadn’t, I knew it would be worth it.
I’ve realized how important it is to take those leaps of faith. Obviously you could go through life without ever trying anything new or stepping out of your comfort zone, but what fun is that? By not taking risks, you’re taking the biggest risk of all: the chance that you’re missing out on something amazing, something you never knew you could be good at.
The problem here, of course, is that taking risks is scary; Merriam-Webster defines “risk” as “something that may cause injury or harm.” When we leave our comfort zones for whatever reason — to start a blog, apply for our dream job, or talk to that hot guy in Panera — the risks we are taking are those that we perceive to be injurious to our self-image if we fail. But why is failing so scary?
Failing sucks. It’s simple. Maybe it sucks because you’ve always been good at everything and now you’ve found something that you can’t do. Maybe it’s because you gave 100% and still came up short. Or maybe it’s just because you feel like there’s nothing you’re good at and all of your friends seem super successful. This is the part where the writer usually inserts a cheesy, overused quote about how important it is to fail, how some of the most successful people were failures, or “Hey! Did you know Albert Einstein dropped out of high school?” That’s great to hear, but it’s generally not comforting to someone who has just experienced failure or fears that he might. Most people are aware that failure is a part of life, but that doesn’t make it suck any less.
Ultimately, having high self-esteem will help you deal with failure, but I’m not here to write a self-help guide to becoming more confident. The best advice I can give is to remember that confidence is not static; if you’ve lived your whole life lacking it or have always had a negative self-image, you are not doomed to a boring life filled with fear and regret. Surround yourself with people who support you and eventually you will come to understand how valuable you are as a person. I used to be a firm believer that I wasn’t good at anything because I felt like I didn’t have one strong talent, but after 21 years of living, I’ve decided that I am not defined by my talents. When we embrace the qualities that we feel make us better people, like being a good friend or a good listener, then our skills and talents will blossom on their own.
So put yourself out there. Give it a try. And if what you try is something you truly like doing, then keep doing it. Start a blog, or get a Twitter, or audition for community theater, or ask out that cute girl at the bar, or become a Facebook philosopher, just put yourself out there. I can guarantee that there will be at least one person who likes what you have to say (but chances are it will be a lot more than just one!). And still, even if zero people like what you have to say, you should do it for yourself.
It’s am amazing feeling to have your name on something you did, and for someone like me who has never felt like a true “writer,” it was the confidence boost I needed to keep going. Don’t deprive yourself of the chance to feel like a rockstar because you’re scared.