I have this urge to write first-person things in the plural.
“We really think that…”
Who is we? There is no we.
It’s just me here. It’s just me responding to the email. It’s just me setting up the meeting. It’s just me answering a question. It’s just me writing a post. It’s just me.
So this WE thing…
Is this the Royal We?
What am I doing?
More importantly, what am I hiding?
Because that’s really what’s going on here.
I’m hiding myself, the singular writer, the responsible party, behind this We.
This “We” that makes everything sound more official, more accomplished, more real.
I’m hiding myself because I know my lonely, strange little self is not worthy.
See, I know me. I know I’m nothing special. But you? You may not know that yet. You may read these words and think I have something figured out.
And I want you to think that, because I want you to keep reading.
I want you to feel like there is something worthy here.
I want you to feel that I am worthy, worthy of your time, your attention…
Even though I know, deep down, that I’m not.
I don’t doubt my ability to write.
I’ve proved to myself that I can write, I can put words on a page over and over again. They’re not always great words, but I can get some words out.
But I do doubt my ability to write something worth the time it takes for another human to read it.
This is perhaps the biggest stumbling block, the one hurdle I find myself having to jump over and over again.
I’m running the same loop: motivation, energy, work… then doubt, despair, a slump…
Somewhere after a slump, I find a way to motivate myself again. I kick off another cycle.
Somewhere between the doubt and the despair, I approach this hurdle with the letters WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE printed on it.
“Who do you think you are…
… and what do you think you’re doing, acting like you have something worth saying, acting like you have a message worth repeating, acting like you’ve got anything valuable to offer? You’re a nobody. You’re nothing special. You’re average. You’ve got nothing. You’re just saying the same thing everybody else is saying, and not as well. You’ve got nothing to offer. You’re not worthy. Who do you think you are?”
Have you ever hit that hurdle?
I hate it. Why is it there? Who put it there? Who built that thing?
And why, every time, does it surprise me? Why do I forget about it, pretend it’s not real, only to have to face it, as if for the first time, my very next loop around?
What’s that all about?
Here’s what I think.
I think the big fat secret is that we all feel that way, and for good reason: the hurdle exists because it’s based on something factual.
I am nobody special. I am just another average person. I am totally clueless. I am privileged and fluffy, introspective and arrogant, inconsistently angry, naive, lazy, small-minded.
I am not pulling diamonds out of some secret mine.
There is no hidden treasure analogy that is accurate for my life. There is nothing inherently better or worthy in what I can come up with to say. I’m not crafting bricks of gold or words of wisdom, I’m just slogging coal down a chute and whistling a little tune while I do it.
In the past, when I’ve faced this hurdle, I’ve lied to myself in order to get over it. I bet you have to.
You know, these lies:
“You have something important to say.”
“Your message matters.”
“You are worthy.”
The truth is that I don’t have anything important to say. I don’t have a message that matters. I’m not worthy.
But the other truth is this: who the hell cares?
I don’t read stuff because the person who wrote it is a guru on a mountain. I read because the person who wrote is real, and she is writing real things that I can understand. I read because the person who wrote is telling a story, and I understand his story because it is like my own. I read because I want to know that I am not alone in this universe.
The words, the music, the art, the creative work all remind me:
“No, you are not worthy. But this person, who made this thing, is like you. Yet she created anyway. And it means something to you. So you can write, as unworthy as you are, and it might mean something to someone else who is also unworthy. And they might make something else that will mean something to you…”
And it becomes a cycle, a new loop, that carries me forward.
Forward movement, it turns out, is the key to getting over the hurdle. It’s not convincing yourself that there’s no reason to doubt.
That’s ridiculous. There are all sorts of reason to doubt.
If we think the only way we can get over the hurdle is by eliminating all doubt, well, guess what: we’ll just keep looping back around, facing the same hurdle again, because the doubts will always be there.
The doubts exist because they’re valid.
Of course we doubt ourselves.
We barely even know who we are in this universe. We’re still figuring the whole thing out. We’re infants.
But we are infants who are learning how to cry, how to babble, how to make little sounds at one another, and those sounds matter, somehow.
They matter to us not because they are sounds of reason and perfection and illumination and worthiness, but because they are not.
The worth is in the understanding.
We speak the same broken language, from the same humble, limited existences, and so we understand each other.
That’s what matters.
The moment I erase all doubt, I remove myself. I start speaking in some lofty language that sounds more beautiful, but is meaningless. Incoherent.
If I manage to believe in myself as special, as some unicorn in a world of donkeys, it’s over. The common ground disappears, and I am floating around in my little cloud of perfection, preaching to the air.
I’d rather be known than alone.
I’d rather be seen as my small, unworthy self than be unseen.
If I sound common, and vulnerable, and broken, and unsure, and hesitating, and inconsistent, and scared, and limited, and arrogant, and angry, and enthusiastic, and naive, and strange, it’s only because I am.