What’s the Biggest Lie You Tell Yourself?

by Jami Gold on February 3, 2015

in Over-Achieving Perfectionist

Notebook on a bed with text: The Biggest Lie I Tell Myself Is...

One way we develop our characters is by figuring out their false belief: What lie do they tell themselves? Following Michael Hauge’s advice, the answer to this question usually comes down to what a character believes due to their backstory wound.

For example, a character might be hurt so badly in an ugly breakup that they believe they’re unlovable. The wound—the bad breakup—colors their perception and worldview so they expect that no one will appreciate or love them. Instead of the stereotypical rose-colored glasses, they’re looking at the world through blue-colored glasses to match their mopey perspective.

Now the fun thing about my near-minor in psychology is that when I learn a cool character development element like that, I also think about how it applies in the real world. *smile* Just like our characters, we tend to hold false beliefs and lie to ourselves as well.

Several months ago, I shared an image on Facebook with this quote:

The biggest lie I tell myself is
“I don’t need to write that down—I’ll remember it.”

Oh boy, is that ever the case. I’ve mentioned before that I have a very good photographic-type memory, to the point that it’s hard for me to gain enough distance on my stories. Setting my work aside for a month doesn’t do the trick. Maybe a year would be long enough. Luckily, however, my memory is useful more often than not.

But if I don’t write something down? There are no notes to visualize in my mind so that photographic memory is worthless. Worse than worthless, in fact, because of the false belief that my memory is that good in all situations.

We All Tell Ourselves Lies

We fill our lives with little lies like that. Telling ourselves that something doesn’t matter, isn’t important, even when it is important and it does matter.

As writers, we’re often plagued by self-doubt, and that adds to the lies. We might tell ourselves that our words aren’t special. That we’re a nobody. That we don’t matter.

Just like our characters though, we can change. And the first step to any change is to realize there’s a problem. *smile*

We Can Change Our Internal Monologue

I’m starting to get over the lie of thinking my memory is good in all cases and all situations. Anytime I catch myself thinking that I don’t need to write something down, I think of the dozens of things I’ve forgotten since breakfast. *grin*

However, I wouldn’t be able to do that if I wasn’t consciously aware of my false belief. I’m still nowhere close to “cured”—as those dozens of things forgotten since breakfast attest—but at least I’m better about writing down the important things.

With the typical self-doubt of writers, I could probably come up with several more lies I tell myself, but I haven’t consciously acknowledged those. Without that awareness, I can’t do anything to change those scripts in my head.

To follow the lead of our characters and improve ourselves, we first have to recognize the lies we tell ourselves.

What Lies Do We Tell Ourselves?

The biggest, most common lie we probably tell ourselves is:

“I can’t do that.”

Maybe we’re referring to getting on social media, or blogging, or public speaking. Maybe we’re talking ourselves out of a risk in our stories or characters or queries. Maybe we’re putting ourselves down as far as our capabilities and therefore limiting our options for writing or querying or publishing paths.

Fine, maybe we can’t actually do abc. But have we tried? Have we tried more than once? Have we tried and succeeded a bit but ignored that progress to concentrate only on the aspects we didn’t make progress on?

Other common lies we might tell ourselves include:

  • We’re not worthy of…
  • We (or our writing) aren’t good enough.
  • We don’t deserve…
  • We (or our writing) aren’t unique or special enough.
  • It’s too risky to try to…
  • We don’t have a choice.
  • Our worth is determined by our success.
  • We’re too old to…
  • If we ignore this problem, it will go away.
  • We don’t need help to…
  • It never works when we do…
  • We’re not xyz enough to do…
  • We’ll never succeed/be published/improve/etc.
  • Our circumstances (family, day job, etc.) are what’s holding us back.
  • Our dreams are too unrealistic.
  • If we follow our heart, everything will work out.
  • We don’t have time to…
  • We don’t need to say “no”—we have time to…

Obviously, some of those contradict, or at least they might seem to contradict on the surface. Like the bottom two examples, we might tell ourselves we don’t have time to write, but we might also say “yes” to too many things because we’re not comfortable saying “no.”

