In my Sociology of Mass Communications class, we recently had an assignment in which we had to document our media consumption for four days, and then write a paper making a specific argument about one of the topics discussed in class using our media diaries as evidence. I chose the topic of media ownership after looking over my media diary and noticing that a few companies owned a significant portion of the media I was consuming on a regular basis. However, when I turned it in I felt really unsure of myself, and didn't feel like I had done a great job using the concept in my paper. I barely made it under the deadline.
Fast forward a week later, and our professor lets us know that overall, the class didn't do very well on the assignment. Seventy-five percent of the class would've gotten a C on the paper. I cringed. I was so sure I was part of that 75%, and let's face it, the odds were not in my favor. Thankfully, our professor let the whole class edit/redo the paper, or in her words, "revise and resubmit." I took this very seriously-- instead of revising my paper, I completely rewrote it with a different focus (the cultural view of communication and ritualized consumption habits) and absolutely nothing from the old essay. When I turned it in I was nervous mostly because I didn't want this essay to be worse than the first one. Fast forward to this past Thursday, and I get an email with my grade (I got an A, by the way). In the comments section my professor suggested things here and there to improve my paper, but she also commented that she actually liked my first paper.
And that got me thinking: I was so quick to completely disregard the work I put into my old paper because I was so sure that what I had written was crap. I sold myself short. It is so easy for me to forget that I'm actually a pretty good writer, in part because I'm so used to devaluing my own skills in general and because I've learned in various environments that my work is not good enough. This is an unfortunate habit of mine-- my perception of myself and my skill set is influenced by this idea that for some reason I am not good enough, that I am not of value and therefore the things I produce are in similar ways useless (or inferior). That's one of the reasons I stopped singing! Despite being in Chamber Choir in high school I've always thought that my voice was inferior compared to others, that singing as a skill was useless, and that even if I was good, I was never good enough to get anywhere with it. I never thought I could make it in a music program in college, so I didn't even attempt to apply. As a result, I left a huge hole in my heart where music used to be-- I turned away from something I love because I felt that I would be a disgrace. That's not to say that I'm not happy with where I've turned up, because I really love Sociology and can't wait to go to graduate school for midwifery. But I mourn what will never do in the field of music.
I am my biggest critic when it comes to my own talents. My poetry is dull, my writing is too simplistic, and I'm a poor musician. These are the beliefs I carry with me as I write my essays for school or sing in the Mills Choir or post my work online. So when a professor says I'm a good writer, or when someone compliments my voice, I wonder if they're just trying to make me feel better about myself, or maybe they've just haven't read good writing recently, or haven't heard singer X before. And if I make a mistake, or if someone gives me a critique, I'm more than happy to completely trash the rest of the work, and all works before it-- it's like watching Doctor Who, I can do it all day. And this ties into my own self-worth: if I think that what I produce is shit, then I must be pretty shitty, right? I've spent so much of my energy wishing that I was worth something, wishing that I was good enough (what is good enough, anyway?), wishing I had talent, and that really shows in how I relate to my own creative works both at school and in my regular life. Not only have I been waiting for my voice to be heard, I've been waiting for my voice to be worth listening to. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I started this blog-- to have something that was my own, that I could be proud of and think, "wow, people actually want to hear my thoughts. My work is worth something."