While explaining her downward spiral in Mean Girls, Cady Heron laments the ill effects of her word vomit — the inability to control whatever is coming out of your mouth regardless of the consequences. I’m sure we’ve all felt a similar sensation. We know what we’re doing is foolish but it just comes out, a flood of feelings, thoughts, actions, anything and everything for no reason.
When I started getting back into writing I found myself childishly hoping to be just the same as when I’d stopped years ago. I’m not the perfect writer, far from it. I haven’t been writing regularly in literal years and I know that that has changed my writing in more ways than I can count. Knowing and understanding hasn’t stopped me from feeling offended or shocked at just how bad some of my writing is.
I submitted a paper not too long ago and waited for a reply from an editor knowing it wasn’t going to be perfect but hoping that it’d get my foot in the door. I got a semi-approval, they wanted me to go back and edit it because it just wasn’t there. I expected it, I understood it, but like Cady Heron I couldn’t stop feeling the way I was feeling. I was annoyed, upset, and foolishly uptight. Now I knew that that was stupid. I knew that I was acting like a child and that no one was expecting me to be perfect. I wasn’t expecting to be perfect. But I was still upset that the world didn’t think I was perfect.
I can’t explain the sensation. You sit there, looking at your work, knowing it’s not your best but still being upset that other people won’t tell you it’s the best. I know that makes me sound obnoxious, I know it does, I think it’s obnoxious and even though I didn’t reply to my editor in any poor way or do anything stupid about it I felt stupid for feeling the way I felt. I couldn’t control it. I was acting stupid and I knew it but I couldn’t stop acting stupid.
Is this normal? Am I allowed to know I’m being stupid but just carry out my feelings that way? I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I knew they’d judge me the same way I was judging me. I can’t say that other people feel the same or if it’s just me — I don’t think this is the type of feeling you want to share with others because it simply doesn’t make any sense.
I was feeling inadequate because no one was telling me I was perfect when I knew I wasn’t perfect. Is this an ego thing? Or is it because I’m too embarrassed to feel like I’m not perfect? No one wants to feel inadequate but why not? If you don’t have the experience, the training, the schooling, why is it we feel embarrassed about not being perfect? It doesn’t make sense. Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” but there are times when I really wish I didn’t know “I am.”
This pursuit of maintaining an image — of trying to behave as if I’m perfect means I will never achieve progress. The next step to feeling jealous is anger. I wasn’t angry but I fear I could’ve been. If I got angry because I wasn’t good enough how was I going to get better? Being angry means I don’t have the emotional availability to want to focus on my work. The normal reaction to being angry is to stop whatever it is that’s making you angry. In this case it’d be to throw away whatever it was I was working on and that makes no sense at all.
After not thinking about trying to be hurt I let that draft sit on my desktop for a couple of hours. Eventually I opened it up again and finished editing it because I had to. I didn’t stop feeling shitty about it. I did it because it had to be done.
I think it’s normal to feel inadequate because you can’t stop feeling that way. It’s like the opposite of imposter syndrome — you know you aren’t good enough but you want people to think you are. I can’t stop feeling it, and I can’t convince myself not to feel it. I understood it was stupid but telling myself that didn’t change anything. I just had to move on. There’s no answer, you just have to feel what you feel and look at the big picture. If you get stuck on this feeling it’s not wrong, per se. You can feel what you need to feel. It’s your actions that determine the outcome. You know you’re acting stupid so you just have to get to the spot where knowing it’s stupid won’t hinder you because eventually you won’t be in the spot where you’ll need to feel stupid.