I Believe I Can Do Hard Things
I know that self-talk is important, including the words we use and our tone of voice. We’re usually trying to look out for ourselves, but more often than not, our good intentions are swallowed by feelings of shame.
But it doesn’t matter how many posts I like on Instagram about positivity and kindness. I’m mean to myself. A downright bully. I always have been, and likely always will be.
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’m in between projects right now. I got about halfway through the first draft of my #CripLit Rapunzel retelling, only to get struck by inspiration. I had a new idea — a “plot bunny,” as writers call it — that wouldn’t leave me alone. I wanted to follow the whims of my imagination, but I also wanted to do what was best for my career.
I found myself in a self-talk spiral — frustrated with myself, my work, and the uncertainty that comes with sending a book I wrote and rewrote (and rewrote again) to a variety of literary agents, along with all my hopes and dreams.
And then I opened my email.
“The Sunday Soother” by Catherine Andrews is one of my favorite newsletters, with weekly reflections on compassionate personal growth and authentic living. The email subject — “Do you love from belief, or from fear?” — grabbed my attention, but I didn’t realize she was speaking to me until the very end.
As the title suggests, Andrews posits that we can love from a place of belief or fear. We see this in our relationships: When a loved one is about to embark on a crucial endeavor, we fall back on cautionary statements. We tell them to prepare for the worst. To not get their hopes up. To do X in case of Y. We want the best for this person, so we act from a place of fear, of protection and care.
We do this with ourselves, too. We don’t want to get hurt, so we prepare ourselves for the worst-case scenario. That way, if things take a turn for the best, we’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Andrews says that, for most people, love is fear. Protection. Worry, logic, practicality — the list goes on. But what if we loved from a place of belief? What if we loved from a place of inspiration and encouragement?
I was nodding along by this point; I’m never unimpressed by Andrews’ depth of insight. But then she said something that knocked the air from my lungs.
“Take a moment to notice where you … might be trying to convince yourself that you’re taking care of yourself, or trying to love yourself, by protection or caution or fear, instead of belief and encouragement in your ability to do hard things.” And then, as if she read my mind: “I believe you can start that creative project.”
As disabled folks, this kind of self-talk is particularly insidious. We’re not just taught that disability is a limitation, we see evidence of it in our everyday lives. We internalize at a young age that disability precludes X or negates Y; we can’t date, or travel the world, or any number of things. The people in our lives love us from a place of fear: They know our worth, but the world doesn’t, so it’s better to play it safe, to play the role that is expected of us.
We even love ourselves from a place of fear.
“There’s no point in looking for love; interabled relationships are rare, and you’ll only get your heart broken.”
“No one wants to read about girls in wheelchairs. What’s the point in writing an entire book?”
“You’ll never be able to live independently. You may as well just give up now.”
The spiral of self-talk revealed. Discouraged by a recent query rejection, I convinced myself that starting something new was a bad idea. “Waning Crescent” hasn’t gotten me an offer of representation. Who’s to say this new book will? What’s the point of writing something that no one may ever read?
I don’t blame myself for feeling that way. Querying as a disabled author is hard. But there’s always another way. Now more than ever, I need to love myself from a place of belief.
I can do hard things. And so can you.
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