People often ask me, “Hey TML, how do you cope with the crippling anxiety and self-doubt that comes with no one reading your work?” Well, the answer is simple:
Not very well.
Well… alright. I guess I’m being melodramatic again. To be honest, it doesn’t actually bother me THAT MUCH. Sure, it can be disappointing to have something you put your blood, sweat, tears, and other such bodily fluids into be completely ignored, but really, it’s not THAT big of a deal. I mean, does it fill me with feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing? Sure, you could say that. Does it remind me time and time again that I will never be as good as any of the other writers and authors out there? Yeah, a little bit. But generally speaking, is it that bad?
Yeah, pretty much.
Or at least it used to be. Back when I still had Facebook and was a normal, socially connected individual, I used to suffer from a lot of self-doubt. There was a lot of pressure to get likes, to be funny and witty and meet a certain social quota. Most of this was my whole issue with needing people to validate my value, to reassure me that I wasn’t the sack of shit I was so sure I was. I mean, let’s face it: insecure people thirst for security. And there’s nothing wrong with receiving validation from other people. What’s wrong is when this validation is false; when it’s hollow and short-lived. Sure, it feels good for a moment. But deep down inside we know that it’s fake and meaningless, and it only deepens our appetite.
And when social media came along and concentrated security into a fast and easily deployed set of pixels, it became that much easier to feed the beast. It’s crazy how something as simple as seeing a thumbs-up icon appear on the bottom of one of your posts can become so addicting. That rush you get when someone legitimizes your thoughts, your feelings, is a dangerous thing.
Relying on other people to satiate your self-value is not okay. To depend on other people, strangers even, to validate your work and your effort is to resign yourself to a life of permanent vulnerability at best and crippling insecurity at worst. Happiness needs to come from inside, not outside. Because you can never rely on the outside to deliver.
Needless to say I was never a particularly popular person. But my unpopularity taught me something incredibly important, something I would keep close to me for the rest of my life: people are idiots. People will step all over you and kick you while your down. They will spit on you and they will mock you, and worse, they’ll turn their backs to you. You cannot change that. All you can do is enjoy what you do. Do it for you. Fuck the critics and the disinterested masses, and fuck the feeling that their opinions should ever matter to you. Do what you love because you love it, not because anyone else should.
Like your own work, even if no one else does.
When you post that post you worked so hard on, you should immediately feel a sense of relief and pride. Hold onto that feeling. Take it and run. Close the window, shut your laptop, and leave. Read a book, or go for a walk, or watch television. Do not harp over the likes and comments that may or may not be coming in. Do not stress over whether or not people like it. If you liked it, that’s enough.
So does it bother me, when people don’t like a post? Sure, a little bit. But then I ask myself: did I like it? And if the answer is yes, I’m happy.
And that’s all I need.