Studio Talk #14: You're Good Enough

You're good enough. 

You're good enough.

You're good enough.

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So many of us makers / indie entrepreneurs wake up every day and, before we even schedule our first social post promoting whatever product / workshop / service / event, we have to fight off the fears that nobody will want to pick up what we're putting down. And as creatives, rejection of our goods and services feels SO personal.

And it's especially difficult if you're already suffering from the age-old imposter syndrome that tends to plague creatives of all types, from all walks of life. 

So many of us who decide to try to do what we love for a living aren't really sure it's going to work, because we're stepping out from the familiar to try something new. There's no formula. No pattern. But in order to make it work, we have to convince everybody around us that it's a good idea, a necessary product, or a unique service. So there's this weird period of having to convince ourselves our business plan or creative idea is viable, while playing it cool and ALSO working on convincing everyone else it's a killer idea too. 

It's v tough to try to get others to believe in you when you don't fully believe in yourself.

And I bring all this up because a lot of people have asked me recently how I got to where I am now. And it's so crazy to hear that question, because, A. I still have SO MUCH WORK TO DO on myself and my life and constantly struggle with self-doubt, and B. Even 5 years ago I couldn't possibly imagine living a life that didn't require me to operate solely in survivor-mode.  

So I want to share a bit about my journey, but first, I want to dismantle the idea that I've somehow arrived at a destination, and be real about how far I am from there, wherever that is.

So first, here's an honest look at where I am today and some informing info. from the last few years:

  • It took me 7 years to get through my undergrad because I worked full time and suffered severe bouts of crippling depression and self-doubt that led me to quitting over and over again because I didn't think I deserved it and had no idea what I would do after, even if I did finally graduate (which I did, at 25). 
  • I  have over $10k left in student loan debt from my undergrad and almost $10k more from a mid 20's identity crisis that led to me signing up for beauty school, which I promptly dropped out of.
  • I have tons of personal debt (car, health debt, etc.), and no personal savings.
  • I have no backup plan. There's no one I can call if shit hits the fan. I mean, my grandmother will tell me I'm great all day long, then give me the leftovers from her monthly food pantry box, but she can't help me with money.
  • I've never had a successful adult romantic relationship. I know, what is success, anyway? But legit, the longest one was just shy of a year and I pretty much had to leave the state to loose myself of the hold that one had on me.
  • I have no parents to call and ask for advice about, like, how not to get taken advantage of at the car dealership or how to tell if that ground beef has gone bad.
  • I wake up every day wondering who the heck I think I am to be opening a business when I can't even tell when ground beef has gone bad. I mean, yeah, in my brain I know I have what it takes, but the heart is a whole different thing.

Aside from the creative community I've built here in Knoxville and a little bit throughout NC, I often wake up feeling a deep sense of solitude. Sometimes, just hearing a friend talk about how they were able to call their dad crying over a breakup or how their mom came to see them do a talk can send me back down into the well of loneliness because I lack a very basic sense of security that one can only get from truly having a sense of belonging.

Here in Knoxville, I'm learning what it feels like to belong for the first time in my life. And it's incredible because for as long as I can remember, even as a very small child, I felt on the outside somehow. 

Growing up I suffered from debilitating insomnia, stress-related stomach issues that, until I was about 10, made sleepovers impossible and camp hell-on-earth, and anxiety so intense I could hardly sit still in a desk. And the few friends I had really only invited me over so they could play pranks on me. And I let them, just so I'd keep getting invited.

I woke up every day angry that I'd woken up again, and when I imagined my future, I imagined a life filled with drugs, trailers, and fast food, in perpetuity. I believed I was worthless, repulsive, stupid, and ultimately, unloveable.

(I don't talk about this often, but when I do, this is where friends chime in and are like, "How are you even OK!?")

And this is the really crazy part. Even though I was convinced I was nothing, I had so little trust in myself that I couldn't even trust that I was right about that.

Despite how sure I was that I was going to end up a very sad statistic that nobody'd ever read about, there was this tiny tugging at the back of my mind that said, "But what if you're wrong? What if you do matter?" Something told me I didn't exist simply to despair. 

So I just started trying everything. If I just throw everything I have at the wall, surely something will stick, right? Wrong. I was bad at most of the things I tried. I was bad at guitar, bad at singing (so bad, my dad would hang up over and over again while I sang him Mariah Carey over the phone, but I was so earnest I'd call back and be like, "Hey! We got disconnected again; I'll start over."), bad at spanish, bad at sports, bad at art class, bad at science, bad at waiting tables... I was even bad at people, in a very real way. Like, I just didn't know how to be. The only things I clung to for any sense of self were my writing and crafting, but neither of those things seemed legitimate and they definitely didn't seem to represent any path out.

But... a few people along the way saw me.

  • My eighth grade english teacher thought I was talented and got me an internship at the local paper where I wrote obituaries and young adult novel reviews for a year. 
  • One of the writers at the paper saw an opportunity for me to submit one of my how-to sewing projects to a journal for adolescents, and that became my first publication.
  • My 10th grade math teacher spent so many afternoons tutoring me because he believed the time was worth it, even though I never got much further ahead.
  • I wasn't spiritual at the time but went to YoungLife in high school just so I'd be able to have some social experience, and it was there that one of the leaders took me under her wing and taught me it was possible to be loved unconditionally and that love wasn't meant to be used as leverage.
  • The owner of the knitting store in town hired me for a part time job and it was there that I really began to feel human. Every time a customer came in and asked me to  help them with a pattern and I saw that I made even just a small difference in their lives, I left that day feeling like I mattered. And I was a fucking annoying teenager and young adult. I'm sure if you asked any of the women I worked with (all over 40 at the time) they would tell you that they definitely weren't getting paid enough to work with a 17 year old with no social skills from an unstable family. And yet, I was there for almost 5 years.
  • And then there was a single friend late in high school who believed I could do anything, then a couple college professors (again, LOTS of tutoring), the owner of a hair salon, the founders of The Big Crafty, the owner of an ad agency... And most recently, Jewel.

All these people invested in me. They gave their time and energy because they believed it would make a difference. And it did. And when I think about how very different my life would be if just one of them had chosen not to, I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude, I don't even know what to do with it.

So I'm trying to give it back with this space.

This was definitely the reader's digest version of my life to this point, but I share it because, once we become adults and have achieved a thing or two, people take for granted that if we are ok, then we just always have been ok, but we all have stories and most of them aren't easy. And the truth is, most people who never got a leg up, don't ever get out, and I only got out because people believed in me.

It is so easy to be THE difference in someone's life, but it's just as easy not to be. And as makers in this wild unknown world of creative entrepreneurship, being seen is EVERYTHING. The world doesn't totally understand us yet, so we have to be the ones who see each other, hold each other up, and really honor the skills we have to share with one another. 

And it really doesn't take much. It's the little things. 

So if you find yourself feeling low, getting consumed by doubt, feeling lost, I guarantee this will help you feel better:

Just send a message to somebody you think is cool or talented or whatever and just tell them how their example has inspired you in some way. Tell them why you love them / their work. And then, remind yourself you're good enough to keep on just trying to figure this thing out. Because that's what we're all doing -- just trying to figure it out. So, like, maybe the thing you're making right now isn't THE thing, but it might be the next thing, or in my case, the 50th thing, so just don't stop.

K, I feel really sappy now. So thankful to be alive and doing what I'm doing. Thanks for helping me make it happen :)

 

Warmly,

Ryan-Ashley