Or the three examples above those contradict as well. Sometimes our circumstances really are holding us back, and sometimes our dreams are unrealistic, and sometimes following our heart can get us into trouble. Just like with our writing, we have to find a balance between confidence and being open to reality, between sacrifice and reward.

So sometimes those lies are actually the truth. But if we know what false beliefs we tend to fall back on time-after-time, we might have better insights into which situation is more likely true.

How Can We Overcome Our Lies?

As I mentioned above, the first step is being aware of what we’re telling ourselves. We can see what bullet points in that list above look a little too familiar. Then we can think about how that lie affects our life.

Back in my post about how we can show our characters’ false beliefs, I listed several ways those lies will affect our characters’ lives. If we look again, we could probably recognize how those lies might affect our lives too, such as:

  • Filtering: Magnifying the negative and ignoring the positive
    Dwelling on events that prove our belief right and glossing over those that prove us wrong.
    Get a negative review? Don’t forget about all the positive reviews. One negative review shouldn’t outweigh ten positive reviews.
  • Polarized Thinking: Seeing things in black-or-white
    Deeming any attempt to overcome a flaw a failure if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.
    Get feedback that our work wasn’t perfect? Don’t forget about what we did right. Maybe our characterization could use work, but our showing was great, or vice versa.
  • Overgeneralization: Basing conclusions on single piece of evidence
    Picking out a single word, act, or event to reinforce belief.
    Someone doesn’t like our story? That doesn’t mean no one would like our story. Writing and reading are completely subjective.
  • Personalization: Taking everything as a direct reaction to them
    Seeing ourselves and our flaw as the cause for everything others do or say.
    Get a rejection? That doesn’t mean they don’t like us. For all we know, they just signed a new author in our genre and don’t feel comfortable taking on another one right now.

Once we know and recognize the script, we can change it. Or we can learn to ignore it. Or we can stomp on it with an attitude of:

“If someone offered me a million dollars to prove that lie wasn’t true, could I do it?”

Could we find the time? Could we not let our age or self-doubt or whatever hold us back? Could we take risks?

I don’t know about you, but I could probably overcome a lot of those scripts if someone offered me a million dollars. And that’s how we know they’re lies. If we can overcome them with the proper motivation, it’s the lie that’s holding us back, not the content of the lie.

All that said, change is hard. I recognize myself in several of those lies above (“If we ignore this problem, it will go away.”—Gah! Yes. So much yes.), and I still haven’t been able to overcome that false belief. It’s easier to believe the lie sometimes than to go through the effort to change.

But maybe I’ll start thinking about that million dollars perspective. Could I do whatever I’m dreading for a million dollars? Yes? Then I should at least have the courage (and awareness) to admit what I’m dreading instead of lying to myself about the “solution” of ignoring it.

I suppose if my characters can find that courage to overcome their flaws, I should be able to as well. Let’s see if we can write ourselves a happy ending. *smile*

What lies do you tell yourself? How do those lies affect your life? Are you able to recognize when you tell yourself some of the lies? Have you been able to overcome any of your false beliefs? How did you do overcome the lie?

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23 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Melinda February 3, 2015 at 7:31 am

Hi Jami,
I really love this post! I, apparently, am a queen liar. So many of my lies are on that list.
I was *starting* to overcome my need for perfection. It took a loooooong time and very hard work. I paid close attention to my thoughts. Any time I found mmyself being critical of imperfection, I stopped that train of thought. It took a very conscious effert. I don’t know how many times the critical thoughts went unchecked, but at least I was stopping a few of them.
Thanks for sharing some hard truths!
Melinda

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Jami Gold February 3, 2015 at 8:35 am

Hi Melinda,

LOL! Believe me, too many of those lies look familiar to me too. 🙂

As you said, it’s hard to change, even when we know the lies. It can take months–or years–of being aware of the scripts playing in our head and interrupting them to really “cure” ourselves. However, any progress we make is progress. So it wouldn’t do us any good to beat ourselves up about not doing a good enough job at not beating ourselves up. 😉 Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Carradee February 3, 2015 at 7:47 am

Biggest lie I tell myself? “I can do that.

