Praise can be debilitating (Day 9)

Someone told me today that they really liked my writing style. I want to let you know this isn’t my “writing style”. This is my thoughts directly onto the page. And writing something unfiltered like this is absolutely terrifying. But also gratifying. First, I felt naked, then I felt open. I love everyone.

I can’t write about League of Legends today because I’ve been wrestling with something else. I am past the self-doubt phase. I look at my past posts and am more-or-less in agreement with them. If no one else thinks it’s true, that’s fine. I think it’s truth and hopefully, you do too. The new fear that I’ve been wrestling with is this. “How can I keep this up? How do I keep writing good stuff every day? What if I just write something really shitty today?” I don’t really know the answer, let’s walk through my thoughts and see if I reach one by the end of the post.

I went out to dinner with my team today and it was excellent. We had a really great time, everyone was so open and it was probably one of the most fun times I’ve had in my life. The new thing I experienced was direct praise for my blog. People were bringing it up and telling me, “You inspired me to do (something)!” “You are a really good writer, James!”, “Wow, this blog is really cool!”, “I look forward to seeing your game some day!” I was happy to hear that, but after a while I couldn’t help but think, “I hope I don’t let those people down.”

I sit here tonight with nagging fears that I might not write something as “good” as the things I wrote in the past. This isn’t really an uncommon occurrence. That’s the first thing that is calming me right now. History is riddled with “one-hit wonders” who collapse under the expectations of their newfound fame and praise. I imagine Eminem was thinking exactly the same thing after he released “The Real Slim Shady” to raving success. He was probably besides himself sitting at that desk, pen in hand, thinking, “What if the well dries up? What if I’m not actually that good?”

I realize now those questions aren’t the right questions to ask.They are the symptom of this recurring theme I keep coming back to. Unrealistic expectations. Praise can be debilitating if you internalize it. If you take it and tell yourself to hold yourself to higher standards, you have just raised the bar past what you can comfortably climb. You need to realize that you haven’t made that jump yet. You are at step three, or in my case Day 10. You are still new, even though the outcomes say otherwise. You are still new, you are still learning.

Sudden extreme success has that effect on people where they begin to believe they are their success. “I won the World Series of Poker, I must be the greatest poker player ever. Hey girl, want to talk to the best poker player ever?” And then that person never enters another poker tournament again. He is paralyzed by this newly-formed, artificial expectation of himself. He will forever be in fear of not living up to that standard and therefore avoid doing that activity ever again.

This is exactly what happens to so many students once they start to reach a point where they can’t coast anymore. I was that student. I was pretty damn smart as a kid, but at some point in life, smart doesn’t cut it. I couldn’t take it since I had built my self-image on being smart. Building your self-image on being smart really hurts you everywhere in your life. You start not speaking up in fear of saying something wrong because if you say something wrong, you can’t possibly be smart. You start not trying things because it’s supposed to come easy to you and you can’t do it wrong the first time. No, I am not smart. I make mistakes and I am learning, like everyone else.

Really, building your self-image on anything external makes you a slave to that external thing. Your self-worth is now tied to whether you have that external thing or not. If you base your self-worth on how much money you make, you will be unhappy if you don’t make that much. And even then, you will view everyone else on this hierarchy of how much they make. “Oh man, that guy is a millionaire, he’s so much better than me.” That’s false. He is exactly as good as he was before he had that money. If you base your worth on how many friends you have, your self-worth depends on whether or not you have friends. You are a slave to friends. If you reject that and accept that you have worth even if you have no money and no friends, you are no longer beholden to those things. I had to accept that I might not be a good writer. I might not write a good post today. If I accept that, I can post with a clear conscience.

So no, I am not a good writer. I am James, the awkward, fallible developer who thought it would be cool to write what I think every day for the past 10 days. It’s been 10 days. I can’t possibly be a writer. I refuse to internalize that praise. I give myself permission to write a shitty post and try again tomorrow.

Please subscribe, share and like so I can share my realizations with more people like you 🙂

Starting stopwatch…
Time: 29 minutes, 49 seconds
Git Commit
-I am commenting up all the source code I wrote over the past few days
-Revisited RequireJS
-Finished commenting up main, still wrapping head around rest

To be honest, it has been hard to focus on this while I write these candid blog posts. Productivity will increase when my mind is settled.

[P.S. This has been amazing writing my way through these mental blocks with you and I think it’s really unique. I feel like people who do radically new things go through exactly these thoughts, but they only talk about them after the thoughts are a memory. That’s when they start saying things like, “Take it one day at a time” or “Don’t let it get to your head”. That isn’t a mindset, that’s a trite saying. It doesn’t tell the whole story. I hope I have succeeded in walking you through how I settled my internal fears as they arose and maybe helped you settle yours.]

Praise can be debilitating (Day 9)

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