People-Pleasing: Just Say No (nicely).

That was me, far right. While I love playing bass, I think more often than not I wasn't pleasing other people with my performance--especially my band mates 😉 Joke. I wasn't that bad.*

My characters have become unintentional catalysts for learning about myself, and the things I need to work on.

I didn’t sit down to write manuscript #1 (or #2, my current work in progress) with the intention of “finding myself” or examining my own neuroses. Writing is about putting the stories in my head down on paper, and I was simply trying to build character traits, flaws, and interesting bits into the characters who make up the story I want to tell.

But life doesn’t usually work out the way we intend or expect.

In my last post, I talked about this simple yet earth-shaking realisation: No matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone and you can’t make everyone like you. Humans are fickle, myself included. I can spend my life bending over backwards and apologising for my existence at every turn, but I still won’t win everyone’s approval. So finally, after 33 years, I’ve decided I need to stop. I need to be me—confidently. I need to stop apologising for every move I make. And I need to stop being so anxious to fulfil everyone else’s expectations, and not be afraid to say what I really think.

That’s not to say I’m endorsing narcissism or bad behaviour! But all I can do is try my best, be respectful and kind, try to treat others as I would like to be treated, and the rest is up to them. If I don’t live up to their standards of perfection & acceptability, there’s not a lot I can do about that.

I’ve come to see that I’ve spent – no, WASTED – so much time in my life trying to be what I think other people want, saying “yes” to every request, in the hopes that other people will like me, will approve, will include me, and will not be angry at me. I’ve used up so much energy trying to keep on top of all this that I inevitably lose sight of what makes me happy, let alone what’ll make someone else happy.

My MC has this problem. She didn’t at first – she had a host of other issues that got her in the predicament that incites the plot. But revisions have revealed that, at her core, she’s a people-pleaser. She will never win trying to juggle the approval of everyone she meets. Not just friends and family, but acquaintances, teachers, employers, customer service reps and delivery men. She elevated the opinions of everyone in her life above her own, to the detriment of her self-esteem and her relationships with those people.

I didn’t write this trait into her because I wanted to write about me. I wrote her this way because it’s how her character evolved, based on herself and the situations around her. And afterwards, I realised that’s how I’ve been living most of my life. While researching this topic, I found this: (from Jen Smith’s blog)

…It is a fact of life that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. What you can do is be authentic and do what you feel is right. We all upset others at times. It is inevitable. Sometimes people are jealous; sometimes they don’t like other people being happy or successful and sometimes they may be upset with you and they just don’t know why! You cannot be responsible for other people’s happiness but you sure as hell are responsible for your own. Start being confident about your decisions and what you want to do.

I think it comes down to say what you mean, mean what you say, and if it’s not said with ill intent but respect, then other people can either accept you, or move on. And the ones who stick around are the ones whose opinion you should count as meaningful in your life. (Isn’t that what Hanson’s “MMMbop” was all about, after all? LOL).

But seriously, you can’t ever base your life solely on others opinions. That’s when it becomes approval addiction, and you end up making yourself and the other people unhappy anyhow. I’m responsible for my own happiness, and while I always want to make everyone else happy, that’s just not in my power. I need to be confident about my decisions, communicate more clearly, and then just accept that other people are responsible for their own happiness as much as I am for mine.

Some people just aren’t going to like me for whatever their reasons (which they’re totally entitled to), and that’s fine. This is when I need to stop losing sleep over whether some random person on the street likes me, or the not-so-random person whose standards of excellence I’ll never achieve is happy with me. Tough. That’s life. Next!

And the side note to all this has actually become Important Point #2. I’m realising that both my MC and I need to have this enmeshed into our skulls: Only you are responsible for your own happiness. Others may want you to be happy, and make efforts to help you be happy. But you have the choice in the end, and if you choose to be miserable, grumpy, judgemental, or pessimistic (as we all choose now & again), that’s completely up to you. But we can also choose to be positive, forgiving, hopeful, sympathetic, and so many other, better, things. That’s my goal, anyhow.

* Photo credit: unknown. I apologise. I was given an 8.5×11 print of this performance, which was a benefit show put on by Fido coffeehouse (where I used to work) in Nashville, Tennessee at the Belcourt. Many a better performer has played that stage, but that was an awesome time in my life. But I am not an amazing bassist. I just had an amazing teacher and fantastic people around me 🙂
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Acceptable to others.

When you’re up a mountain in the clouds with a gorgeous view, you realise how small you really are, and how dumb comparing yourself really is.