Okay, context makes a difference, and I’m doing better about it, but I keep forgetting how unwell I am, which only makes me overtax myself and get worse.

I’ve realized that eating actually makes me feel guilty—that my mother would sometimes even literally take food off my plate and give it to someone else, but she’d more often say things like, “You don’t need that; have some water.” She insists that she always made sure my brother and I had enough to eat—that she had starved sometimes when we were kids, in order to make sure we were fed. But I’ve also noticed that her vehement insistence usually means she’s rewriting reality to suit her.

“I can’t do that” also makes an appearance, sometimes, or “I shouldn’t do that,” or “If I do that, then maybe…[unlikely worst-csse scenario here].” (Anxiety issues. I have them.)

There are others, too, that I’m working on, but I’ve been feeling discouraged lately. Thank you, Jami, for the encouragement. 🙂

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Jami Gold February 3, 2015 at 8:53 am

Hi Carradee,

I understand–and to some extent, that “I can do that” lie is similar to the last bullet on the list. Except that the person you don’t want to say “no” to is yourself.

As you and I have talked about before with writing “advice,” we have to be aware of our situation enough to know whether something applies to us or not. Just as much as advice to “write tight” isn’t helpful if we already underwrite, fighting a lie that doesn’t apply to our situation doesn’t help us either–and can actually encourage more of the harmful behavior. (That’s partly why I put opposites on the list. I wanted to show that we can get in trouble either way. 🙂 )

Good additions to the list! “We shouldn’t do that” and “If we do that, then maybe…[unlikely worst case scenario]” are both dangerous lies sometimes as well. For some of these, we might be able to identify which is the lie by seeing which covers up our fear. “I shouldn’t break the law”–generally good advice. 😉 “I shouldn’t do this thing that scares me”–eh, maybe, maybe not.

And like I mentioned to Melinda, don’t get discouraged by slow progress. Any progress is better than none, and it’s important to recognize how far we’ve come. 🙂 *hugs* Thanks for sharing your insights!

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Kim February 3, 2015 at 9:42 am

Great list! I recognize myself in many of them! And I am definitely another person who has to write things down. I will forget in the moment it takes to walk from one room to another.

Lies I tell myself: “I could never write like that.” “If I’m not going to be the best writer, then I should just give up.”

These are the most damaging lies I tell myself. I know where they come from. They come from people in my young life being dismissive, not of me necessarily, but dismissive of people all around them. An artist, writer, musician, actor, athlete…anyone who wasn’t the absolute best got a dismissive wave and a “he/she is terrible, is ‘worthless’ blah, blah, blah.” So, now, if I can’t be a best seller and the best writer in my genre around, then I dismiss myself.

I’ve learned to tell myself that there is plenty of room on the shelves for me, even if I’m not the “best.” I also remind myself that art is subjective and there will be people who dismiss me, and that’s okay. There will be others who will like my stuff.

Thanks for sharing!

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Jami Gold February 3, 2015 at 10:43 am

Hi Kim,

Oh, how I relate to “forgetting while on the way to the paper and pencil” problem. LOL! I definitely suffer from “oh, look! a pony” style distractions to my thoughts sometimes.

“If we’re not going to be the best writer, we should just give up.”
Ooo, that’s awful–and too common. That one and the “We could never write like that” are probably related to perfectionism too.

If we dismiss ourselves, that’s also saying that we don’t deserve to (or aren’t worthy of) trying. But we all should be allowed to try. And fail. And learn. And try again.

Besides, as you said, reading is so subjective that there’s no such thing as being “the best.” What’s best for one reader might be crap for another. Or vice versa–what’s crap to some might be the best to others. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights!

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Karen McFarland February 3, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Do we lie to ourself? Wow, what an amazing post Jami. I think that having the ability to look at ourselves is an art. Truly it takes time and a lot of work on our part to look past the bull and see what’s truly there. And we don’t always like what we see. It’s tuff. But once we acknowledge it, we’re then able to move forward. Either accept things the way they are or do something about it and take the necessary steps needed to succeed. You are amazing girl! I am so sorry I wasn’t able to meet you when I was visiting over in Phoenix last year. Maybe next trip? Keep ’em coming! 😉

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Jami Gold February 3, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Hi Karen,

Yes, I am unfortunately very good at lying to myself. LOL! Some of these scripts I recognize, and the ones I don’t scare me more–because I might be lying to myself about not having that false belief. 😉 Good luck dealing with these tough issues! Thanks for stopping by!

