I have a book coming out, spring 2018.
Let me say that, again: I have a book coming out, spring 2018. I’ll leave it to everyone else who has a book coming out to be too cool to cop to feeling some mixture of excited, intimidated, and WTF. (Me? I’m a “WTF is this really happening” kind of girl when my own dreams are coming true.)
I was working on yet another round of edits with my publisher and not having a great time of it. The internal dialogue went something like this:
Voice 1: These sentences are so.boring. There’s no pizzazz! You should be like [insert fave self-help writer]. She has pizzazz!
Voice 2: No, it’s not pizzazz that you’re lacking; it’s vulnerability. You don’t sound vulnerable enough. You sound like you’re trying to be a big know-it-all, and you know, everyone is going to see right through you.
Voice 1: I’m telling you, it’s the pizzazz factor. There are plenty of places in this book where you openly state that you are still afraid of things and this book is about courage, not pretending to be “fearless.” In fact, you’re almost too self-deprecating, sometimes. And who wants to read a book where someone is self-deprecating and pathetic? That’s a loser move.
Voice 2: Hmmm. Maybe you’re right. People want to read books by people who have their shit together.
Voice 1: But you know, you don’t want to look like you have your shit TOO together, or else then you’re arrogant.
Notice the lack of nuance, by the way, with the voices of fear. It’s either pizzazz or boring; vulnerable to the point of pathetic self-deprecation or the accusation that you’re being an arrogant know-it-all. Fear talks in extremes, not discernment.
So I did what I’ve done for the gazillionth time since I first sat down (again) and pulled up the file with my book proposal (again) and revised it (again) and shook all the way down to my toes as I hit “send” to a publisher (again) and hoped for the best (again).
I used the very tools that I talk about in the book, tools that have become habits (aka, “The Courage Habit”).
Access the body. Listen to the voices of fear but without attachment to what they say. Reframe fear’s limiting stories. Reach out and connect with community.
Change Your Habits, Change Your Life
I need to tell you: habit-formation has radically changed my life. Figuring out how to break bad habits and create better habits, all while honoring the value of courage, has been a game-changer. It’s made my health, my life as a parent, my marriage, my business, my anxiety and stress levels—all of it, better, because instead of grappling with challenges, I have courageous habits in place for how to handle those challenges.
Swinging between two different fear-based voices that wanted to tell me how much I was failing (all because they are wounded and feel vulnerable and use criticism as a mask for feeling those feelings), I paused. I breathed. I actually—and again, the cool points go down—turned up the music and danced, badly, in my office. I listened to what these voices were saying. I reframed in the direction of seeing how far I’d come.
Because here’s the thing, even if my book ultimately lacks either pizzazz or vulnerability, even if it’s too self-deprecating or too arrogant:
It took courage to conceive of writing a book.
It took courage to sit down and research how to write a proposal.
It took courage to write the proposal.
It took courage to send out the proposal.
It took courage to go back to the drawing board with the proposal every time it was rejected.
It took courage to listen to feedback about the proposal (some of which had nothing to do with the proposal; I had one publisher say they loved the concept and discussed the proposal at length with the editorial team, but they ultimately felt my platform wasn’t big enough).
It took courage to revise and send out that proposal again, making it better each time.
It took courage to build this business and this platform.
It took courage to sign the book contract when it came through (commitment to deadlines? And giving up some creative control over an aspect of my business? Whoa.)
It took courage to write an entire book. How many people on the planet say they want to “write a book, someday,” and never do?
It took courage to be open rather than defensive about critique as I worked with my publisher’s editorial team on multiple rounds of edits (something every writer can struggle with).
It took courage to think big picture about launching and strategy, reaching out to other authors and asking if they would be part of this, assembling a launching team.
There are multiple places along the way where I could have given up, self-sabotaged, or started becoming angry and critical as a defense mechanism against fully feeling all the feelings.
Nope. I stayed the course, felt it all, walked through it all, and have been myself through it all.
Seeing How Far You’ve Come
Seeing how far you’ve come is a courage booster. Let me explain with examples. Perhaps right now you’re struggling with your marriage. Or overwhelm and anxiety. Or financial pressures.
The fears you have about those things won’t go away, and there’s no way to engineer your life so that life challenges never happen.
But you can get into the habit of facing those fears by deciding to practice courageous habits.
Stop, now, and breathe. Access the body.
Listen to what the fear is saying, but don’t believe it. Just listen.
And then try the reframe of seeing how far you’ve come.
If your marriage is struggling? It takes courage to love someone. It takes courage to fix something that’s broken. It takes courage to love yourself enough to know the truth about who you are in a relationship.
If you’re facing overwhelm and anxiety? It takes courage to be that human. It takes courage to ask yourself what’s behind the overwhelm and anxiety. It takes courage to get help.
If you’re facing financial pressures? It takes courage to look at that, straight-on. It takes courage to change your lifestyle so that you can get out of debt. It takes courage to ask yourself how you got there and not beat yourself up.
Reminding yourself of how far you’ve come is a powerful way to remember that you have the capacity to cultivate courage. Courage isn’t something you “have.” It’s not that I’m “more courageous” than someone else. It’s just something that I’ve practiced long enough that courage has become a habit, a default way of looking at problems that arise.
And this, too, is for you. You’ve come so far, that if you stop to look at the path you’ve forged, you just might amaze yourself.