Be Your Own Cheerleader
It's in the pursuit of a dream that no one sees but you that wakes you up in the morning or keeps you up late at night. Life is better when shared but there are times when you'll need to be your own cheerleader.
Standing alone is an unenviable position. But even when you have someone in life to post up with as a team there's still elements of your chosen profession where you will have to go it alone. No one is coming to save you so save yourself.
In the hours when no one is watching you put time into the little things necessary to build your career and it can get tough to go on. But these are the moments to lean into. Celebrate your small victories and make them matter.
For example, being a writer is a very isolating career. We are alone with our thoughts for hours on end. No one sees the work we're putting into a novel, or screenplay, or business document until it is complete and even then they don't know the long hours that have been put in to create the finished product.
Too often we seek outside sources to validate our talents. Social media has switched the focus from social interaction to gaining attention through any means necessary just to raise a number count. If we don't get enough "likes" on a photo we delete it. When we don't have as many followers we wonder what's wrong with us. This type of thinking is detrimental for anyone but for an artistic type it stifles creativity. We start chasing fads, metrics, and analysis instead of focusing on developing our craft. Adulation from the Internet becomes like a drug when we don't get it our days are spent chasing after it.
"People get too high on compliments and too low on insults. Where so many of you are fucking up is you're addicted to the cheering but you don't want to hear the booing. I respect both equally so I can't hear either." - Gary Vaynerchuck
Critics have too much power over product. Why are people so dependent on what others say is good instead of having faith in their own views? I've written movie reviews, it's nothing more than stating an opinion. There is no school or even a certificate that makes one person's opinion stand above others as fact. So why care what the rating is on Rotten Tomatoes? Go see the film and judge for yourself.
Even when I write reviews here on my blog I always state what did or didn't work "for me." It's my opinion on the subject matter and how I viewed it. We all have different tastes and that's ok. At least it's supposed to be...
Most, but not all, authors are introverted. It's easier to put our emotions down on a page rather than speak them. So when we pour our hearts out into a novel and it gets torn down by criticism it hurts. We want to lash out and defend our work but it's important to realize in these moments that all art is speculative. There's going to be a divide no matter what you do. Even the most renowned works of literature, or the biggest cinematic box office hits, have critics who didn't like them.
This is where being your own cheerleader will be most effective. During your process of rewarding small accomplishments it builds up an armor of sorts. So that even if your work is rejected by the masses at least you can lean into the fact that you put your best foot forwards.
I know it sounds counter productive. If you spent all this time creating something and it isn't embraced by the audience the feeling is like a punch in the gut. At first you won't want to keep going. But you can learn from almost every review you get, good or bad. When I was competing in fitness I put in one of the worst performance times on the obstacle course race which was part of my event. I'd be kicking myself for weeks afterwards thinking of how I failed. Then one day I met Olympic jump rope champion Buddy Lee. I told him about my poor showing at the competition and I'll never forget his response.
"Did you do everything you could to prepare for the event?" "Yes," I replied. "Then what are you carrying on about? You did your best, that's all you can ask of yourself."
In his words I found solace because I knew it was true. I did my best and it didn't go well. Such is life. You learn from failures and and move on. The following year I turned in one of my best times ever. Instead of using the disappointment as a crutch to quit I used it to propel myself forward and do better the next time.
It's the same with your work, be it writing or art or anything else that stirs your heart. Don't ever quit in the face of criticism. Learn what you can from the experience and please know that in this day and age complaining is the "cool" thing to do. It's rare that someone will go on Yelp or TripAdvisor and leave a nice review if they enjoyed their service at a restaurant or their stay at a hotel. But if they had a bad experience they want to run and tell the world.
Same goes with any artistic medium these days. So cheer for yourself.
Clap for yourself and cheer from the sidelines as you make strides towards the life and career you always wanted.