I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Nothing I do ever feels good enough, and I usually feel like I have fallen short of the mark. It’s not like perfectionism, though. A perfectionist, I imagine, would keep working on one task and never let it go, because it feels like it isn’t ready yet. I get to a certain point, can’t see how to make it better, and just freeze. This usually results in abandoning work in a half-finished state.
What I crave, in contrast, is praise for a job well done. I want to hear from other people that they are impressed with what I’ve done. The feeling that it’s not good enough, however, means I tend to hide my work from others. Subconsciously, I’d rather appear slow and incompetent than slightly imperfect.
I remember the first time I submitted a piece of writing to a competition. I was nervous. It was the first time, besides blogging, that people – total strangers from around the world – had read my work to judge it. I had prepared myself for the worst where, in this case, “the worst” was a negative response and a swift kick out the door of the contest.
When the comments came back positive, I remember being in a kind of shock. You’ve seen actors at awards ceremonies laughing, crying and covering their mouths? I thought that was put on for the cameras until I experienced that feeling for myself, and that was just from a couple of strangers saying “Yeah, I kind of liked this story.”
One of my problems is that I find it very difficult to accept this kind of praise from my friends and family. They know me. They’re saying it to my face. Of course they’re not going to be objective about the work itself. Half of the praise I get for my acting is from people who think of me as “the quiet one”, so the contrast between that and me on stage inhabiting a talkative or panicky or animated character is quite striking. It’s easy to write off such praise, especially when I so often hear the words “I had no idea you had that in you”.
So I have trouble making my work available for praise, I have trouble accepting it at face value when it comes, and I have a deep desire to be praised for that work. Failing praise, I crave acceptance and love, although that acceptance and love, when it comes, causes me to completely melt down in a blubbering mess. Which is extremely inconvenient in public, if it happens.
If I have a point, I suppose it is that I don’t have the mental tools to deal with success or failure, and I’m really not sure how to go about developing them. Maybe there’s someone who can help me with that, out there, somewhere.