Writing is self care for me. My new closet office, I think what has been dubbed a cloffice by other writers, is my new happy space. One whole wall in our master closet is mine, and I’ve got ideas to put some finishing touches to make it cute. I love to put my headphones on, fire up the laptop, and type away.
Or at least that is how it is supposed to work. Yesterday and today, I stared at the computer, frustrated, blocked, feeling trapped and almost oppressed, even. Anxiety creeping it’s arms around me.
I know why. I even could have predicted this would happen. It’s certainly not that I’m in a windowless room. Nah, my inner hermit loves small, peopleless spaces.
See, I made a mistake with this #write31days project. I knew I should have just committed to writing period and not pinned myself into a corner with a theme/topic.
I convinced myself I could do it, even though a voice in my head said, “STOP!” I didn’t listen to my gut.
For the same reason I can’t keep a food diary, count calories or Weight Watchers points, I can’t do this 31 days topical project.
This weird fear of failure when I’m stuck in an artificial system is a big anxiety trigger. What if I forget to count something? What if a friend wants to meet for coffee at the last minute, but I don’t have any points left in my food diary? What if I obey the rules of the system, yet don’t see progress? To my brain, that’s like food legalism.
I grew up in a strict religious environment where you couldn’t deviate from the mostly man-made rules, and it was stifling. Follow the rules, you were worthy. Break the rules and judgment was cast. It’s probably why strict systems trigger anxiety now, revealing my fear of failure. Eat too many calories, and I’ve failed. I don’t show myself any grace. It’s a holdover from growing up in such a fundamentalist culture.
So, I’ve made a mistake. I’ve placed myself into a box. Write for 31 days and not only write, but all 31 blog posts need to be centered around a particular topic.
So, I sit down to plan my 31 days, I sit down to write on a simple topic and I freeze. I get that little voice saying, “What if you can’t do all 31 days? What if life gets crazy and one day you can’t find time to write? What if you can’t stick to the topic?”
And immediately, I feel the spectre of failure haunting me. And I can’t focus on that task at hand. Even though I know that you, the reader on the other side of the screen would say, “Hey, that’s cool, at least you tried,” I still feel the pressure to perform to some arbitrary standard in order to be deemed worthy.
I’m convinced this is a holdover from formative years in a legalistic, fundamentalist environment. My home life wasn’t that way, but the rest of my life, the culture in which I was raised was most definitely performance based.
So, all that self evaluation to say this: I’m still going to try to write for 31 days. But I don’t think it is reasonable for me to stick to a central topic. I’m fighting the failure feeling with admitting all this and deciding to change it up so early in the process. I’m instead showing myself grace. Grace is the antidote to my anxiety.
Renewal. Has God been really doing a renewing of my mind the past couple years? Definitely. And part of that is learning to give grace to others and especially to myself.
I can’t promise I’m going to write about renewal for the next 28 days. I’m still not sure if I’m fully brave enough to tackle tougher topics. But I do know that to me, writing is self-care. It’s cheaper than going to my therapist multiple times a week. And I’m not going to sabotage my efforts to do something positive for myself by triggering my fears and jump-starting the anxiety. I’ve worked too hard the last few years trying to get past a fear of failure, the need for approval, and fighting performance-based anxiety.
So I will write, and I’m striving for 31 days. And I’ll continue to explore topics related to renewal. But if I wish to throw in a few other topics, then I need the creative freedom to do so. I’m showing myself some grace. And I feel better already.
Do you struggle with showing yourself grace? Do you struggle with performance-based anxiety?