We are all, in our ways, little Atlases caring the weight of the world on our shoulders. We put pressure on ourselves to strive and to succeed in all the things we take on. There’s a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 18 (1971), „Effects of Externally Mediated Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation” by Edward L. Deci which shows that intrinsic motivation is most times stronger than a reward/punishment system. In fewer words, we push ourselves to prove ourselves, not necessarily for the pot of gold at the end of the tunnel, but because we know that our work and results themselves have value to us.
Sometimes, this internal pressure can be too much and put a halt on our experience and growth. Namely, when we take too much of it on and instead of striving for results, we strive for perfection.
My writing adventure boiled down to that. I started writing at a fairly young age, entering prose and poetry competitions and even winning some awards. Of course, after a point, I started putting pressure on myself that everything I write should be praiseworthy and it clashed with my exploration of different styles of poetry. My ego told me that was a sign I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore, so I gave up.
I started my first journal close to when I learned how to write in cursive. It wasn’t anything deep, or I didn’t perceive it as that at that early age, but it helped me tone down my energy and think about the things I was doing. Showing some childlike appreciation to the happening of the day. My journal was found and read by someone in the family and I was a bit scolded for what I wrote there. In my naivety, I understood not that privacy as a boundary was crossed, but that I need to be careful with my words, even when I am just writing for myself. It got to a point where I was so careful, I felt I couldn’t put any sentence together without possibly hurting someone – in the end, those were my thoughts, but the pressure I put on myself for not freely exploring them on paper stopped me from even writing them down at all.
And here we come to the blog – my firts one went up when I was just starting high school. It was simple and tidy, just writing about my experiences, sometimes publishing my poems. I was even a contributor to some blogging platforms in my home city, the most notable one being a column on judging different stereotypes, because I was listening to good music and in my grungy-edgy phase.
Much entitlement. And yet again, the things that I was writing raised some questions. I was asked if I was depressed or if I was in trouble, just because some of my entries were a bit sadder than others. So the blog went to sleep for a while, because I couldn’t face those kinds of questions. I then brought it back to life with a series of concept articles, where I was exploring topics such as what can you do with lemons, what does hope bring us, who needs saving – the artist or the muse. Nice and tidy and harmless, but I was told I am starting to sound like a wannabe guru that just wants to hear herself. So that went to sleep. I later started writing about funny experiences and learnings from working in marketing, which also got some noses turning away for being too know-it-all.
Writing for me is such a freeing experience, but I couldn’t do it for a long time in a meaningful way. I was afraid of hurting people, being labeled or just overall creating a negative impression of myself. I put pressure on myself to tone it down, up to the point everything I was writing was sterile. It could have very well been a text that you would expect to get from a chat robot. That, coupled with my vision that everything I write has to be good…well, it made me not write.
It was a long road managing my need – yes, yes, I know writing is not in Maslow’s pyramid of needs, but it is in mine – and learning how to do that while being true to myself. No more barriers – if I want to write about things I feel passionate about, I do so. If I want to write a sad post, I do so. If I want to be edgy-grungy-judgy, I do just that (while also being polite, I learned in my tweens that even that can be done in a politically correct way).
And looking at the changes I see in myself in the past couple of months, I tend to think that was a big factor – I tempered the pressure I put on myself, started to write again, be it for the blog or just personal journaling, and everything else kind off fell into place from that.
I guess sometimes we need to tone it down in order to fully unlock what we want to do.