I’ve always wanted other people to be pleased with me.
When I was a girl, I wanted my parents to be proud of me, but they never told me they were. I never heard them or heard about them telling other people they were proud of me, either. This wasn’t from lack of effort on my part. I saw what other kids earned that praise for, and I was naturally inclined to do most if not all of those things anyway. I was ‘good.’ I was quiet and studious and achieved academically. I didn’t ask for many material things. I wasn’t a whiny or dramatic kid. I was honest. I tried to always be kind (or at least tried not to be the one in an interaction to be unkind first). But I never got the praise I sought from my parents. I’d get it from teachers and sometimes even peers, and that wasn’t totally unappreciated, but it felt like I was still not good enough for my mom and dad. I did manage to get regularly criticized for things that bothered them (particularly my mom), no matter how small and basically inconsequential they were.
‘You’re gonna wear that? Well…if you like it…’
‘You’re taking <that highway> to <that event>? Well…you know what you’re doing, I guess…’
My mom often asks me questions, waits for the answer, and then tells me I’m surely mistaken.
‘What’s <relative>’s address?’ <I look up the address in our family address book and give it to her> ‘THAT can’t be right…’
I’d like to say that my sense of self is so strong that none of this ever got to me, but decades of constant conditioning to feel like I’m always wrong and my positive behavior and work for goals attained don’t matter worked pretty well to make me believe it…that the information I have is usually faulty, that my decisions are usually bad, that whatever I do isn’t ever done well…at least not done well enough to earn praise. I’m sure that was never my parents’ intended result, but it is the result. I’m so used to passive aggressive critique, it’s what I expect now, and I’m so unaccustomed to positive attention, I don’t handle it well.
When I worked outside home, I won awards for excellence that I never felt like I deserved. Once, the manager of my division of the company called me into his office, and I felt absolutely sure I was going to get a reprimand or maybe even fired (even though I’d never done anything deserving of being reprimanded or fired for). He told me I was getting a raise. And I started crying.
Him: This is GOOD news! ??????
While I always did my best at that job (and any job I’ve ever done…because I want people to be pleased with me), it really didn’t matter much to me in the grand scheme of life. Of course, I wanted my boss’s boss to be pleased with me, but it’s not like his opinion of me kept me up at night. I wanted to do well at my job because I wanted to keep my job for necessary income, but I didn’t really get any personal fulfillment, or put any of my soul into that work. And positive attention there still made me cry. It felt so overwhelmingly good it almost *hurt.*
I need constant reassurance now from J that he’s pleased with me. It’s probably annoying. But he never makes it seem like he’s tired of giving it to me (because he’s rad).
Then, I published my first book in September of 2017. J had been talking about me publishing my writing for years. I’ve always hesitated and told him I wasn’t ready, because I’ve always been terribly afraid to let anyone see things I make. I don’t want to disappoint people, and I always expect people to be disappointed. I’d been pretty anxious every day for a couple of weeks since the work went ‘live.’
I didn’t tell very many people in my ‘real life’ that I released a book, because, well…I didn’t want to be ridiculed or ignored, which is what I’m pretty sure would be the response from people I actually know. That’s not low self esteem talking; it’s experience. I basically only shared it with online friends who never have actually met me…who don’t even know my real name.
So many people have been incredibly kind and complimentary and supportive of the work, it’s just been…amazing. A few of my online contacts who I know have large followings boosted the book promotions I’ve made, and I know it drove interest and some sales. J and I had this conversation on text a few nights after these generous folks did this…
me: <popular blogs> just promoted the book. <lots of ‘wow!’ and anxious looking emojis>
J: Cool. 🙂
me: <more anxious emojis>
J: This is *good.* 🙂
me: It’s a lot of new people looking at it. New people are buying it now. I mean…sales like immediately jumped. One of them actually said, ‘You buy!’ and apparently people are taking him seriously. <anxious emoji>
J: Again…*GOOD*. ???
me: That’s more people that might be disappointed and hate it. 😦
J: I doubt that. All of your reviews have been positive.
me: …so far… 😦
J: Maybe some people won’t like it. But you put out your best work and you can’t please everyone.
me: But what if people start leaving bad reviews and then they get nasty and YOU see them? 😦 I want to please YOU.
J: You DO. 🙂
The following night, when he came home from work, he told me, “I know you don’t want to tell a lot of people we know, but I showed <guy he works with> the link on my phone at lunch.” That guy will never read a love story. I know that. But it’s hard to express how it feels that J’s that proud of me…that he can’t help wanting to show me off. ‘My wife wrote this…’
I can’t even. <tearing up now re-thinking about this, so…moving on…>
So, this past 18 months or so have been weird. I’ve felt weird. After we got my paperback copy of my last book delivered, I put it on the bookshelf with the other ones I’ve written, and my son said, ‘Wow, Mom! You wrote TWELVE books! That’s more than the Harry Potter series!’ I’m no JK Rowling, obviously, but that felt pretty great, but also scary. J got me the domain name for my author page for Valentine’s Day, and all of those similar feelings have welled up inside me from that window of time after I put the first book out. I got a whole bunch more attention once the website went ‘live.’ The tidal wave of endorsements and congratulations over the months since I released writing, and over the past month since the author site has been officially ‘public,’ and the past few days since my last book went live, are completely foreign to me, and it’s hard to deal with. I’m not sure I know how to be pleased with or proud of myself. But J and my son are pleased with and proud of me, so that’s what I’m trying to be…pleased with and proud of myself. I’m still working on it. Thank all of you for helping me get better at it and be a more courageous writer.
PS-If you’ve read my books or stories, I’d love to hear from you here. It helps me improve and inspires me to write more. Thank you soooooooooooo much! Blink is on sale in ebook format for a couple of more days, and my new novel, Waiting, is now available in ebook and paperback formats.