Image credit: KatieSz
As well as an Inner Dickhead, I also have an Inner Toddler.
My Inner Toddler gives face, voice, and rage to my least-favourite emotion: envy.
Here's an article about envy and its opposite number, mudita.
Mudita brings joy; envy brings shame and despair.
My first instinct? To throw her book across the room, scratch my face, tear my clothes, and get a job in the local café.
But that’s hardly reasonable, nor is it even approaching the level of Functioning Adult.
So I’d squash down those feelings and sulk instead.
My inner toddler does make life difficult sometimes.
Especially when said toddler pipes up with a variation on ‘I want that and without it, life is shit!’
My toddler used to ooze out of the dusty corners of my brain all the damn time, usually when I was reading someone else’s beautiful writing. In one corner of the room would be my Inner Dickhead telling me what a waste of time and space I am because I am such a terrible writer; in the other corner my toddler raged, trying to convince me that I until I had what they had and sounded like they do, I would never be satisfied.
Let’s put a pin in my Inner Dickhead for now (a great big one that cripples it).
Today, I’m addressing my toddler. For my toddler is pure, unadulterated, poisonous envy.
Of all the negative emotions, after shame, I think envy takes the biscuit: it seeps into everything we look at and it keeps us stuck.
It’s easy to feel envious of others when we’re feeling inadequate—and that envy feeds our feelings of inadequacy. It’s like a vicious circle-jerk of bullshit, keeping us down.
‘Why is she such a great writer?’ I’d ask myself. ‘Why can’t I write like her?’
And on and on my unfavourable comparisons would trundle, and I’d forget about my own voice; my own experiences; my own life-tinted glasses. We write to show people how we experience the world—but envy stifles us. Envy makes us want to sound like other people—and where’s the value in that?
Envy would cripple me. Because if I can’t sound like her, what’s the damn point? And so I would write nothing at all. I would create nothing. I would do nothing.
I would be unable to write or even think because the voice of my own inadequacy and envy would drown out everything else.
It was pretty self-indulgent, I think you’ll agree.
And I did not know what to do about it... until I had a conversation with my counsellor, Mark. I told him, somewhat shamefacedly, what was going on in my head and he did not roll his eyes. He did not back away. Instead, he reassured me that I was, in fact, a human being and this is how our brains tend to work.
Then he gave me a gift.
He asked me what I thought those writers were thinking when they put their work out into the world. Did they want their readers to feel this way? Or did they put their words out there in hopes that—yes—it helps them make a living but more than that, it helps their readers in some way?
He told me go back and read great writing again, but this time to read it with the intention of learning a lesson. With gratitude. How can I take delight in this great work? What can I learn from it? Then I can be happy for them.
Later, I discovered there’s a word for this: mudita. It’s a Sanskrit word meaning pure joy, especially vicarious or sympathetic joy, unadulterated by self-interest.
It changed the way I do everything.
When I see someone performing a beautiful trapeze or pole routine, it would be easy to be envious and think, ‘I wish I could do that, but I can’t and I’ll never be able to.’ It would be easy to just stop trying.
More difficult and much more rewarding to bask in the beauty of the routine, to eat it all up and luxuriate in it, then be inspired to do better myself.
We can do the same for great writing.
We can let our toddlers grind us down and keep us from doing anything magnificent of our own... or we can embrace mudita and be delighted for people who are achieving their own wonderful things.
What do you choose?
If you want to learn more about how to write, self-publish, and market a book for your business, snaffle yourself a copy of How The Hell Do You Write A Book? Then check out the blog and podcast for more articles and guides. If you want a little (or a lot) more help, find out how you can work with me.
Vicky Fraser is the founder of Moxie Books and author of How The Hell Do You Write A Book and Business For Superheroes. She helps business owners write life-changing books, connect with readers and new customers, and grow their businesses. When she's not doing that, she's hanging from a trapeze by her feet.
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