• Courage and Mean Pixies

     

    Being a kid is hard. I ranked low in the public school pecking order. I was chunky. I wore glasses. I was quiet and shy. I was the definition of clumsy. True story, I have a scar on my face from, get this, jumping into a wall. I was not a cheerleader, I didn’t play sports and I loathed PE. I hid behind books, and tried to blend into the background. Any one of these sins would have been enough to put me in the lower echelons of grade school society. The combination was cataclysmic.

    I believed the popular kids to have a divine right to social acceptance that I was not privy to. I envied their natural born ability to belong, to fit in, where I could not. I tolerated their teasing, hoping they might someday welcome me into their fold. That someday they would want to be my friend. Want me to be their friend. Much later I discovered that they, those other children that I admired and feared in equal measure, were just as insecure and filled with self doubt as I was.

    Sound familiar?

    As an adult, I marvel at how many of us, myself included, still carry around childhood anxieties, allowing them to bleed into every day life. I imagine those anxieties taking the form of a snotty little pixie with perfect hair and a tiny waist. She perches cross-kneed on my shoulder, casually kicking one high heeled foot and popping her gum. Her disdain at my puny blogging aspirations do nothing to boost my confidence. She whispers into my ear, rolling her eyes all the while, “You can’t do that. You’re not smart enough. No one wants to hear what you have to say. You will fail.”

    And, in part, I know she’s right. I will fail. More than once. Everyone fails sometimes. Making mistakes is an unpleasant, often embarrassing, but necessary part of life. I accept this. Not that I like failing. Failing sucks. It is how we handle failure that defines us. I hate failing as much as the next person, but is fear of failure a good enough reason to avoid starting?

    I offer up this blog as an example. I’ve wanted to start a blog for years. I love writing, and I’ve done a few guest posts on other blogs. I admired the courage of other writers, but I was never brave enough to create my own. Think about that word, “courage”, and what it means in this context. The anonymity of the internet is a lot like grade school, assuring low consequences, and making thoughtless cruelty much easier. Blog writers are cannon fodder for such cruelty. But… sticks and stones, right? Except we all know that words can hurt. Look at the words we say to ourselves. That pixie on your shoulder, the one that whispers such nastiness into your ear, is you. She might have the voice of another, a parent or perhaps a sibling, but make no mistake. YOU created her, just as I created mine. And the only thing I hate more than criticism from others is the regret that comes from taking her advice.

    One of the rules of good leadership is to maximize the talents of your workforce. The pixie is no different. My pixie has a positive genius for imagining negative outcomes. Recognizing the usefulness of this skill, I threw a harness over her shoulders and put her to plow. I asked her, “If I start a blog, what is the worst that can happen?” As predicted, she came up with a few scenarios.

    People won’t read it.

    • Level of mortification (scale 1 to 10, 10 being the worst): 2 or 3. I’ll just be one more unread writer on the vast world wide web.
    • Consequence: I’m in the same boat. Lots of stories, no one reading them.
    • The upside: (shrug) Well… At least I tried…

    People will read it, but won’t like it.

    • Level of mortification (scale 1 to 10): 5, maybe 6. The prospect of putting my creative work on display, open to criticism, is almost paralyzing.
    • Consequence: You can’t please everyone. Wait… Rewind. Someone read it?
    • The upside: Maybe I can get some feedback that will improve my writing (once I’ve picked up the pieces of my shattered ego).

    People will read it, won’t like it, AND will make fun of it.

    • Level of mortification (scale 1 to 10): 12? Not high enough. 15? No. On a scale of 1 to 10… 30. Yeah, that’s about right.
    • Consequence: I change my name to Jane Doe, don a face-covering veil and go into seclusion. Maybe a leper community will take me in.
    • The upside: I will have confirmed my complete lack of talent to that snarky little bitch on my shoulder. Maybe she’ll shut up for five minutes.

    Having completed her assignment (with, I might add, a terrible aptitude), my pixie crossed her arms and sat back, a smug look on her face. “Well, what are you going to do now?”, she snipes. Good question. I did the only thing left to do: I ignored her.

    I acknowledge that the third scenario is possible, and I could be made a fool of. Do I think it will happen? Not really. I think the first scenario is far more likely. Why bother, you ask? Because more than I want to avoid embarrassment, I want to be able to say I tried. So here I am. Trying.

    Please, be gentle.

12 Responsesso far.

  1. Pam W2 says:

    Congratulations on your new blog! You have always had a gift with words, as always, I am proud of you!

  2. Tina Smith says:

    Awesome first post Meg! Does bug spray work on the pixie? I’m glad you can ignore her for long enough to get this going!!

  3. Jeanette Sanders says:

    I really like your post! I’m just about to launch my own blog. Maybe. Soon. I’ve been resisting for a long time. But if I’m serious about being a writer, seems like a good thing to have. My husband just got it up and running for me. Just have to decide what to say. =)

  4. Tammy Fowler says:

    I love this, Meghan. I also totally identified with everything you said. This could have been my life story – from the nerdy school kid, down to the desire to write more, start a blog, as well as the negative little shoulder pixie. I think you’re a fantastic writer. Keep up the good work!

  5. Meghan says:

    Thank you, everyone. Your encouragement is priceless! ~Meghan

  6. Ashlee Jones says:

    I am not your pixie and I love reading your blog. This story reminds me of myself. Just like you I never did sports, loathed PE, and sometimes have fear, doubt in myself that comes probably from childhood, but I never thought of it in the form of a pixie. That is a good, no, great way of thinking about it. If you can create her, then you can ignore her, and then move on to the things you want to try with no fear! Good job!

    • Meghan says:

      Thank you, Ashlee! She’s a mean little thing, but that pixie does make for good blog posts. She’s pretty verbal, so I’m thinking she might get herself an entire section of this blog. 🙂

  7. Cindy Smith says:

    Fantastic post!! Looks like we would have had a lot in common back in those grade school days. We could have been the two that everyone picked on. Keep up the writing because you are very good at it!! I used to be a fairly good writer as well but somewhere along the way, well who knows??

    • Meghan says:

      Thank you, Cindy! And, my blog is always open to guest posts if you ever want to give it a shot again. 🙂

  8. Cathy says:

    Funny, I remember that lost puppy running! You did it though! Even though you were not a “cheerleader” think of all the things you could do that they couldn’t! you were so talented. Expressing yourself through the THEATRE was a great highlight! Excelled, top notch! Making your life the way YOU want it to be – that takes talent and determination. You and writing have always been one on one. It’s the pits at times to grow up but what a life you have! Keep writing!

  9. Chris says:

    Option 4.
    Do it anyway.

    Love it!

    I’m glad I had the chance to read this and hope to read many, many more.

    (Thanks for not listening to the pixie.)

  10. stephanie says:

    Yes i too still have a pixie from high school telling me i will never be quite right, wear the right thing and especially not say the right thing. She has crippled me for years, thank you for putting it into words so wonderfully!

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