You Don’t Need Anyone Else to Say, “You Can Do It!”

When I first decided to become a writer, I needed a little push.

I quit my full-time job, for example, to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the country to visit all 50 states (If that’s not a push out the door, I don’t know what is). If you read here regularly, you know the story. I sold everything, moved out of my apartment, and packed my car for a year long trip around the country.

Photo Credit: Meg Wills, Creative Commons

But it took quite a bit of coaxing from my friend to get me to do this. In fact, I almost bailed on the trip a few weeks before it started.

Later, when I had written a few dozen blog posts but hadn’t made much progress writing the book I wanted to write, I felt desperate for someone to say to me, “You’ve got this! You’re talented! You can do it!”

No one did this, and so I waited to start.

Months after that, toward the end of our trip, a friend coached me to say, at a party, “I’m a writer” even though I didn’t feel like it. I was reluctant, but eventually gave in, and got a job interview out of the deal. This was pretty much my path, early on in my writing career (which could hardly be called a career back then). It was up and down, up and down, based on outside encouragement.

And in the beginning of any journey, it makes sense that it would be this way. I think anyone who is just starting something needs a little nudge to get started. We just need someone to say, “Hey, I see what you see. You’re not crazy. In fact, you’re really talented. I believe in you. It’s time to get started.”

But my obsession with encouragement went beyond that.

I wasted hours and months and heaps of energy in those first few years, waiting for someone could tell me I could do it.

When the truth is I knew I could do it all along.

I wouldn’t have told you I knew I could do it. In fact, I probably would have told you I didn’t believe in myself, and my actions would have reflected that lack of self-confidence. But, somehow, in the deepest part of me, I knew I was on the right path. I knew I was made to create something beautiful. I just felt intimidated by the responsibility that meant I had.

This manifested itself in the form of anger.

I was angry at myself for not getting started, and angry at other people for not encouraging me enough, or not being willing to nudge me in the right direction. It was incredibly convenient, this way of thinking, because I could push the blame for my stalling tactics onto everyone else. “If only they would encourage me instead of criticize me,” I would tell myself, “they have no idea the influence they have.”

Then, one day, I just realized: It didn’t matter how much encouragement I received (because there had been a lot).

No amount would ever be enough.

If I were ever going to be successful as a writer (or as a wife, or mom, or business-owner, or speaker, or anything) I would have to stop waiting for outside approval to dictate my self of self-confidence. I’d already received enough encouragement. I didn’t need anymore. The self-assurance I was longing for couldn’t be handed from the outside, in. It had to be an inside job.

In other words, I would have to decided for myself that I mattered, that I was good enough, that I had what it took, that I was talented.

Then, instead of disappearing into a black hole, the encouragement I received would have a place to land.

So many of us are waiting for encouragement to get started.

We’re desperate for someone to say, “Yes! I see it; and I see you; and I think you’re really talented.” And in the beginning, maybe we need a little bit of this. In fact, let me just go ahead and help you out.

Here’s all the encouragement you need:

You can do this. You have what it takes. You are really talented.

My guess is, I’m not the first person to tell you this. Think of someone who has said these words to you in person—someone who knows you and does life with you and sees you up close. Then, ask yourself: Do I need more encouragement than that? Or am I just stalling? Am I asking someone else to lend me the sense of self-confidence only I can create for myself?

If so, maybe you don’t need to wait to get started anymore. Maybe you don’t need anyone to tell you “you can do it.”

Maybe you just need to discover it for yourself.

10 comments on “You Don’t Need Anyone Else to Say, “You Can Do It!”

  1. A friend in college once told me: “I believe in you.” I can’t remember what we were discussing (I was probably whining about applying for jobs, who knows, it was a decade ago), and we are no longer in touch, but the warmth and generosity of these words fill me with courage and serenity each time I think of them. Unfortunately, I don’t think of them often enough. I have to find a way to internalize this sentence, make it my own…

  2. “No amount would ever be enough.” SO true.

    A couple corollaries:

    1. Waiting around for the one key person in your life to finally quit withholding encouragement so you can finally start living is a waste of time. It wasn’t until my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease progressed to the point she no longer knew me that I realized (a) I had to give up my life-long quest to eke encouragement out of her, and (b) had I given up on that quest in my 20s, my 30s and 40s might have looked very different.

    2. Dependance on even the most amazing encourager in the world can mean devastation when they are suddenly no longer available. We lost a beloved teacher over a year ago, and many students are still completely unable to move on. “He was the only one who believed in me!” is a wonderful tribute, but the legacy he intended to leave was not one of paralysis.

    • Thank you, Cheri!
      After reading your post , I realized that was what I’ve always been doing to my own mother as well,and especially at this point in time- I’m 23, and about to graduate from college. The uncertainty is terrifying… But so is regret and paralysis, I guess.

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing! I met you in the foyer of PLNU chapel a couple weeks ago. Bob Goff’s chapter on “showing up like you’re invited” gave me the confidence to introduce myself to you that day, and reading here, the sentiments in this post reaffirm why, after 7+ years, I finally made an appointment with a woman in the writing industry to discuss the art I so dearly love and want to do full-time. Thanks for your insights at Storyline. (I’m the one who probably spilled my heart out in a short amt of time re: my husband’s job loss, my desire to sell everything, the loss of our son, and my longing to just take off across the world, writing and sharing stories as a family…so, thanks for listening!) Can’t wait to PACK LIGHT!!!

  4. Just commented on a previous post after finding your blog. Looks like I have a lot of reading to do – including your book! Our family took 2007 to travel the country, only we didn’t pack light. We sold everything and traveled in an RV. 🙂

    Looking forward to reading more.

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