We’re Not Worthy

For the last couple of months I’ve been blogging about setting goals and making choices and making changes to achieve those goals. I’ve blogged about embracing our fears, and putting ourselves and our writing first. Last week I talked about ways to make our deadlines matter so we wouldn’t disappoint ourselves.

One of the ways I suggested to make a deadline matter, was to have an accountability buddy to set goals with so that you didn’t disappoint someone else.

It works, but it got me thinking — that and one of the comments about how easy it is to disappoint ourselves. I got to thinking that while an accountability buddy is a good thing, long-term, it defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to do, what I’m encouraging us all to do, which is to put ourselves first. To not worry about other people, what they want and what they need.

Everything I’ve been blogging about, and will continue to blog about this year, are ways to put ourselves first. But if we don’t believe in ourselves enough, none of it is going to matter. If we don’t believe that we are worthy, then there is no point in making any of these changes, because they won’t last.

What can be done, or how can we make ourselves feel we are worthy? Worthy of putting our needs first. Worthy of achieving our writing goals. Worthy of writing success.

I don’t know.

Most of my life I have felt unworthy of anything. I wasn’t worth loving, or having as a friend. I wasn’t smart enough, funny enough, kind enough, generous enough, ambitious enough, thin enough, interesting enough. If anyone complimented me, I knew they were just saying it because they had to because they were family, or they were simply being polite, and therefore it was never genuine.

Your story may be similar, it may be different. It may simply be that we’ve all fallen into societal expectations of serving others before ourselves.

Over the last few years, I’ve started believing in myself, and feeling worthy. Not every day, but the majority of days. It started when I was at Seton Hill University working on my M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction. I saw how my classmates believed in themselves (or at least gave me the impression that they did), and they believed in me.

More importantly, I started looking at the limiting beliefs I had: that I wasn’t thin enough, or interesting enough, or good enough. I wrote out those beliefs, and what evidence I had to support it. There was plenty of evidence to back them up. What I noticed, though, is that the evidence was largely circumstantial, and it wasn’t necessarily true. It wasn’t concrete. Rejections are subjective. Maybe I just wasn’t writing what the editors were looking for. Maybe my introversion makes me seem unapproachable. Maybe I had received numerous compliments and I was simply too oblivious to notice, and only took note of the negative remarks of childhood bullies.

Understanding that the evidence I had to back-up my limiting beliefs weren’t solid, I could start eliminating them. disproving them, understanding that they weren’t relevant any more.

More importantly, i started looking at times when I did achieve my goals, I did achieve success. I looked at my behaviour and my belief in myself, that made those moments happen.

I have to remind myself every day, that my limiting beliefs are the ones that are holding me back. I remind myself every day of those moments of success and what led to them. I came up with my motto, which is something like this:

“When I am my brave and assertive self, magic happens.”

I am rarely my brave and assertive self. I have to remind myself to be brave and assertive at conventions and conferences simply to introduce myself to people.

I have to remind myself that I am being brave and assertive simply by sitting down and writing, by putting myself and my writing goals first.

Does it work? More often than not, for me. But it isn’t the only answer.

We are all individuals. We all have different stories, different reasons for why we feel unworthy. And only we know what it will take to make ourselves believe we are worthy of putting ourselves first.

If my method resonates with you, great. Give it a try. If not, that’s OK. I want to encourage each of you, to look deep within yourself, and find what it is you need to know that you are worthy of love, of success, and of putting yourself first.

When you find what it is, when you find that belief, please, share it with me, and with your fellow writers.

Until you find that belief in yourself, know that I believe in you. And I will continue to believe in you and your worth, until you’re ready to take that mantle from me.

The Horse and the Carrot – A story of perseverance

by Ryan McFadden

So I had a book come out. That was October, and now it’s January, and I’ve yet to hit the NYT best seller list, or the Macleans best seller list, or even the London Free Press best seller list, or any list at all. In fact, from my perspective, it feels more like a whimper than anything else. Oh, I’ve been trying – trust me, I’ve been trying to flog this book wherever I can without being rude about it. I believe in it, I think it will entertain my readers (by saying ‘my’ I mean readers that are typical of the dark fantasy story that I tell).

However, success is a funny concept. I graduated a creative writing program from York University. I loved university, and I loved the experience, and I always thought that I’d be successful quickly. My best friend gave me six months to hit it big. That was 1995.

It would take another 12 years before I made my first professional sale: a tiny little story called Last Rites (which can be found here: http://www.ryanmcfadden.com/541/).  I made $5 and I was a professional writer (though I never cashed the cheque).

12 years. That’s a long time to be alone in the wilderness.  During that time, I continued to write and I completed five novels (though really it was a 10-year period when I did that).  There’s that whole concept that you have to spend 10,000 hours on something to become good at it. Well, my 12 years was about right. None of those novels will ever see the light of day.

From there, I sold another few stories for a few bucks here and there. My good friend Eileen Bell asked me to come onto a project called The Women of the Apocalypse. They wanted a novella! Why, if I could get a novella in there, I’d be happy. Who knows what doors it could open? Women of the Apocalypse exceeded expectations and we won an Aurora award for it. Why, everything is perfect now, right? Yes, for about three days.

Then came a call for submissions for Evolve 2: Tales of the Future Undead by Nancy Kilpatrick. Why, if I could get a story included in there, I’d be set! Sure enough, I sold a story. Everything was going to be right in the world. And it was, for about two weeks.

You can see here I’m going with this: more stories, more awards, more Auroras, more inclusions in successful anthologies, and now, finally, my own novel.  Success! Right? Meh. These are all things that I wanted so badly – and don’t get me wrong, they are 100% awesome – but they still don’t quantify as success.

I’m sure as human beings, we always want more. A little more success, a little more money, a little more love. It’s like playing a video game where you’ll stop playing once you just kill this boss…

Success is a perspective.  I also wonder if I looked around at some of the things I’ve accomplished (that all seemed impossible only 7 years ago) and thought ‘wow, you’ve finally done it’ if I’d stop. Throw up my hands and say “I’ve done what I need to do here, time to call it a day.” Maybe. Maybe the lack of success is what drives perseverance.

There are many who claim to love writing: unicorns dance over rainbows and little orphans find homes. But not for me. I don’t particularly enjoy my time writing. I find it difficult – nearly painful sometimes, but I also find it’s something I absolutely must do, that my whole being is centred on striving forward.

This all sounds so incredibly negative, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was that our benchmark for success continues to move ahead, which in turn, drives us forward. Perseverance is the cart or the horse, and the success is the carrot, just slightly out of our reach…


About Ryan McFadden:

I am a writer of fantasy and horror, with short stories and novellas published through Dragon Moon Press, Edge SF & F, and Absolute X-Press. In 2014, my novella Ghost in the Machine won the Aurora Award (Canada’s most prestigious award for SF&F) for Short Fiction.

My motley past involves such dangerous work as database administration, ice cream flavouring (seriously, that’s a thing), hockey league administration, screen printing, web design, furniture building, and home renovations.

He lives in London with his two beautiful, but sometimes diabolical daughters, who he is sure are plotting to one day overthrow him.

My other writing credits include stories in Chicago Overcoat, Afterburn SF, Sinister Tales, as well as a finalist in the $1500 JFJK contest, a semi-finalist in the Writer’s of the Future (as well as receiving two Honourable Mentions)


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