The Danger Of Self-Doubt

My first impression of loving what I do for a living left me with the idea that creativity would come easily. That I’d crossed through to this mysterious other side where no matter how difficult things got, at least I wouldn’t be stuck. Stuck in some dead-end job. Stuck uninspired. Stuck in stagnation. That last one is still one of my greatest fears. My friends would sooner peg me for the girl who runs from white picket fences than one who settles down and makes littles. It’s been something like a year since I’ve written anything of note, and by “of note,” I mean something that speaks from my own heart. Playing the face of brands is a talent I’m rather skilled at. Vulnerability, however, is something I aspire to be good at.

Relocating to San Francisco in 2018 felt like magic to me. Getting hired to work for a sparkly early-stage startup in the heart of the city seemed like I’d finally made it — somewhere. For the first time in my life, my only job was to write. I was provided with anything I could have needed, from a reservable “meditation room” to beer vending machines, neon lights, free lunches, fancy hydraulic desks, and endless snacks. It took weeks before I even realized the park I’d been spending my lunches in was Lafayette Park or that my morning commute just off Polk Street tracked one of the most filmed stretches of the city. It really was a blur of everything I’d dreamed San Francisco would be, but still, I couldn’t write.

Don’t get me wrong — I wrote, but the work wasn’t what they wanted it to be. Much of my research was time spent sifting through Google sheet after Google sheet looking for patterns in numerical data. I didn’t necessarily mind it, but no matter how hard I tried, my writing still just seemed too human.

Let me first explain this by sharing that after starting my job there, I came to find out the founders had carved their path into the industry on the curtails of Big Tobacco. Looking back now, I can remember a churning sensation deep in my stomach as I steamrolled into my first day. Not much of my time at work was spent having anything to do with tobacco. Nor was there ever an outward moment during my writing where it was apparent I was experiencing a lack of inspiration for any particular reason. More often than not, I attributed my brain freeze to being in a large open room with around 100 data-minded folks clicking away in near silence. No amount of love from the office “doggos” could have cured my writer’s anxiety. To clarify, I was never fired. One day, however, I arrived to find that my entire team had been laid off.

I used to think that resilience was measured in part by how fast we could recover from our traumas. We’re expected to appear normal after the appropriate mourning period. Even in death, when people’s sadness drags on, it undoubtedly makes us uncomfortable, likely because our own grief makes us uncomfortable. Curiously, this failure allowed me to master a set of entirely new skills, effectively abandoning any need to reason through my egregious failures. See, that right there is part of the problem.

The longer the memory of my writing sat in my head, stagnant, the more I secretly began to question if I’d ever really been a “good writer” at all. “When most real writers did some of their best work in quarantine, I dug my heels in and learned a new craft,” I’d think to myself. It wasn’t until yesterday upon sitting down for a full day of assigned copywriting that it hit me: I’m pretty good at this. What a strange and majestic a-ha moment to realize how inextricably intertwined quality output and personal core values truly are. Humans are emphatically driven by their need to fulfill a purpose in their lives. To be a good friend, good parents, good employees, protect the environment, stand up for civil rights, etc.

Our failures don’t rest on an inability to meet the standards of others. The true failure is when we allow someone else to make us feel insignificant.

I turned my back on something that brings me pure joy because it didn’t fit the mold of someone else’s requirements. And for that, I missed out on two years of personal exploration.

If you get anything out of this entry, I hope it’s this: Even if you never publish a single one of your paintings, articles, sculptures, songs, whatever it may be, I’m begging you to keep making it.

“Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death.” — Seth Godin

About the author
Writer & Illustrator. Cyclist. Marketing Manager in San Francisco, CA. Follow Emily on Instagram or read more articles from Emily on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related