A few people I know are either struggling with issues of self-hatred or concerned discovering the negative things others’ think about themselves, and it’s gotten me really investigating my own feelings towards myself.
Mostly, my thoughts about me are negative. How much I hate myself has got to have a huge impact on my mental health. Keeping track of my dream patterns and doing some reading into what certain symbols in dreams mean has actually highlighted some of the things I’ve been subconsciously believing about myself, such as that I’m a bad person.
However, the rather harmful belief is that my writing skills aren’t valuable.
I learned to read at a very young age by memorizing stories people read to me and then matching the oral words to the written. Pretty much as soon as I got that down, I started writing.
I vividly remember one dinner when I was about eight where I asked one of my dad’s friend how she lost her eyesight. I then wrote the story How Mrs. Threadkell became blind, accompanied by a picture I drew of her, and left it as a parting gift at the end of the evening.
In Grade 3, when the teacher tasked us all with writing a short story, mine amounted to 30 pages which I tirelessly revised with her feedback. In junior high, I was thrilled when we were assigned essays and in high school I chose to do a book report on Timothy Findley’s more than 800 page Headhunter when other students were choosing quick and easy reads. Until university, I devoured books of every genre and wrote everything from poetry to research papers for fun.
People have told me I’m a good writer and I do think, to a certain extent, that I am. But I also think that anyone can be. As an editor, I’ve watched enough new writers develop to know that it’s something almost anyone can learn to do well. Plus, I’ve been writing since before I could multiply numbers.
I took this attitude with me into ACI’s The Art of Managing Your Career course last year. While the artists in the class focused on the business side of their arts practice, I wondered if I even belonged in a room full of artists as a writer. I was so self-conscious, despite the other writer in the room who I really respected, that I completely shut down and became a sputtering ball of anxiety.
In a conversation with Chris Redekop during an episode of Red River Ransom, I stated publicly that I don’t think writing is an art form. He disagreed, and he’s a super cool dude who makes really fantastic art, so I needed to stop and re-evaluate my beliefs.
Any art form can be mastered by anyone. When I wanted to be a visual artist and spent hours painting and drawing, I created some beautiful pieces. People who have never played an instrument have become successful musicians. My five-year-old nephew has discovered dance and does some pretty rad interpretive dance when we listen to The Lion King soundtrack.
This isn’t to put anyone down for being an artist. No one can make art exactly the way anyone else does and, of course, everyone has different natural abilities. Just because anyone can learn a skill doesn’t mean it should be de-valued by anyone, including themselves.
I wish I had figured this out a long time ago. Valuing my skills adds to the value I place on myself as a human being. Acknowledging that I am good at something that not everyone can do helps me love myself more, but also gives me confidence to put myself out there to get work, which is necessary for me to do if I want to survive as a freelancer.
At the very least, recognizing the value in my writing skills would have saved me a lot of awkwardness and embarrassment in the ACI class.