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Deborah Makarios February 3, 2015 at 5:11 pm

I think the lie I struggle with at the moment is “I’ll never get anywhere with my writing, so what does it matter if I slack off a bit?” And of course, the only way to fight a lie is with the truth. If I keep slacking off, I will definitely never get anywhere!
I’ve been having fun just lately with my characters’ false beliefs, wounds, secrets & unbearable feelings (whatever they will do anything to avoid feeling). He believes she adores him like he adores her, she believes his brother-in-law adores her like she adores him… and the brother-in-law believes everyone is as fascinated by changing depictions of anatomy in medieval art as he is 🙂

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Jami Gold February 3, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Hi Deborah,

Good (bad? 😉 ) example! And that’s a great suggestion for how to turn a lie around into the truth too. Thanks for sharing!

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Lynette M Burrows February 3, 2015 at 7:46 pm

You caught me! lol Yup, lots of those are on my list. Though staying aware of the lies is hard when the list longer than my arm. There are several I have knocked down a few notches, but I swear some of them are almost an addiction. Your post reminded me of the big one I used to tell myself: “If I didn’t have to xxx, I would write much faster.” Two lies for the price of one – I didn’t HAVE to do xxx and writing faster is somehow better. Great post, Jami.

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Jami Gold February 3, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Hi Lynette,

LOL! I know what you mean. 🙂 At some point in time, I’ve probably told myself every one of these. O.o Thanks for stopping by!

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Julie Musil February 4, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Excellent question! The biggest lie I tell myself is that I don’t have time. I do have time, I just need to do a better job of managing it.

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Jami Gold February 4, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Hi Julie,

Oh yes! Time management is my nemesis. LOL! Thanks for sharing!

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Serena Yung February 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Hey Jami!

As a fellow psychology buff, I enjoyed reading this. 😀

Lol I actually think that EVERYBODY’S special, EVERYBODY’S worth it; we are ALL somebodys and we all matter. This stems from my sort of religious belief that God created us and said we’re “very good”, and he also loves us no matter how bad we are, so we should all be unique, interesting, worthy and valuable people. I believe God doesn’t make inferior or useless things, haha.

So yay my religious belief is very helpful to me in that way, in that I can have confidence in myself AND not fall into the trap of becoming arrogant either. 😀 Of course, one can believe that we are all special and worthwhile without believing in God too, but I was just using my belief as an example, haha.

Oh for those cognitive distortions, I can very often avoid them now, since I’m made so aware of them thanks to being a psych major, as well as being a psych major who is especially aware of these things and is fascinated by them, lol. I usually don’t succumb to the all or nothing thinking now, for example, nor the related confirmation bias (ignoring contradicting evidence). Sometimes I would deliberately let myself think in extremes, though, e.g. if I want to wholeheartedly love a movie, I would ignore its weaknesses as much as possible and fix my eyes upon its strengths. Even if I do do black and white thinking, I would quite quickly catch my brain doing that and correct it immediately if necessary!

More fun examples of me going against all or nothing thinking and the confirmation bias: I now very often automatically pay attention to and look for evidence that goes against a particular claim that someone else or I make. For instance, there are a lot of gender stereotypes, and I pay close attention to any gender Atypical behavior that either I or a friend displays.

This is especially important to me, since as a psych major, you are exposed to a crazy amount of so called “gender differences” findings, where they report the AVERAGE men and women’s behaviors. In my real life, I find that average gender differences aren’t helpful to me, and it’s much better for me to start with a blank slate when I meet a new person, because they often display counter-stereotypical behavior, lol. It really pays to treat everyone as a unique individual rather than a gender category. 😀 That way you can also make friends more easily, or appreciate your friends more easily and have more satisfying friendships with them, or at least from my experience, haha.

