For me, silence is loud. Silence is deafeningly loud.
Silence causes my mind to race. It provides no clear task nor alternative focus with which to distract myself. Instead I’m forced into introspection, except it rapidly declines into a flood of damning criticisms. Self-esteem is something I never thought I lacked, until now. Even admitting that makes me feel like a fool.
I’ve always had pure disdain for anyone who flirts along the border of confidence and conceit. This has shaped my personality in a way that skews heavily toward modesty and quiet self-assurance. I never thought that was much of a problem before. In fact, its biggest consequence was sometimes being mistaken for an elitist. That theory’s easily discredited within seconds of initial conversation. The problem came when everything I had worked toward, and could possibly brag about (though I wouldn’t dare) was taken and/or ruined. Twice.
The problem with modesty and quiet self-assurance is that you fail to acknowledge above-average pieces of yourself for fear of being labeled a narcissist. You tend to let the confidence others have in you replace the confidence you should have in yourself. I do this.
Only now am I realizing this. It sucks but I’m trying to fix it.
I’m currently attempting to transition my career to make writing my profession. Of course I choose the one career which makes it difficult to run from your problems. I can fake the hell out of a PowerPoint presentation. I can put on a nice suit, tie, and fake smile while letting the “confidence” ooze from my pores in any 9-5. Instead I’m choosing to pursue the type of career where an empty page, full mind, and deafening silence is part of the daily job description. Writing is intimate. It requires hearing through the silence.
Because the things I’ve said to myself in these moments are disturbing, yet each feels valid at the time. If I don’t fight them I’ll turn off my iPad without having typed a word — but fighting them is no easy task. Perspective is the sword I’ve found works best to combat these thoughts. The only problem is that pulling back far enough requires a more tiring effort than the one which eventually dislodged Excalibur.
My thoughts are relentless. One after another after another. Each requiring a different labyrinth of thoughts and memories to discredit. “You suck at writing.” “You’re not funny.” “You can’t do this.” “Who really cares what you have to say?” “You’re nowhere near as smart or clever as you think.” And those were in the first 30 seconds. It’s exhausting.
These thoughts often cause paralysis, but that’s their aim. They’re not constructive criticisms, they’re abusive lies. Succumbing to them only puts me in position to never be able to prove them wrong. That’s the dilemma, because in the moment, I assume they’re right.
Perspective for me comes in rather whimsical form. For example: I know I’m not a great writer, yet. I know I’m not the funniest person alive but I’m also not the dullest. I know I’m not an expert on every subject. Well who is and why haven’t I heard of them? I’m understanding that there’s a niche in life that only I can fill. All of my talents, passions, and gifts fit this niche perfectly and not many can do a better job in it than me. Albert Einstein might’ve been an impossible chef. Picasso probably made demonic sounds emanate from a trumpet. Barack Obama might be a useless welder. And we know Michael Jordan can’t dress.
Yes, believe it or not this helps. I’m getting better at realizing that though I may strive to be the best, 1) I may never get there, 2) I sure as hell won’t if I don’t try, and 3) I also just might. So in the meantime I need to just keep doing stuff.
Self awareness + Self acceptance = Self esteem
I’m being honest with myself about what I’m good at and what I’m not. I’m trying to become OK with failing. Reminding myself that failure is either a funhouse mirror or a detour. Not in the sense of absolving myself of accountability, but the opposite. It either wasn’t for me at that moment, or, I just have to work harder to be more prepared the next time.
But in the meantime, JUST KEEP DOING STUFF.
I still believe that the boastfully proud, loudest person in the room is the most insecure — just as the raging narcissist struggles with self doubt. But as with most things in life, balance is the mark. Evaluate and embrace what it is you do well. Whatever it is, do not dismiss it. Ever. It is who you are, it is you.
Though silence is still noisy, I’m learning to control more of the conversation.