Monday, April 26, 2010

Negative Nancy

I'm writing this blog post in order to distract myself from continually staring at the Gmail tab in my browser. I'm waiting for the number to go from 943 to 944 (I rarely clean out my inbox) and hoping it will be a response from a potential client that I just quoted a project for. I'm very new to freelance writing and setting fees is one of the most difficult things to do. The range of prices depends on so many things. When you're starting out, it feels like you're just picking a random number out of the sky and praying the client will accept it. So in order to spread some good, positive vibes, I'm going to talk about optimism.

I'm a glass half empty kind of lady. As my mom says, I was a shy, nervous, worried kid and I haven't changed a bit. Well except for the shyness part, which randomly disappeared in college, for the most part. I blame PBR Light for that one. But for the most part, I worry about everything and always assume the worst in every situation. It's sad.

If you don't know me very well, you probably can't tell that I have this problem with negativity. I don't come across as Daria-esque. I don't wear black every day, I don't have a voice like Eyore and I even like listening to Ke$ha once in a while. But deep down inside, I doubt myself constantly. I always assume that I can never be as successful as other writers I read about. I know that I'm smart and talented, but for some reason I always worry that it just won't happen for me. This comes into play in other areas of my life too. Any time the phone rings at an odd hour, I think that its going to be terrible news. If I'm planning a vacation, I worry and worry that we'll have terrible weather. My husband asked me why I thought this way and here's the best way I can explain it: If you expect the worst, you'll never be disappointed.

What's funny is that my husband is the exact opposite of me in this way. His glass is definitely half-full. I swear that he can make good things happen with his mind. He told me that he used to constantly doubt himself as well, but decided one day to live by one word: positivity. Since then, he has been able to control his life with his thoughts. Really, its creepy.

Remember that book, The Secret? I only made it about two pages into the book before I decided to put it down and switch to the latest Chelsea Handler book, but its basically about the power of positive thinking. If you visualize something in your mind and tell yourself you will get it, you can basically get anything. Some lady wrote the book and said the secret has been around for thousands of years. However, my husband (along with Oprah) basically claimed to have known about/invented the secret. He's been living it since before the book came out. Haha.

He has incredible luck. He can win Chinese auctions and scratch-off lottery tickets on a regular basis. He has incredible success. He applied for a job that he didn't really have the experience or major for, told himself he would get it, and got it. Now, just a couple years later, he has had several promotions, raises and has people twice his age working for him. He is considered the Doogie Howser of his industry. I know that he is smart and capable, but he always tells me that it is his positive thinking that makes him successful. I think it is some of both.

So now I am knee-deep in the world of professional writing and it is an absolute requirement to maintain positivity in order to keep my head above water. Daily rejections and constant criticism are just part of the job. This career is so important to me that I MUST learn to be optimistic, or I will fail. Luckily, I have someone to help teach me. I'm hoping that my husband's amazing outlook on life will rub off on me. I am making it a goal to try to be optimistic.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty? Is it just me that has these neurotic thoughts? Any advice on how to live optimistically?


  1. I can totally relate to both you and your husband! I read a book called Learned Optimism (I think it was better than The Secret - more sciencey but still pretty easy to read) and it really did help me. Of course there are still times where I doubt myself or my abilities, but overall, I'm much more positive.

    I guess the reason I changed my mind about life is because it's really less work! The worry-wort in me will never be gone, but I don't give her as much of a workout as I used to :)

  2. Good luck - I hope by now you've gotten that email!

    I always thought books like "the Secret" were a little hokey, because they just seem to distill empirically-tested principles (from fields like positive psychology) down to something cute. Which isn't to say that the ideas themselves aren't worthwhile. Attitude really is everything -not only does optimism make you more productive, but it makes people like you more and trust you more, which has all kinds of tangible rewards.

    Anyway, the fact that you recognize the need for optimism makes me think you aren't too much of a Debbie Downer after all. :)

  3. "I swear that he can make good things happen with his mind."

    Hahahahahha...I had to laugh, because this is sooo my husband, and I am so, well, pretty much how you describe yourself. ;)

    I absolutely HATE self-help anything, and I'm skeptical of the power of positive thinking. (As far as I'm concerned, people are positive because only good things happen to them to begin with.) But I do try to avoid being out and out cynical.

    I think the important thing to remember, amid rejection and failure, is that rejection and failure are inevitable, and it's not as if failure is an empty, meaningless experience. There are things to be learned from it. The smart thing--not the optimistic thing--is to learn from it and keep trying. Nothing useful comes out of giving up on everything just because you fail, when failure is a given.

    See? That may be pessimism, but it's functional pessimism.

  4. Erin - I think I'm going to have to check out that book. I'm much more likely to take something seriously if it's based on science.

    I agree that "The Secret" is pretty hokey. I was actually kind of surprised that Oprah endorsed it. It seems a little too mystical and trendy to resonate with me. I'm pretty skeptical that you can control the universe with your thoughts. But the idea that positive thoughts can result in positive outcomes works for me.

  5. I'm like a happy worry wart. LOL It's hard to explain. I worry, but I try my best to keep things positive and happy. It really helps make a difference for me because I work in a high stress job. Those books your husband read really are great I bet! I'll have to check out the secret. I never read that one, but I have read others that help boost me up when I need a little kick. =)

  6. Thanks for sharing so openly, Emily. It's definitely not just you that has these "neurotic thoughts." You are so right that you are going to have to teach yourself to think positively, because if you don't, you won't create the success in your career that is so important to you.

    I am similarly on the path of creating my own career and working for myself. It can be scary and intimidating with lots of unknowns blaring at us everywhere we look. I call the negative thoughts my saboteurs - self sabotaging thinking that does nothing but hold us back and keep up playing small. I have those negative thoughts too - I think everyone does to some extent. It takes lots of practice to learn to control the thoughts so they don't end up controlling you.

    I'd love it if you checked out the following three posts that I wrote on my blog about this topic. You may find some useful tips to help you take control over your negative thinking. The last link is the one with the tips in it, but each post builds upon the next:

    I'm looking forward to following your blog!

  7. hehehe. parts of your post really made me giggle. No, it's not just you! I think we all have our debbie downer moments at times. I know I do! But I do definitely believe in positivity. It comes down to the simple fact of smiling. If you smile at someone, they're going to smile back at you, and you can use this literally or metaphorically. Or maybe I'm not making any sense at all, but anywho. Give yourself a break babe! Good things will come your way, all you have to do is smile!