This deliberately looking for counter stereotypical behaviors (behaviors that contradict AVERAGE gender differences findings) is also important to me because I champion the belief/ philosophy that men and women are the same deep down (aside from some biological differences), and that beliefs that men are from Mars, women’s are from Venus are just bogus.

From my personal experiences, both men and women have a great diversity of personalities, that being a certain gender really does not limit you to only displaying certain personality traits or limit you FROM displaying certain other traits. I do realize that the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” book was written some time ago though, before my generation, so I believe men and women were educated and treated by society more differently than they are today?

I feel like today there isn’t THAT much difference in how people treat or teach boys and girls, and we pretty much grow up in the same education environments. So there may be even less average gender difference now than before. It may also be because most or all of my male friends, certainly my close male friends, are rather high on femininity, as I’m not even interested in guys who are LOW on femininity for either friends or lovers, lol.

Speaking of, I have the impression that people of my generation have more opposite gender friends and close friends than before too? It looks like a big portion or even more than half of my social circle of friends each have a good number of opposite gendered friends and sometimes even close friends. Whereas my parents and some of my friends’ parents (for those friends I asked) seem to have few or even zero opposite gender friends, let alone close opp g friends! I found that very astonishing since, as aforementioned, a lot of my friends seem to have many opp g friends and close friends…Or maybe it’s just my particular social circle.

Well if what I surmise about generational changes is true, then that may explain why there might be less and less average gender differences than before, as we are often very influenced by our friends in what we do and believe.

BTW, as a disclaimer, just because I talk in terms of masculinity, femininity, males and females, DOESN’T mean that I think people belong in those mere categories. I DO believe that each individual is different. “Femininity” and “masculinity” are just terms to describe certain pesonality trait patterns, NOT to describe how each person of each biological gender ACTUALLY are. And if we accept my definition of masculinity and femininity as mere descriptions of certain personality trait groups (not reflecting of REAL men and women), then I think at least most of us are a mixture of BOTH masculine and feminine traits.

By saying more masculine, more feminine, more androgynous people, etc., I don’t mean we can be categorized. They are merely adjective words to help us describe SOME aspects of a person. Just like calling some people “optimists” and some “pessimists” aren’t REALLY (or at least not supposed to be) to put people into predefined boxes, but to attempt to describe each individual a little bit.

If we look in detail, we would find that the reality of “optimistic vs pessimistic people” is a lot more complex. I mean people often call me an optimist, but I can be ridiculously and unreasonably pessimistic sometimes too, and like to think of worst case scenarios–I think the latter is a self-protective mechanism, so that if something better than the worst case scenario happens, I’ll be happy, haha.

Similarly, we can say for the purpose of a psych study, that these participants are more masculine, feminine, or androgynous, but if you look at the individuals, the picture is a lot more complicated too. For instance, a labeled “more feminine” person could display this masculine trait X, yet a labeled “more masculine” person could display the feminine form of trait X instead! Like I would call myself more feminine compared to this more masculine female close friend of mine. Yet she does some stereotypical feminine stuff, like loving to shop for and splurge on clothes, whilst I HATE going to shop for clothes in a store, lol!!

Omg this talk about masculinity and femininity is so long…Well anyway, yeah when I say more feminine, more masculine, or more androgynous, I’m only using them as basic, preliminary descriptors of a person’s very rich and complex personality, like calling them more optimistic or more pessimistic would be an initial attempt at a description. Ultimately people are more unique and varying than those simplistic labels!

On more examples of countering all or nothing thinking…LOL that e.g. where when you get one negative review, you think no one likes it. Interestingly, I think I got the concept that fiction is subjective drilled into my subconscious already, so if one reader hates my work, I automatically expect that SOME other readers will be more favorably disposed towards it. 😀 I’m not saying that my work is great. Just saying that if I like the work, and that fiction is subjective, then it follows that SOME READER OUT THERE will like it, haha. There will be things that are more popular, and things that are less popular, but that does not prevent a minority of people from disagreeing with the majority, lol.

