Why It's Okay To Be Less Than Perfect
If writing on my blog is terrifying, writing for the student newspaper is sickeningly terrifying. I refused to do it for a very long time, despite desperately wanting to try, because on here I can throw things out into the ether but there people I know are reading what I have to say. Friends, peers, professors, ex-boyfriends, ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend: anyone of them might choose to waste a few minutes on my rambling and then judge me for it.
Then I started this blog and with it came readers, starting with mostly my family until strangers began complimenting me on my writing. I realised that maybe I had more to say than I had previously thought, and why was I letting fear hold me back? I started with a few easy news pieces, nothing thrilling, until one night I was so angry about the tampon tax that I furiously typed out my feelings and realised that I wanted people to read it. So, taking a deep breath, I sent it over and the response was incredible. Just yesterday, as I sat on my porch in Ghana, a new friend from New York told me she had seen the article and loved it. I'm finally writing for The Gazelle, and I'm thrilled about it.
Only recently they didn’t publish something I wrote. It had come from the heart, and I had thought it to be good enough but I guess someone on the leadership didn’t agree. As a member of the team I know the reason for not publishing is that it doesn’t meet the standards and I was crushed. People had read my work and deemed it not worthy.
I felt like I had let myself down, I had let the team down, I had let the whole world down. My writing wasn’t good enough, which meant I wasn’t good enough. I felt awful, and used it as a stick with which to whip myself in punishment.
Then, as I wallowed in self pity, I came to realise that one piece of writing doesn’t define me. Maybe it wasn’t good enough, but as writers sometimes we will create things below par. And maybe it was meaningful to me, even if it didn’t resonate with others. Groundbreaking, I hear you sarcastically mutter. Well to catastrophic little old me it was. Being able to step back and treat one incident as if it wasn’t the end of the world was pretty amazing.
I’m not going to punish myself for one article that didn’t meet a level of standard that I have no control over. I’m disappointed that it never made it to the website, but I have so many other pieces that have been incredibly well received. If they laugh at my terrible writing (as I fear they will) then that says more about them than it does about me, and chances are they’re not doing that and it's all in my overactive imagination.
Why do we dismiss compliments and then wrap ourselves in criticism? Why do we believe those who say good things to be insincere, but any indication of being bad is the absolute truth? Why do we torture ourselves over perceived failings, when our successes are so much more important?
Tonight I will not wallow anymore. I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and vow to use this as a lesson for improvement, not as proof that I should never publish again. We are more than our failings, and we should never let them define us.
There was actually nothing wrong with the article and they published it (long story in terms of why I thought they wouldn't), but the lesson was still learnt so this post will still be published! The editor actually sent a really nice email saying he loved my piece. Second lesson learnt is never assume anything.