Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Gremlins of Self-Doubt

A few years ago I came across a quote by Marianne Williamson. She's one of those life-coach people who appeared on Oprah heavily in the 1990’s, who spoke in an annoyingly soft voice. A very thin woman, she encouraged viewers to engage in “Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever.” 
Uh huh, yeah. I did not think I had anything to learn from Marianne Williamson.  But, as is frequently true, I was wrong.

Here’s the full quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

You have to admit in this, the new-agey Marianne nailed it.  

In writing, I am constantly fighting what my friend Linda aptly named "the gremlins of self-doubt.” Linda hosts this holiday party for our critique group every year and one year, I was awarded two tiny bearded heads on a string. Attached to the heads was a slip of paper with the words,
“It is not our task to eliminate the gremlins of self-doubt, but to educate them.” When I read the quote out loud, the room sighed in a collective, “Yes!”  That’s because we all have these gremlins. And they aren’t just about failure. Nope. We are also afraid to win.

Crazy, right?

Because here’s the thing: if we succeed, then we’ll have to succeed again…and again.  People will expect us to be more than a one-hit-wonder, better than say Vanilla Ice or the Baha Men.

The Baha men gave us "Who Let the Dogs Out?"  But SEE?  You didn’t know the name of this band despite the overwhelming success of their song. They disappeared because they succeeded (Yeah!) but then didn’t succeed again (Boo.)  And now they will forever be known as, well, nobody knows who they are. 

Still, are we really going to let those gremlins get us down?  Will we allow their mean voices to whisper sad tales of the Baha Men and their ilk into our ears? Should the gremlins be allowed to keep us from submitting our work to the agents and publishers who can get our words to the wider public, or from writing at all?  No, I tell you!  Hang those bearded heads above your desk and write.  Dangle them from a nearby wall as you read a recommended book about craft.  Shove them in your backpack and head off to a workshop or writing class.

Let.  Those.  Dogs.  Out.

Because when you hear the low and irresistible bumpin’ base notes of "Ice, Ice Baby," you cannot deny the pull. You CANNOT!  You will (even if secretly) gyrate your hips or nod your head because that song ROCKS!

So okaaaay, Vanilla Ice did turn out to be less than we’d all hoped (oh, for another equally awesome-played-at-every-wedding-and-bar-mitzvah hit like THAT!)  And maybe Marianne will offer me only the one brilliant quote. Or the Baha Men will never cause us to fist pump to another song again. But come on people, even if it was only the one awesome thing, they gave the world something astonishing!
We can too.

"‘Cause in the end, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be? Our playing small doesn't serve the world."


  1. Ice, ice, Juliet, nice post, baby!

  2. Such an amazing thought...thank you!

  3. Great, inspiring post! Thank you.

  4. Thanks for that push today. Every time I try to stand up for myself, a gremlin in the publishing world pushes me back down. But, at least today, I am aweswome! And I'll try again. Love you.