The other day I was working on a short story for the very first workshop of my creative writing MFA program. (In a writing workshop, everyone shares a piece for the class to read, discuss, and provide feedback on.) I was hacking away at my story, knowing there were issues but feeling unable to identify them. I was growing increasingly confident that the piece was complete and utter shit. Envisioning the impressions I’d make on my peers and professor, I flushed with panic and shame. The inner critic started up. Doubt and insecurity were in full swing.
Then it dawned on me: I’m exactly as good of a writer as I am.
I realized my ability is exactly where it is—no better, no worse. I can’t fake what I don’t yet know. That’s why I’m starting a graduate school program in writing, after all: to learn what I don’t know. Until I get that education, my writing ability is exactly what it is. Exactly this. And there’s absolutely no sense in layering judgement onto that.
This profound sense of calm emerged. It felt like the moment you accept an aspect of your appearance after years spent wishing it were different: “Ok, so this is what my hips / arms / nose / hair / fingernails / whatever look like. Exactly like this.” Shrug. There’s only so much I can do about that, so why bother dwelling in judgement?
It’s a feeling of letting go, a pleasant kind of helplessness. I’m already taking the steps to get to my desired result—enrolling in a Masters program in writing to get better at writing—so between now and then, there’s not much else I can do.
Since I had this thought, it’s been far easier to work on my piece because my ego has left the building. Sure, I want my story to be good, but I can only rely on the skills I have right now. And as for the opinions of my peers? There’s quite literally nothing I can do about them. I have no control, I’ll never know what they actually think, and at the end of the day, they matter little.
I’ve been noticing this perspective creep into other areas of my life as well. Feeling self-conscious about my hair today? Ok. This is what my hair looks like today anyway. Feeling critical about my (in)ability to do some fancy yoga pose? Ok. That doesn’t change my ability to do it or not. Feeling shame about a mistake I made in the past and how people might’ve perceived me because of it? Welp, not much to be done about that now!
I am exactly who I am right now, right this moment. I am working to grow in the areas that are important to me, and that will bring about change. In the meantime, I am exactly this way.
Letting go of the perceived judgements free us up to simply accept what’s there. That’s where we can see the options we do have for change. That’s where we reclaim our autonomy—and stop wasting energy on shit we can’t control anyway.