Here I go again, talking about opportunities to believe in yourself. But it's what's on my mind since rewatching the Matrix trilogy and seeing metaphors about outer vs. inner authority.
In one scene, Neo, a new recruit in the human cause, is jacked into the matrix, practice fighting Morpheus. Remember the line: "Don't think you can. Know you can." Morpheus is asking Neo to define himself in expanded terms, not let old thinking he's learned hold him back from his potential. Expose the limitations for what they are: limited thinking that suppresses his abilities, and embrace greater possibilities.
It spoke to me because I so easily frame my experiences within a context of outer approval, seeking confirmation from others that I'm talented and skilled enough to be a writer. Of course, we writers put our work out there and essentially ask others to like it. Not everyone does. As writer Shawn St. Jean wrote on his blog Clotho's Loom, writers stand naked on the rocks, exposing everything, including imperfections, and sometimes people throw stones.
"But inasmuch as other artists all must run their gauntlets, it falls to writers to strip themselves naked and stand on the rocks and in the sun, where all gazes, deserving and otherwise, may fall. They know they've done the reps, reformed their diets, put in the sweat and the time, and done their best. And yet, they also know that the extra pounds from drink or age, the stretch marks, the tattoos and scars of youth, the genetic abnormalities, or simple, forgivable imperfections may still glare out. And any writer sensitive to the human condition cannot hide behind the mirror forever: the plain fact is, some folks will not only not praise what they see, they'll be positively repelled by it for their own reasons, and they will spit out toxin," he wrote.
But sometimes the stones, the toxins, the negativity belongs to me. My inner editor is Smith, and he tells me I can't write a book, I'm not authorized to write a book, and I need to submit to the rules – not follow my dreams or believe in myself. Although I could trace those naysayer voices to my past, I realized with amazement fairly recently that no one is telling me these negative things anymore, I am. I learned the negative thought patterns, sure, but the power to disempower them is within me. Say with a smile, "Thank you for your input, but I think I'll do it anyway. I like what I’m doing."
There are many beliefs that carry the weight of truth, but they're just beliefs. I get to say what's right for me and I authorize myself. So when a reviewer rates my book as less than fantabulous, I have to give it no power to stop me or make me feel low enough to trigger self-doubt. I have to see the truth; it's just an opinion not a global truth about my ability. Owning my inner authority takes the sting out and reduces the angst. Like at the end of the Matrix, the first movie in the trilogy, as Neo comes into his own inner authority, he stands in front of bullets coming at him and they mean nothing.