So, no one is showing up. The retweets aren’t coming. Your inbox is empty. The callback never came. No one seems to notice what you’re sharing with the world. You feel like you’re wasting your time.
Only a few people have seen your work and said: “Well done.” Others were confused or uninterested.
You seek more validation, but you’re seemingly insatiable. You await the moment when all that you do is considered credible.
What do your friends say? What do your co-workers say? What do your toughest critics say?
Somehow, what you believe about yourself doesn’t matter as much. It doesn’t hold much weight.
This process leaves you feeling isolated. Some of this is a result of you pushing away those who actually matter. Some of this is the sadness that comes with you concluding that you don’t measure up.
Let’s be clear about this. You’ve been working your absolute hardest for a long time. You’ve cried from the exhaustion.
There are stacks of dusty rough drafts no one is allowed to see. Some ideas are tucked away because they’re too outrageous, outlandish, impractical.
“This won’t work. And it if does, no one will like it.” Bitterness and hopelessness taken up residence. They appear to be permanent tenants.
You’re giving up.
You think back to that time someone told you that your work sucked. Maybe they laughed at you. Maybe they minimized everything you brought forth. Maybe they promised they’d show up, but they didn’t. It was just an audience of one: Disappointment.
Disappointment has been hovering over every single one of your creations. It muddies things. It renders you incapable of seeing all those other good and needed parts of you.
Because you are needed. Your work is needed. What you have to give is what you have to give. No one can take that away from you.
Alas, the most formidable threat to your work, the most challenging adversary to all that you will ever do or create, is you. Every time you pull back and keep your gifts, skills, talents, products, projects, music, cuisine, teaching, love, dancing, writing, anything from the the world, someone loses.
This is not to say that everything you do is ground-breaking or awe-inspiring. It is to say that the thing which you’ve put a lot into matters.
You have no idea of who is better off because you’re here. And, you don’t get to say all of what your positive impact has been on others.
You’d surely miss something.
You don’t truly get to say what your work can and can’t do, because you will never be able to read the heart and mind of everyone whose path you’ve crossed.
While you’re permitted to give up, quit, run away, hide, or shrink someone misses out on their blessing.
Every time you hide your light, someone loses.
All of your fears, feelings, and reluctance is valid because hurt is real and harm is sometimes everlasting. Guilt nor shame have any place here.
This is simply a reminder: what you have to give matters so much.
I say all this with grace and love and openness, knowing that everyone doesn’t have the access and privilege and space to do all they wish to do. This is about all that you can give right where you are right now. Whether it be glamorous, or unassuming. Require funding or none at all.
I say this from the deepest parts of me because I too have wanted to give up so many times (and have) because I didn’t get the feedback I wanted. I didn’t get the response I thought I needed. I created and created and no one came. There have been times when I’ve set things up and no one showed up.
I can easily call back those feelings. At times, I still feel afraid of launching something new, sharing something I care about, or showing others my work. I’ve faced rejection countless times.
What’s often hurt most is feeling misunderstood and convincing myself that what I do isn’t actually useful to anyone. But, today, I’m sure that my values have been misplaced when it comes to this. My assumptions have been inaccurate.
I’m not here to share my light in order to receive validation. I’m not here to be the biggest change this world has ever seen. I wasn’t purposed to create just so others can show up and say: “Wow, that was just what I needed.”
To be honest, I don’t fully know why I’m here. But, what I do know is that there’s power in continuing to create, show up, and put out the best work that I can. Consistency got me to today. Consistency had me up at night writing this message to you. Consistency is what has made me a better husband, friend, writer, performer, supervisor, colleague, practitioner, speaker, Christian, human.
Not perfection. I’m wholly imperfect. Not fame. It’s fleeting.
Consistency: showing up again and again because all of this means something to someone, and it’s all so much bigger than me, and so much bigger than you.
It’s worth it because at least one person will come across what I’ve made, what I’ve let flow through me, and will benefit from it. All that you’ve been given, all that you’ve worked for, and all that you have, isn’t just for you.
If you’ve been hiding the parts of you that could potentially be a gift to someone else, I encourage to set aside a few minutes and consider the following prompts:
- What if my work – though rough, unfinished, incomplete – could help someone else?
- What if all the bad that was said about what I create was only part of the story? What if there’s some good they missed?
- What if I’m keeping a blessing/gift/invitation from someone else who needs it by holding back what I have to give?
- Am I waiting too long for this thing to be perfect?
- What permission do I need to just push this out and see where it lands, fail, and try again?
If you want to process this with someone, you know I’m here. You can reach out to me anytime.
I also encourage you to reach out to someone who does the work you do or makes the thing you make or is on the path you’re on. See what they have to say. Challenge yourself to open your heart a little and share something real. Then, actually listen.
This is what was on my heart today. I’m glad I didn’t hide it.
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