In fact, I recently watched a movie that I quite liked, but was sad to see that it was so unpopular ; the theater was virtually empty on a TUESDAY even though the movie was only just released near the end of Janurary. 🙁 That was pretty shocking to me. But one reason why I liked it, was because it was about the ethics and validity of magically induced love (love potions), and I was JUST discussing the ethics and validity of magically induced love like love potions with a number of friends recently!! So here is an example where an unpopular work can appeal to that one person who happens to have something that the work resonates with! Of course “that one person” is exaggerated. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person whom the movie personally appealed to, lol, despite its lack of fans.

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Jami Gold February 10, 2015 at 10:42 pm

Hi Serena,

I definitely understand where you’re coming from with that perspective of feeling that everyone is unique and yet shouldn’t be arrogant. 🙂 My worldview sees people in that “basically good” and “everyone has something special to contribute” way.

I like your examples of starting with a blank slate when meeting people too. I’ve found that people have far more unique qualities than stereotypical “X category” qualities, but if we made assumptions, we’d likely overlook or dismiss those details.

Hmm, I’m not sure what generation your parents are, but I know I’m a generation older than you, and I had many opposite gender friends. For many of my years, I had more close opposite gender friends than same gender friends. That said, my parents were worried about that fact–LOL!, so you may be right about that being a recent-ish change. 🙂

Years ago, there was a book about the masculinity or femininity of thought processes. I think some of the findings have since been debunked (or perhaps, misinterpreted–as in many respects, it was more about brain hemisphere communication and multitasking ability, with maybe some left brain/right brain theories thrown in), but I still found the book fascinating. It included a test to see how “masculine” or “feminine” your brain was–I was 50%/50%. LOL! So I understand the idea of not wanting to put people into boxes. Thanks for the comment!

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Serena Yung February 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Oh! Lol then you look young! I thought you were only about half a generation or one third of a generation older than me, haha!

LOL I wonder what percentages I would get. There was this primitive test comparing ring and index finger lengths, and apparently I’m more “male”. I do sing Tenor and my voice is lower than some of my male friends’, lol. But I see that I have both masculine and feminine traits. 😀

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Jami Gold February 12, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Hi Serena,

LOL! Hmm, what’s the definition for a “generation” again? 🙂

Yes, I’m not very girly when it comes to things like nail polish (don’t usually wear it) or shoes (but I do love boots), but I also love chocolate. In other words, I’m me–unique and not just a category. 😀

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Diana Jackson March 27, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Whew! I see myself in much of that list of lies but it is a wonderful thought, turning it on its head by thinking that if the characters can overcome it why can’t we. My characters seem to work out problems far more intuitively than I do in real life.
One of my greatest lies is with social media – I sometimes turn facebook or twitter on with the greatest intentions and see everyone interacting and simply freeze. I can’t do it. I’m totally speechless. ‘You’ve got nothing to say’ goes the lie. ‘Everyone has much more confidence is another.’ Instead I need to become the character of ‘me’ before logging on … who knows.

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Jami Gold March 27, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Hi Diana,

I’ve heard of several authors who take pen names just so they can overcome their shyness or introversion–that it helps them “get into character.” So you’re not alone. 🙂 Good luck working through they things holding you back, and thanks for the comment!

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Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins) December 12, 2015 at 8:29 pm

I’ve been thinking about this post a lot off and on but couldn’t comment until now.

While one your “lies” is not being able to say “No” I also think there are times when we say “No” too much and close ourselves off to opportunities.

Sometimes we say no when we’re afraid to try something new that might help us.

Also, while you make the point that we can let fear prove our inaction right, there’s another side to this.

That said, I need to speak to one of the lies you struggle with, “If I ignore it, it will go away.”

Let me just say from experience, especially this year (2015 for those reading this in the future) there is a danger in focusing on a problem so much that it consumes you.

Case in point, my stalled education/living independently situation. Even though I’m not able to progress as quickly as I’d like, I also can’t pretend I don’t feel I have the time and safety net others I know do because when my grandmother (my primary support) dies, I’m on my own.

It’s hard to deal with my late-blooming life when I don’t have the benefit of my parents being an added layer of support. I can only economize so much from what little disability money I get.

