I’ve loved “Mean Girls” ever since I watched it for the first time in high school. To me, it is the epitome of wisdom. It contains the answers to all of life’s little questions, like:
“What should I wear to work today?”
Or, “What’s today’s date?”
Or, “What’s the weather forecast?”
Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating. But I do love the movie, partially because it touches on the intricacies of the female social dynamic, and partially because it was written by my idol, Tina Fey. So, in an effort to illustrate my recent experiences as a #StartupPerson, I’ve turned to this cinematic gold mine for help.
It has been almost four months since my first article for Startup Southerner was published, and in those four months I have experienced a wide range of emotions. I have felt joy in the accomplishment of being a published writer, guilt when I have failed to meet deadlines, pride in some of my favorite pieces and disappointment in the ones that didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped.
As I mentioned in my first article, one of my biggest fears is making mistakes. I have managed to make quite a few of them in the last several weeks and, as a result, I’ve discovered that my fear of making mistakes actually stems from something deeper: a fear of judgment.
Anyone who has ever created something and sent it out into the world knows the feeling. Your creation is like your child. Your name is attached. It’s a reflection of who you are. But you are not your work, and if you fail to make this distinction, it can make even the smallest of criticisms feel threatening.
This is where I found myself just two weeks ago. I had confused the quality of my work with my own personal value—if someone was judging my content, they were actually judging me. So everything I created had to be perfect. Every 500-word piece had to be the embodiment of my talent as a writer. The pressure was exhausting, and I was ready to give up on my dream of becoming a writer altogether.
But fortunately, I didn’t.
I took a step back, and thanks to a few helpful conversations and a little reflection, I realized I needed to make a change. In order to succeed as a #StartupPerson, I needed to remember that judgment is inevitable, and I needed to view criticism as an opportunity to grow, not as a threat to my personhood.
I’ve revisited the subject again and again over the last few days, and I’ve discovered a few things that keep my fear of failure at bay. Not only are these good tips for anybody’s #StartupPerson journey, but they’re also good tips for everyday life.
1. Surround yourself with positive support.
I’m not the only one who thinks this is important. You’ve heard the old saying, “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are.” The people you surround yourself with have the power to either build you up or tear your down.
At Startup Southerner, I have the pleasure of working with some of the most encouraging people I could possibly hope to know. They are individuals who want me to succeed and who are constantly challenging me to do better for myself and my writing. As someone who struggles to live up to her own impossible standards, it helps to have these kinds of people around. The more I spend time with them, the more confident I become.
2. Know when to hold on and when to let go.
I’m learning that not everything I create can be a work of art. Over the course of my career, I will write good pieces and bad pieces (hopefully more good than bad), and some of those will deserve more of my time than others. I’m learning to reserve my energy for the things that matter most so I waste less time and energy fretting over the things that don’t matter at all.
3. Realize that you are not defined by your mistakes, your failures or even your accomplishments.
This one is the hardest for me to remember. It’s easy to assign worth to ourselves and others based on our accomplishments. But that isn’t a fair judgment of one’s character or abilities. Success cannot make a person kind, and failure cannot make a person valueless; it isn’t our successes or our failures that make us who we are, it’s how we respond to them.