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day! Even if there’s only one person reading this blog, I still hope you had as fantastic a Valentine’s Day as I did! 🙂

I had the *best* V-day ever. It’s usually a dud. At least, it was until my fiancé came into my life. This year, not only do we have a wedding to look forward to, but he brought home not one bouquet of flowers but TWO (“because these smelled nicer, but then you have to have roses, too”), and chocolate (orange), and Zelda Skyward Sword for the Wii 😉 And it even came with a 25th Anniversary symphony CD of Zelda music. *swoon*

To top it off, the thing I’ve been eagerly hoping for for so long finally happened: I got my first bite from an agent! One of the top agents I’ve been reading up on replied to a query I sent in October, with a partial request. I know this is only a very small step, and there’s a long, long road to publication. But even if she rejects the manuscript, this was so much huger than that. To me, this meant someone in the industry saw some twinkling of potential in my writing, and that made me jump up off the sofa and run screaming down the hall. It was like someone whispered in my ear, “Keep going. This is right.”

The funniest bit is that I saw her name in my Inbox and immediately turned my phone off, made dinner, drank half a bottle of champagne, and just enjoyed my evening. I was afraid another rejection (as I’m getting used to job-related ones) this month would send me over the edge and keep me from enjoying the night. So when I got the nerve to read it, I was shocked.

No matter what happens, I feel like this gives me a much needed and appreciated push to try even harder and keep at it. So, if anyone out there’s reading this, KEEP AT IT!! Keep believing even when you get a hundred rejections. Keep trying, keep writing, keep submitting. If you believe in your dream and your abilities, don’t listen to any naysayers!

I do hear how much harder actually selling a book is, and that getting an agent is so much less than half the battle, blah blah blah. I know it’s got to be true, but I’m not going to let those bridges rain on my parade (do bridges rain?) because they’re nowhere near being crossed yet. One day at a time.

It went hand-in-hand with three quotes I read a few days later:

The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that life and power comes after we ‘get up and get going’. God does not give us overcoming life – He gives us life as we overcome. We have to take the initiative. (Oswald Chambers)

I cannot make myself acceptable to all people, and neither can you, but we can believe God will give us favor with the people He wants us involved with . . . Once we know who we are and accept ourselves, we no longer have anything to prove. (Joyce Meyer)

Secure people who know God loves them and has a plan for them are not threatened by the abilities of others. They enjoy what other people can do, and they enjoy what they can do. Our goal should be to find out what we individually are supposed to be, and then succeed at being that. (Joyce Meyer)

The first one is the sort of thing much easier believed once you’ve experienced it. Nothing’s going to happen if I sit and dream about getting published, about making writing my main focus in life. No query-fairy is gonna come down out of the sky and grant me a request. I’ve just got to hope and believe I’ve got a shot, and go for it. I believe that all the other doors in my life had to slam shut for me to take time out to give writing a shot, and if it never works out, then it wasn’t meant to be. But I don’t find out until I take the initiative and step out and do something about it.

The next two are linked. I am a person who struggles with self-esteem and self-confidence, and always have. But when I was little, not nearly as much. Anyhow, I’ve lived a life so far of wasting WAY too much time comparing myself to others. “She’s pretty, she’s a homeowner, she has a proper career, she has a huge savings account, she speaks confidently in social situations, she speaks 6 languages, she looks amazing in a bikini,” etc. Whatever.

I am finally getting to the stage where I am okay with who I am, and that acceptance is very slowly helping me to stop trying so hard to prove myself to others. But the key is the simple fact that I will NEVER please everyone. Ever. I am *such* a people-pleaser and am so guilty of backing down when I think it’ll make the other person happy. But in accepting that I’m never going to make everyone happy or like me no matter how much I back down or try to appease them, forget it!

Bottom line. I will *never* make everyone like me. I’ll never make every person happy. That sets me free! I need to remind myself of it daily.

And the last one – that’s a tough one for me. I’ve wanted to be good at so many things: playing bass guitar, painting, acting, singing, piano, guitar, dance, writing, photography, film editing. I’ve always had way too many interests and struggled to narrow them down into what I could be best at, and happiest with. But the more I practice writing (and I definitely have my film degree to thank for a lot of that practice), the more I learn about the publishing industry, the better I feel about where I’m going. I will always love painting and music and everything else, but I feel like – right now, at least – this is my calling, and if I can be great at one thing, and happy with myself in one thing, then I shouldn’t need to compare myself to the people at volleyball every week who can spike the ball in my face, or the friends who can run a 10k without breaking a sweat. I enjoy those things, but nowhere does it say I have to be amazing at them all. That pressure only comes from within.

And that goes for the querying stage, too: some writers I talk to online might get 4 requests for fulls on their first try; I have my own path, and I might not be the best query writer in the world, but I need to try harder. I believe in my manuscripts, and they deserve my effort, at the same time as being thrilled for others.

Sorry for such a long entry, but this all seemed to tie together 🙂

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