I think it goes to back to something I posed in my reply to another post of yours that sometimes we have to put something aside because it’s causing one breakdown too many. Sometimes we’re protecting ourselves from avoiding absolute despair, which isn’t anymore helpful in our moving forward.

To me, that’s not the same as pretending X thing isn’t real, and will magic itself away.

That’s the same as overemphasizing our weaknesses as writers and ignoring our strengths, albeit the latter having less far-reaching consequences in the grand scheme of things. The basic principle is the same.

Sometimes it’s about the context.

It’s one thing to be fearful of something we’ve never done, quite another to be fearful of something we’ve tried to do MORE THAN ONCE OR THRICE and still not being good at it (i.e. Writing ABOUT our book versus writing the ACTUAL BOOK).

This is what gets in my way a lot.

Jami, don’t you think sometimes you ignore something because you don’t want it to consume you in unhealthy ways?

These days I have to make a conscious effort to live in the moment because I overthink things and project too far ahead.

But it’s hard to live in the now when “Now” isn’t great. It may not be the “End of the world” it’s also not the most positive thing ever.

Just because I’m thankful I’m not in extreme poverty, homeless, and dying of some life-threatening disease, it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. Can’t you not be grateful but still be in pain?

I know you know that, Jami, but I felt it beared repeating in the context of this topic.

There are people with autism who’re sadly stuck at the toddler level developmentally, but I’m not, yet that’s the common portrayal of people with autism, and while they exist, what about people more like me?

Even though I have autism, it hasn’t hindered me the way it does others, who need long-term care in the form of nursemaids or parents (or parental figures) for as long as they live. That’s why I have a hard time accepting my limitations.

I also feel a lot of guilt that I’m not held back the way those with the most severe forms autism, I should’ve graduated high school, so I wouldn’t be limited to being a janitor (which you know is not practical for me) and I have to do volunteer work just to prove I’m not an inept layabout. It’s not that I don’t want to do good for it’s own sake, but I NEED to earn additional income so that will allow me to give back and still take care of myself, and dare I say treat myself once and awhile.

To not have to overthink EVERY purchase I make like I do now.

I don’t think I have to be a trillionare to have that financial flexibility.

Yet here I am. A high school dropout. Scared of the harder GED test. Still lives at a home that’s not my own.

Yeah, I know I’m dramatizing, but that’s what it feels like, and I can’t help that. This is as honest I can put it without being overly negative.

I especially feel it the more I think about being black in a racially explosive world, something I shoved off to the side as a kid/teenager because autism and loneliness took up the most headspace, there was no room to think of race, either mine or others. other than disgust that people are oppressed and mistreated simply because they’re non-white.

To this day I can’t watch “Roots” or “12 Years A Slave” because what little I’ve seen of both has given me nightmares, made me unable to sleep, and turned me a paranoid statue like we’re still in the 1800s and before where slavery was considered a just right in the U.S. and beyond. It still exists in some countries, but it was a different world stateside.

I’m not in denial, I just don’t want it to make me a fearful man who’s afraid every little thing I do, everything I say, and everything I am is suspect. What’s so naive/unreasonable about that?

Because I have a temper, and the more I hear about how cruel black men are treated (even if you don’t have issues with the police) it scares me. It’s hard to accept the difficult parts of me when they have the risks they do. But I’m never going to be ultra-serene, that’s not a “lie” I’m telling myself. IT’s my truth because I know I’m an emotional person.

Shy as I am IRL, I’m not the “Keep my head down” type.Sometimes my brazeness does get me trouble, but I also don’t want to be the kid I once was who was afraid to speak up.

You said on one of your diversity posts the following-

“One black criminal doesn’t mean all blacks are bad, one Muslim terrorist doesn’t mean all Muslims are bad, and one mentally ill shooter doesn’t mean all mentally ill are bad. Our culture “gets” that with whites…”

I think that’s oversimplifying it. The guy who went on the shooting rampage at the Aurora Theater in Colorado was white, and he didn’t have an easy ride, IMHO.

