It might surprise you to discover that I don’t always believe in myself as much as I should. I can hear the gasps echo around Ireland as you read this. Why have you been listening to me if I’m not the perfect human being? Am I a hypocrite who does not practice what he preaches?
It’s hard not to doubt yourself. I don’t doubt myself from behind closed doors. I believe in myself an awful lot when I’m creating something or working alone. But when I’m out there in the big bad world facing people and answering their questions, I tend to be a little less self-believing. Below are some of the ways that I doubt myself.
Bashing my book. I’ve been doing it an awful lot lately. When referring to “Who Cares?” I say that I’m slightly ashamed of it. And if I’m being completely honest there are certain parts that I cringe at slightly, but I love that book and I am extremely proud of it. I don’t know where the urge to bash the thing that I worked so hard on (and the thing that frankly launched my career) originates, but I must stop. Because whether it’s a work of literary art or an enjoyable, not so serious collection of essays, it’s still a good book. And everything that I wrote in it was completely true to the person that I was at the time.
Worrying about my age. It’s probably true that being 18 doesn’t help when I want people to take me seriously professionally, but I really need to stop worrying about it. Recently, I was in a local book shop purchasing Louise McSharry’s “Fat Chance,” an autobiography by a remarkable Irish woman. The cashier was extremely friendly and after some chit-chat she informed me that she loved autobiographies. I agreed while smiling to myself before she added that she only liked them when they were written by somebody with life experience and not someone in their mid-20’s. Instead of saying that I had actually published one at 18, I just nodded and laughed.
Truthfully this cashier had voiced my biggest insecurity when I published my book. I was worried that it was rather entitled and overconfident to publish an autobiography at 18. But why shouldn’t I write a book? Why should my voice be taken less seriously because it comes from an eighteen-year-old? Why can’t I do what I want?
Do they like me? With all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve gotten lately, I’ve gotten the chance to meet many wonderful people that I respect and admire. I’ve oddly found myself agonising over details of conversations or encounters that took place between us, wondering whether they liked me or not. This is a poisonous thought process and one that I must drop. I am a likeable and kind person and if people don’t like me then that’s their problem. No matter who they are.
Laughing at stuff that I don’t find funny. I’m not talking about the harmless jokes that you giggle at even if you don’t actually think they’re funny. Or when your friend is telling you a story that you really don’t care about so you continuously laugh and smile at them (wow, I sound like a horrible person). I’m taking about when someone says something offensive, or insensitive, or just plain rude and I don’t feel comfortable calling them out on it. This particular incident occurs rarely but, when it does, I always wonder why I didn’t have the confidence to tell that particular person to shut up.
Reading comments, stats and book reviews. It’s the first thing you tell yourself when you begin to gain a bit of notoriety. “I will not read comments.” “I will not care about mean tweets.” “Trolls can get fucked.” Its what everyone tells you to do. “It’s the internet.” “They’re pathetic.” “You shouldn’t care.” “Just don’t listen.” But I don’t think people realise how fucking hard it is. I certainly didn’t. It’s very hard to avoid reading comments and I still haven’t figured out the best way of handling it. I’m lucky in that I’ve only ever had one bad book review in which they called it boring. I also had a magazine call my book “a genuine guide to what is and is not cool for teenagers.” When people dislike (or completely miss the point of) my book I need to learn to let that go. Their reaction is none of my business.
Recently, I’ve been trying to imagine myself from behind my desk working, instead of out there. in the books in people’s hands or on their kindles. On the screens of people’s laptops or their phones. I am not inside my work. My work was inside me. Therefore, I am not being criticised when my work is.
For a few weeks, I found myself pathetically (and obsessively) monitoring my stats. I would wonder why, on a certain day, a large number of people would flock to my blog when, on another day, considerably less people would do so. I was trying to make sense of something that wouldn’t make sense. This is not what I should be worrying about.
Refusing to call my blog a blog. At first, I resisted the label of a blog and the associations that come with it. I wanted it to be known as a website. I don’t know what it was like for you, but back in Wexford people used to scoff at blogs. They would intensely dislike the indulgence and entitlement of a person putting their words out there for the world to see. But it was ridiculous to bow down to that pressure. I am a blogger, who runs a blog. And I make no apologies for that.
Questioning my luck. I’m always wondering why I’m so privileged and lucky. Why do I get everything that I do? Why do I seem to be so much better off than a lot of people? Do I deserve everything I get? The answer is yes. Because why not me? Why wouldn’t I deserve this beautiful, hectic, creative and enjoyable life? Although I believe it’s importance to recognise when you have a privilege and an advantage, there’s no reason to question it. Don’t try and destroy your advantage. Instead use it to help those less privileged and bring them up to your level.
I am constantly working on not doubting myself. I will not accept a doubtful state of mind that will only result in frustration on my part. I can overcome each of these things and I will. Because it helps no one for me to not believe in every aspect of myself.
Watch my advice for beginning your gender transition below:
Read the lessons I’ve learned since starting college here.