“I tend to base my self worth off of recognition and awards, etc. It’s been alright so far, since I have always done relatively well, but I didn’t even place at the most recent writing competition I was involved in, and I’m feeling real crappy. This is probs not healthy. HOW DO I STAHP?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Gabifresh as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
I can definitely relate to this! I’ve had issues with perfectionism and external validation in the past, and it can be a hard habit to break. You’re right though, it’s totally not healthy, so I have a few suggestions for getting past it.
1) Realize rejection/failure is a good thing
I know this is totally cliché, but that’s because it’s true. Failing at something you love is NOT a bad thing, even though it feels like it. This has taken me a really long time to accept, but not being the best at something not only teaches us humility, but also inspires us to improve. Every single person who has done something awesome has failed at some point, from to Michael Jordan being cut from the varsity basketball team to Steve Jobs being fired from the very company he built. How you respond to that failure is really what determines your success; are you going to let it get you down? Quit? Or find ways to bounce back and make yourself better?
2) Focus on the work and not the outcome
One thing I did in college was avoid classes I really wanted to take if I wasn’t 100% sure I would get an A. Crazy, right? It’s seriously one of my biggest life regrets. I was always really into creative writing, but I was afraid of not being the best in the class or that I’d get a grade that would lower my GPA, so I didn’t take it at all. I was totally missing out on life experiences and learning new things for a really silly reason! By focusing on having fun and improving your writing instead of what accolade or award you’ll receive from it, you’ll get back to actually enjoying the writing process. One way to get to this point is by taking a class or joining a club where there are no grades or awards involved. I was still passionate about creative writing after college, so I found a screenwriting class with no grading system. When there was no pressure to get the A, I was able to enjoy the class and focus on learning and giving/receiving constructive criticism.
3) Acknowledge that awards are subjective
I don’t expect you to stop submitting your work to writing competitions altogether! In fact, it’s often just a numbers game. The more things you submit to, the more chance you have at being published or winning one of the many awards out there. But at the end of the day, remember that award recipients are usually chosen by a subjective group of people who may not dig your stuff for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t good or valuable. I’m sure you know how many amazingly talented artists lived their ENTIRE lives without recognition. Imagine how many musicians there are out there right now who are awesome but never get signed to a record label or are never up for a Grammy. It doesn’t invalidate their talent, you know? Keep working hard, getting better, and have a solid group of creative friends to support (and critique!) your work. Good luck!
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