My nephew recently made a comment that struck home with me. He said “I wish to be better at being myself.”
His comment inspired me to think about many things, including how I could apply it in a writing-related post. Examining the term “voice” seemed a natural choice, but I covered that topic in depth on April 9, 2010 and can’t think of anything new to add. Instead, I’ll discuss comparisons.
My daughter and I are similar in many ways. In fact, as she was growing up I often felt a sense of déjà vu when I looked at her. Now, I feel like a faded reflection of the girl I was; a totally different woman. Now I see in her the things I’m not; the differences rather than the similarities. And I’m fine with that.
Ads and television glorify the beautiful people, not the ordinary ones. Success is generally equated with how much money or fame a person has attained. We compare ourselves to our friends, our co-workers, the neighbors, published authors, etc., etc., and that comparison may stoke our egos or leave us frustrated.
What I remind myself of when the comparisons make me feel inferior is that I can only be the best I am capable of. Those other people have not lived my life, and don’t have the same responsibilities and experiences that I have. They are different. I am different. We may have similar goals, but we are not equally equipped to meet them.
As a child, my dream was to be an astronaut or a stewardess. Health issues and a fear of heights changed my aspirations. Then I decided I’d be a science fiction writer, and I devoured science fiction books and magazines about space and astronomy. Later I discovered sociology, and human relationships became more exciting than science. I wanted to save the world. Reality and love changed my mind, and I became a mother instead. (Of all my dreams, that one turned out to be the most challenging—and the most satisfying.)
Recognizing our strengths as well as our weaknesses can help us set realistic goals, but sometimes we need to work on areas of our lives that interfere with our attainment of them. Sometimes we need to set short term goals in order to improve our chance of success in the long term. And sometimes we need to accept the fact that we will never achieve our dream. In which case, we need to remember that doesn’t mean we should give up dreaming—we just need to focus on a different one.
At this point in life I aspire to write. My long-term goal is to complete a historical romance novel and have it published. In the short term, I work on learning as much as I can about how to accomplish that goal—and I write. Realistically, I know the chances of becoming a traditionally published author are slim. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. Maybe I’ll be successful, and maybe I won’t, but without trying, failure is assured.
We each have experiences that shape our lives, attitudes, and beliefs. Combined with our innate personality, these experiences help define who we are and what we will become—a unique individual. Let’s embrace our uniqueness. Let’s focus on being the best we can be as we strive to achieve our dreams.
For more encouragement specifically for writers, see agent Rachelle Gardner’s post entitled Comparison Doesn’t Work, and editor Lynn Price’s post Play to Your Strengths.