It’s a trite saying, but there’s some truth to it: before you can love someone else, you have to love yourself. There’s a lot behind that, involving self-care and not burning yourself out and not distracting yourself from your own problems by focusing on others – but at the core, it’s about skill. If you can’t feel compassion or empathy for yourself, how are you going to authentically show it for others?
There’s one big monster that keeps you from feeling empathy for yourself: self-doubt.
That self-doubt monster is the one who basically says Who the hell do you think you are? Cognitive fallacy enthusiast think of it as imposter syndrome, but that’s only one incarnation. What will people say? is another fun question, or Why on Earth would anyone think this is a good idea? “The Perfectionist” is another face of this monster – almost the diametric opposite, with You’re not ready to do it as well as it needs to be done along with Just take a little more time to get ready. Steven Pressfield would call it “The Resistance” and several of his books are all about kicking that monster in the ass.
I’m suggesting a different strategy, because sometimes kicking it in the ass is too much work. Instead, I’m suggesting that you use the technique of apathy. Here’s how it works: you have that thing you need to do, but you really don’t want to do it. The voice starts talking to you: Who the hell do you think you are?
You answer: Who cares who I am? I’m gonna do it anyway.
What will people say?
You answer: Who cares about them? It’ll be done.
Why on earth would anyone think this is a good idea?
You answer: Who cares if it’s a good idea or not? Or what they think? Gonna do it.
Get the idea? It’s like a slacker’s version of Banzai! The fun part is that it also puts you into one of the fun little productivity tools, the tool of “just do a little.”
Zero to One Thousand in Sixty
I bring this up because I used it recently during a writing date with my friend Karl (who writes the super cool FictionURL.com). I pulled up a story I’ve been working on, my first sci-fi story ever. You want to talk about self-doubt and perfectionism combining in a perfect storm? Who am I to write a science fiction story? This idea is stupid. Plus I’m doing a lousy job of executing it. Even if I get it done, I’ll never be Heinlein/Robinson/Hurley/Butler/Scalzi or even Chuck Wendig.
Yep, that was my internal monologue as I stared at the blinking cursor. Then I just said Well, all that may be true. Who cares? It’s time to write. And following Karl’s example, I wrote.
Sixty minutes later I had more than a thousand words further written in the story, and the end is in sight. Is it a good story? Who cares? What I do know is that the self-doubt monster disappeared the moment I got into the writing, and didn’t come back (about writing, at least).
Give apathy a try. If you don’t care for it, you can just blame me.