The shooter in the Sandy Hook tragedy (which occurred almost 3 years ago, again in 2015 for those in the future) was also white, and again, I didn’t hear of him getting “Special Treatment” a non-white person committing the same offense wouldn’t get.

While it may sadly be true black people who commit the same offense get treated unjustly and more harshly, it doesn’t mean whites get treated more leniently in all instances.

Abuse is abuse. Whatever one’s ethnicity.

Pain is pain. Whatever your socioeconomic status.

Unjust is unjust. Whether your on the LGBTQIA spectrum or not.

As I’ve said elsewhere, in regards, I feel there’s a danger in letting what we haven’t done on matters of civil rights and equality, we start to falsely believe/project the lie that nothing’s changed AT ALL.

After all, we don’t want the civil rights activists of today to feel hopeless just to remind ourselves we have more to do.

Even though gay/lesbian marriage is now federally legalized nationwide (despite pushback from some religious areas, esp. in the American south), there’s still more fights the LGBTQIA community have to fight. But it took over half a century for gay marriage to come to a head, and that shouldn’t be considered “Small Potatoes” just because it’s not the only issue to resolve.

Especially when the most positive folks who were on the front lines every step of the way thought it could take over a century to see through. Now older same-sex couples who thought they’d never be able to marry, now can, and have the same legal benefits and rights straight couples do.

Now we still have to make adoption for same-sex couples normalized, streamlined, and legalized nationwide-but again-marriage equality under federal law should not be seen as a “Baby step” in that sense.

This is why I sometimes feel history can be a cruel master/mistress. We focus so much on what hasn’t changed or needs improvement, we diminish what’s better.

Racism still exists. I don’t deny that. But to say where still stuck in 1809 is to make everything that’s happened post the Civil War meaningless, like it was small potatoes. It wasn’t.

I’m not barred from being able to read, to vote, to own a home (Even though that’s ages away for me) and my children, should I have them, won’t have to live in a world where there are still “Colored” bathrooms, can use public transit and sit wherever they want, and people outside their background will befriend and stick up for them.

I also couldn’t get the mental heath services I needed if we still had the level of racial disparity as previously established in the U.S. circa 1809 persisted today.

Those are facts just as justifiable as what still haunts us now in the fight for equality and basic decency and respect for all non-white people.

I also think some black people (some within my own family)  have the tendency to see white people with the same narrow filter some white people see them.

Just as you often say, Jami, there’e nuance here that often gets lost in political dogma and discourse-and even amongst family and friends.

Just because some white people have mistreated my people, does that mean all white people are shallow, close-minded and cold-hearted bigots?

In a world: NO. That was true in 1809 (however much they were the minority) and it’s especially true now.

After all, we respect each other as fellow writers and human beings, you being white and my being black doesn’t change that. I’m glad that’s true in a way that was far more of a rarity in eras past.

Okay, I’ll stop here before I go too long as I did recently….

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Jami Gold December 29, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Hi Taurean,

Yes, I absolutely agree that there are two sides to most issues and that we have to find a balance. As you said, we could say “no” too much or not enough, and that’s one reason why advice that might be perfect for someone else (or for us at a different point in our lives) might not work for us now.

Like your other point, sometimes we need to make sure we’re not ignoring what’s holding us back, but other times, we have to set the problem aside because we’re not able to maintain a healthy attitude when our focus narrows too much.

We talk about this issue in a related way when it comes to writer’s block, but it applies well to problems in general. There’s a danger in getting too single-minded or consumed with a problem, as our most creative ideas often come when we’re thinking about or doing something unrelated. (Just look at the writer’s block suggestions for taking a shower, a walk, or gardening for a writing-related example of how not focusing on our problem can free our creative juices.) In other words, it’s entirely possible to hold ourselves back by focusing on our problems too much (and that’s not even talking about the unhealthy effect on our mental well-being, which can certainly be a danger as well).

I also agree with you that this issue infects society as well, in that we can focus so much on the areas that still need improvement to the point that people feel frustrated and hopeless, as though nothing has changed. And that’s certainly not true at all. It’s a shame that we have such a hard time as humans finding that balance between feeling good about progress and pushing ourselves to do better. Thanks for sharing your insights! 🙂

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