On a sunny, brilliant September morning, I was rowing with my coach. As we watched the women's University team pass, she muttered something about what she figured they were thinking about her—that if she was really good, she'd become an elite rower, for example, rather than coaching a community club team.
I countered that applying other people's standards was silly and that what she was doing was so important. Because of her, people are learning a new skill and enjoying an opportunity that otherwise wouldn't exist.
And then I realized that I apply the same sorts of standards to myself. I feel inadequate because I don't make big bucks with my work. And I question whether others see me as a "real" writer.
Writing is taken seriously where I live. Iowa City is one of four Cities of Literature in the world and home to the top creative writing program in the country. We're lousy with writers—we brush elbows with Pulitzer Prize winners at the farmer's market and stand in the check-out line at the public library with authors of critically acclaimed novels. I often feel sheepish identifying myself a writer in such refined company. And yet writing is what I do day in and day out and I work hard at it.
So I told my coach that we both need to stop judging ourselves by impossible and entirely inappropriate standards. Easy to say, hard to do.
How about you...are there expectations or standards you judge yourself by that don't really fit with your goals? No? Then how do you avoid such behavior?
(For the record: my coach is figuring it out. She was recently hired full time to be our club coach and says it's her dream job.)